Emerson Park Neighborhood Revitalization Plan

[ Contents ]


Objective: Empower And Involve More Residents In The Emerson Park Development Corporation and Strengthen The Sense Of Pride And Community In The Neighborhood.


Residents of Emerson Park have a very strong sense of where they have been, where they are and where they want to be in the next five years. The majority of residents see Emerson Park as a neighborhood on the move - with the development of the Metro Link station and the new housing and new families entering the neighborhood. Since the 1991 Emerson Park Neighborhood Improvement Plan, residents’ awareness of the general boundaries of the neighborhood have improved. A recent cognitive mapping session also showed that residents are more aware and more vocal about the various strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats currently effecting the area. The Emerson Park Development Corporation, which has gained substantial power over the past five years, has been a strong force in community organizing efforts. The struggle, however, is far from over. Local leaders still widely ignore resident input. The neighborhood’s lack of political power in the city is still a cause for concern. Although EPDC currently has a mailing list of over 150 people in the neighborhood, more emphasis should be placed on getting these members to monthly meetings to discuss the critical issues that effect them.

The previous sections are filled with programs awaiting implementation. The only way these plans can be successfully achieved is through strong neighborhood leadership and community organization. The community must unite under a common cause for these initiatives to be realized. Increasing the involvement of residents in EPDC and the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House is critical to the economic and social growth of Emerson Park. This section provides four strategies for expanding involvement in the EPDC, strengthening the leadership skills of local residents, celebrating community, and acquiring more political weight for EPDC within municipal government.


A. Expand EPDC Board and Membership

Although EPDC has increased its membership base substantially over the past five years, a central effort to recruit more members dedicated to community improvement is needed. The board is made up of four citizen-positions that are democratically elected by the general membership. These positions include President, Vice-President, Treasurer and Secretary. Approximately twenty to forty members regularly attend monthly EPDC meeting. The majority of participants are long-time, older residents who own their own homes. The organization is not well represented by youth, younger households, and renters. Also, recruitment of public and subsidized housing tenants is critical, as their voice is currently underrepresented in the neighborhood as well. As new housing is provided in the Emerson Park neighborhood, recruitment of members should increase as the population rises. This active recruitment effort should be done in conjunction with the New Neighbor Orientation Program described in Section V.

Aggressive steps should be taken to involve as many residents, young and old, of Emerson Park as possible. There are several benefits to increasing recruitment efforts and membership in community organizations. First, members provide the primary source of new vision, ideas, suggestions and solutions. Second, a large member base provides the community organization with the legitimacy of speaking on behalf of the neighborhood. Third, a large member base translates into more accomplishments – more people, more hours, more programs implemented. The strategies outlined in the Emerson Park Revitalization Plan demand a large amount of staff, board, and member time commitments. Fourth, the community organization membership provides a financial matching base of in-kind and volunteer support. Without this contribution, community organizations would not be able to function. Finally, a wide-reaching member core provides neighborhood organizations with the political power to influence public and private policy making. There is strength in numbers.

There are effective ways of recruiting residents to be active participants in the Emerson Park Development Corporation. In the past, membership has risen around issues of mutual concern that residents are genuinely concerned about. A recent example of this membership growth occurred around the proposed closing of 18th Street at Baugh Avenue. Hundreds of residents signed petitions against the closing, many attended a City Council meeting to protest the closing, and many more attended the monthly neighborhood meeting to discuss the closing. Membership has also risen when community events and celebrations were held. These events provided an opportunity for residents to come together to celebrate Emerson Park. In an informal membership survey conducted in September 1998, 15 of the 20 respondents indicated that they felt that they come to the meetings, voice their opinions and ideas and then actually see action being taken on their issues. When asked how EPDC could achieve its goals, the majority of respondents stated that involving more people in the organization was critical. The EPDC was sited as a very responsive organization.

Building on the ways recruitment has worked in the past, there are several other principles of effective recruitment. These principles are outlined below:

Emerson Park has expressed a strong desire to increase the size and capacity of its board and also, to involve as many residents as possible in special events and decision making. This community organizing strategy is broken into two parts to accomplish each of these tasks.

