[ Update ]
Interesting and Informative is the best way to describe the "Rays of Hope" Conference that took place at the Jackie Joyner Kersee Boys and Girls Club on October 22nd and 23rd co-sponsored by the Community Affairs Office of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and the East St. Louis Action Research Project at the University of Illinois. East St. Louis was chosen as the site of the conference not only because of its wide recognition as a distressed community, but more so because it has been the site of several successful revitalization projects in the recent years. Among these projects are new housing, the Jackie Joyner Kersee Boys and Girls Club, 25th Street Retail Development and the extension of the MetroLink light rail line. All have helped to begin the boost in the city's economy and provided residents with access to a better quality of life. Conference officials see "Rays of Hope" shining in, around, and down on East St. Louis and felt that the city provides a backdrop for thought-provoking discussion on urban redevelopment.
Over 125 representatives from non-profit organizations, faith-based institutions, financial institutions, government entities and national organization participated in the conference. A whole host of topics related to economic and community development were covered in the general sessions, keynote addresses and concurrent workshops. One of the most dynamic, in my opinion, was James Carr, Senior Vice President of the Fannie Mae Foundation. Mr. Carr discussed ridding communities of wealth-stripping entities and helping to building wealth in distressed communities and residents. Other interesting speakers included Ken Reardon, one of the founding professors in ESLARP, who discussed the history of the project and its impact on the community and John Kretzmann, Co-director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute of Northwestern University, who spoke on "Building Communities from the Inside Out" stressing the identification of community assets and mobilizing them to benefit the community.
Other conference activities included topics on traditional and nontraditional approaches to building sustainable communities, attracting businesses to the inner city, and Bank and Community partnerships. An extravagant black-tie reception sponsored by the East St. Louis Action Research Project was held on Tuesday night at that Casino Queen Hotel. Info Expresso, and expert-led discussion was held as well as a self-guided tour of redevelopment projects along the MetroLink route.
As if all of this were not enough, the written materials and publications that were available presented a wealth of related information on community and business development. For more information, or to view materials from the conference feel free to contact LaTonya Webb at NTAC, 271-9605.
Link to the Rays of Hope Conference Web Page
Document author(s) : LaTonya Webb, ESLARP Community Planner
Last modified: 14 November 2002, Deanna Koenigs