1. Expand the Board

Increasing the size of the Emerson Park Development Corporation’s board from 4 to 12 positions will greatly enhance the organizations capacity. A few of the benefits of expansion are:

Implementation Timeline: Year 1

Recruiting additional board members should begin as soon as possible. As new public and private development begins in Emerson Park it is imperative that a larger core group of residents is guiding those developments in the best interest of the neighborhood and that all residents are well represented.

Action Steps:

  1. The current board should meet to identify 10 residents to recruit as future board members (assumes 8 will become active board members). Evaluate each one in terms of his/her level of commitment, how representative that individual is to the larger community, and the level of interest that person has shown in the past. The EPDC board should include long-time residents, young households new to the area, renters, owners, business proprietors, and social service/religious leaders.
  2. Determine the new board positions and responsibilities for the 8 new members. The list below is an example of what positions a 12-person board might include. Note the top four existing positions and the last five positions that follow the sections of the Emerson Park Neighborhood Revitalization Plan
  3. Identify the best way to recruit the 8 residents to join the board. One idea is to have the current board members visit the prospective board member and show them the board’s interest in having them be a board member. The board member should point out what the roles and responsibilities include, what impact the prospective member will have on the neighborhood and why the board has asked this particular individual to become more active.
  4. After initial consultation, organize an afternoon event with the 8 – 10 prospective board members and conduct an internal strategic planning exercise. This exercise should include the following components:
  5. Determine which board members are serious about being involved in the organization and ask them to select a board position and identify why they would be good at that job. The prospective board members can then present their intentions at the next monthly meeting of the EPDC and get elected by the larger membership.
  6. Send a flyer/newsletter out to all residents that identifies the new board members and describes their roles and responsibilities and how they can be contacted for more information about particular areas of interest.
  7. Each new member should be equipped with all the current information about the EPDC. This includes all financial information, current partnerships, current and pending development projects, and planned/budgeted programs.
  8. Continue regularly scheduled board meetings with the expanded board.
  9. Evaluate the expanded board on the following criteria:

2. Recruiting New Members – Community Outreach

"Find a way to get everyone involved. People need to do their part!" – Resident interview, 3/98

Residents who regularly attend neighborhood meetings believe that the key to a successful community organization is participation of as many residents as possible. The benefits of developing a large base of community support have been outlined at the beginning of this section. If Emerson Park is to reap these benefits, then it must undertake an aggressive campaign to involve all residents in the organization. Within the next few years, it is anticipated the Emerson Park will receive a large influx of new residents. It is critical that these new residents be recruited into the organization along side existing residents. This recruitment effort uses all board and general members to attract new members to the organization.

Implementation Timeline: Year 1

Action Steps:

  1. At a monthly meeting, discuss the possibility of an outreach weekend where EPDC members go door-to-door recruiting new members. Recruit twenty people, both board and general members, to spend a Saturday and Sunday afternoon talking to people in the neighborhood about the organization.
  2. Select a date for the outreach weekend and prepare materials for distribution. These materials might include the EPDC brochure, list of accomplishment, list of board members and how to contact them, a list of current projects they can get involved in and a flyer about the next meeting or special event.
  3. The outreach weekend should be a united force to bring the neighborhood together. Make the weekend into a real events with activities for children, a barbecue, and games.
  4. Record the name, address, phone and interest of each resident that receives information about EPDC.
  5. Those same recruiters can then call the residents they spoke with the day before the meeting or the special event. Transportation and daycare should be provided.
  6. Put signs up about the neighborhood organization and upcoming events in local businesses, churches, and schools.
  7. Publicly recognize the recruitment efforts of the members at the meetings. Always introduce and welcome the new faces to the membership meetings.
  8. Have door prizes.
  9. Engage the input of the new residents, let them know that their voices are being heard, and then follow-up on the issues with them after the meeting. Avoid having the meeting be dominated by one or two voices. People who do not have the opportunity to participate will soon decide not to come.
  10. Have a variety of activities/tasks that members can volunteer to be a part of – ask for the help of the meeting attendants and they will have a reason to return.
  11. Evaluate the outreach recruitment effort on the following criteria:
  12. Plan for the next recruitment effort.

Participating Organizations:


Costs of the expanded board / recruitment effort include meeting supplies (i.e. paper, pens, copying) and food. Meetings can be held at no cost in Lessie Bates Davis. The total costs will depend on the number of recruitment efforts done each year. The budget is based on board expansion in year one and outreach efforts twice per year. The budget includes reference and training materials for the ten prospective board additions.

Possible Funding Sources:


1. National Center for Non-Profit Boards

This organization is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to building stronger nonprofit boards and stronger nonprofit organizations. They help nonprofit leaders -- board members and paid executive staff -- engineer healthy, powerful organizations. They provide the resources, leadership tools, and answers to help organizations.

B. Training Leaders

The EPDC monthly meetings typically inform residents about neighborhood projects, recognize local heros, participate in presentations made by outside organizations and discuss issues of concern among residents. Residents who attend regularly have expressed interest in receiving organizational training during their meetings. The Training Leaders program sets aside one hour of each meeting, six timer per year to hold training sessions on a variety of topics. Training sessions can be on civic leadership, community organizing, project development, volunteer recruitment, and direct action. These sessions, held six times per year, can be taught by local leaders of organizations doing related work. Below is a list of possible instructors and topics:

Training Leaders - Training Sessions



NTAC Director

Civic Leadership

NTAC Community Planner

Recruitment and Outreach

Ms. Kathleen O'Keefe

Municipal Law and Your Rights

Mr. David Wilson

Rights of Home Owners and Renters

Mr. Bob Ahert

Getting a Community Profit

Mr. Stanford Scott

Working with Youth

Ms. Mamie Bolden

Overcoming Neighborhood Organization Challenges: The Olivette Park Case Study

Mr. Rocco Goins

Program Development

Mr. James Jones

Organizing for Change

Mr. L.D. Ward

The WIPNO Story

Implementation Timeline: Year 1 - 2

One-hour training sessions can be integrated into EPDC meetings immediately. Since they are part of regularly scheduled meetings and sessions are taught for free, there is very little staff time involved in organizing the sessions.

Action Steps:

  1. Secure a year worth of training sessions by contacting local experts, asking them to speak on a specific topic, and set up the dates.
  2. Produce a flyer showing the dates of all meetings for one year, the training topics of the six meetings, and an invitation for everyone to come out and learn something about community development and to share their ideas with the group.
  3. Confirm training session with instructor and ask him or her to bring handouts for meeting attendees.
  4. Conduct regular recruitment efforts to encourage residents to attend the monthly meetings.
  5. Publicize the training series in local stores, schools, and public buildings. Ask other neighborhood groups if they would like to participate.
  6. Hold first training session at the beginning of the meeting, after general announcements.
  7. Evaluate the training session immediately following the presenter, based on the following criteria:
  8. Maintain a file of all handouts and speaker notes from the training sessions.

Participating Organizations:


There are no costs associated with the Training Leaders program that fall outside of regular meeting expenditures.

C. Community Events

Community events that draw residents out of their homes and into the streets and open spaces of Emerson Park will encourage resident interaction and provide an opportunity for residents to celebrate what is good about the neighborhood. Past community events in East St. Louis have shown that when residents come together for fun activities they are more likely to then become involved in the month to month activities of the neighborhood organization. The Community Events program can work in collaboration with the Expand Membership, Community Carnival, and New Neighbor Orientation programs. Residents have expressed preference in having several smaller events scattered throughout the year rather than one or two large-scale events. The Special Events Coordinator will lead the other board members in the planning of these events. Below is a list of community event ideas that were identified by residents during the Summer of 1998.

Implementation Timeline: Year 1 - 2

The first community event can be held as soon as it can be organized. It is assumed that it will take two to four months to plan and publicize each of the events. The time requirement depends on the board’s activity, the volunteer assistance, and the amount of equipment needed to hold the events.

Action Steps:

  1. Select dates for four community events per year and select the theme or style of each event. Do this selection at a monthly neighborhood meeting.
  2. Begin planning for the event two to four months in advance by recruiting volunteers, calling businesses and asking for donations, and publicizing the event around the neighborhood.
  3. Select an indoor or outdoor location and confirm its availability.
  4. Make a list of everything that needs to be purchased or rented for the event (all things that are not donated) and their costs. Ask different board members and volunteers to be responsible for acquiring the materials and equipment.
  5. Consult with the Youth Advisory Board throughout the planning process to ensure that youth are involved.
  6. Canvass the neighborhood to promote the event.
  7. Hold the event. At the event make sure the EPDC board greets new faces, talks with all attendees and invites residents to get more involved in Emerson Park.
  8. Evaluate the event based on the following criteria:
  9. Plan the next community event.


The costs of community events depend on the amount of equipment and supplies that need to rented or purchased. Tables and chairs can be provided by the Lessie Bates Davis and many residents may be able to cook for the event. This budget assumes that food and some supplies are purchased and not donated. It is anticipated that each event will draw fifty to one hundred residents and that there will be four events per year at a generous cost of $500 each. The event should be advertised on the local radio station and in a half page add in the East St. Louis Monitor or the Journal.

Possible Funding Sources:

D. Formal Community Organizing Training

Strategy A. seeks the expansion of the EPDC board from four members to twelve. The program creates several new positions and places a variety of responsibilities in the hands of a large, more diverse group. Periodic leadership training seminars should be provided to all members of the EPDC board. These seminars are informative and empowering, providing participants with a renewed outlook on grass roots organizing. Providing board members with new ideas for successful community organizing efforts is critical to the achievement of improvement initiatives. These training seminars will also provide EPDC with the needed training to become a strong lead agency for all the neighborhood improvement initiatives outlined in this plan. Strong leaders will enhance and encourage a stronger and more socially united organization. Training seminars are currently available for leaders of the Weed and Seed Crime Prevention program through the Coro Midwestern Neighborhood Leaders Program. EPDC members are currently utilizing this program because of its quality and its close location in Washington Park. The Center currently provides two to three Neighborhood Leaders Programs per year.

National organizations, such as the Industrial Areas Foundation, based in Long Island, the Support Center for Non-Profit Management, the Learning Institute, and the Midwest Academy all provide technical assistance and training to non-profit organizations. Leadership Strategies, Inc., a web based human resource training group, provides information concerning training and leadership development on their web site, as well as in a more detailed information and software package, all available to non-profits. These private, national organizations tend to have high costs associated with them. Regardless, the type of training they provide can by of paramount importance in developing a stable and pro-active board. It is recommended that three to four board members have the opportunity to attend national training seminars each year over the next few years.

Academic and technical assistance providers can offer valuable training materials and sessions in East St. Louis. These resources include the Neighborhood Technical Assistance Center, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. The NTAC has been providing leadership development, coalition building, and grantwriting assistance for the past three years to neighborhood and not-for-profit organizations.

Implementation Timeline: Year 2 - 3

Board members can begin attending local training resources as soon as possible. In year 2, three to four members can be selected to attend the training institute of their choice. Each consecutive year’s budget should allow for the opportunity for more board members to attend training.

Action Steps:

  1. Create a directory of all local and regional affordable training programs. The directory should include costs, training descriptions, contact information, and scheduled sessions. The Neighborhood Technical Assistance Center currently has much of this information and the EPDC can build from this record.
  2. As a board, identify national training institutes, their locations, costs and session topics (see attached list).
  3. All board members can continuously take advantage of local and regional resources and report back what they learned to the rest of the organization – not just the board members.
  4. Select three or four board members per year, beginning in year 2, to attend a national training institute. Make arrangements for the training.
  5. When the board member returns from training, ask them to share their experience at a general membership meeting and reproduce their handouts for everyone in attendance.
  6. Evaluate Year 1’s training activities on the following critieria:
  7. Plan for the following year’s training activities.

Participating Organizations:


The year 1 budget includes costs for local and regional training programs for 12 board members two times per year. The costs include training materials, registration fees, and transportation. It is assumed that each trip will cost a maximum of $30 in transportation costs and registration and materials will not exceed $70 for each session. Many of the local and regional opportunities have low to no costs. One hundred dollars is allocated per year for maintaining the training directory and a small library of training materials. Years 2 through 5 include local/regional training costs and training at national institutes once per year for four board members. These costs include transportation, accommodations, registration fees, and training materials. Travel costs plus accommodations are estimated at $450 for each participant. Registration fees and material are estimated as $400 per person. These costs will vary depending on the location of the training and its duration.

Possible Funding Sources:

Listing of Leadership Training Resources:

1. Support Center of Chicago
3811 N. Lawndale Suite 100
Chicago, IL 60618
Ph: 773/ 539-4741

Programs and Services: Training and Consulting:

2. Leadership Strategies, Inc.
Princeton Pike Corporate Center
Princeton, New Jersey 08540
Ph: 1-800-LEADERX
Fax: 609-921-6637

Provides general information via the web on topics such as "Creating Vision", "Aligning Your Team", and "Your Leadership Style." Also has an on-line subscription program, in which organizations can receive access to more in-depth leadership information on the web site. A six-month subscription is currently $250.

3. Coro Midwestern Center Neighborhood Leaders Program
1730 S. 11th St. Suite 102
St. Louis, MO 63104
Ph: 314/ 621-3040
Fax: 314/621-1874
Contact: Donald J. Owens, Director of Community Programs

The Coro Midwestern Center has provided training and management services to the St. Louis area for the past 25 years. Its mission is to strengthen citizen leadership and community participation through skills training and experiential learning. The Neighborhood Leaders Program was established to provide training to community groups in order to create strong leaders equipped with the skills necessary to meet the challenges of community revitalization. The program is a 12-week course, consisting of weekly seminars. All learning is reinforced through program projects and "asset mapping" exercises.

4. The Learning Institute for Nonprofit Organizations
6314 Odana Road, Suite 1
Madison, Wisconsin 53719
Ph: 1-800-214-8326
Fax 608-274-9978

Excellence in Nonprofit Leadership and Management is a certificate program developed by The Learning Institute for Nonprofit Organizations in partnership with PBS Adult Learning Service, and others. The interactive seminars are broadcast on local PBS stations nationwide on a rotating basis. (Please see web site for exact dates and times.)

The certificate program - the first of its kind in the nation - is designed to provide learners with an excellent core series of programs covering the field of nonprofit leadership and management. In addition, the University of Wisconsin-Extension, in conjunction with the Learning Institute, will award 0.6 Continuing Education Units (CEU's) for each program completed for a total of 4.8 CEU's for the series. The audience for the program is comprised of nonprofit leaders, paid staff, board members and volunteers seeking to increase the effectiveness of their organization and their contributions to them.

5. Gamaliel Foundation
Suite 808, 203 N. Wabash
Chicago, IL 60601
Ph: 312-357-2639
Fax: 312-357-6735
E-Mail: gamaliel@frontiernet.net

The Gamaliel Foundation was originally established in 1968 to support the Contract Buyers League, an organization in the African American community on Chicago's West Side. The League was fighting to protect homeowners who had bought their homes on contract because financial institutions had redlined the area. In 1986, the Foundation was reorganized as an organizing institute, with a mission to support grassroots leaders in their efforts to build and maintain empowerment organizations in low-income communities. The group works extensively with faith based community organizations, who are successfully changing their communities for the good of humankind.

The Foundation offers extensive leadership training seminars throughout the year, as well as technical assistance in staff recruitment and development, and funding sources and grant applications.

Document author(s) : Cathy Klump
Last modified: 01 October 1999, Deanna Koenigs