Reclaiming Chicago: Defining Steps to Success - City Club of Chicago

Reclaiming Chicago: Defining Steps to Success

moderated by Amy Totsch
Rev. James T. Meeks, Guacolda Reyes, Imelda Salazar and Richard Townsell

Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023

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Rev. James T. Meeks

Rev. James T. Meeks is the founder and pastor emeritus of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago, which has been recognized as one of the fastest growing megachurches in the United States. Salem is the largest African American church in Illinois with over 15,000 members.

In 2002, Pastor Meeks successfully ran for Illinois state senator. His win made him the 1st Independent legislator ever elected to the Illinois Senate. He served three terms, where his major focus was on educational equity. He has also served in positions of leadership including chair of the Education committee as well as joint chairman of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. Pastor Meeks severed as Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education.

In 2005, Pastor Meeks led Salem in the building of the House of Hope, a $50 million, 10,000 seat community and worship center which is the largest facility built from the ground up for the purpose as a worship venue in the United States.

Throughout his life, Pastor Meeks has served the needs of the people whether it was through legislation on the Senate oor, community organizing events in the streets of Chicago or from the pulpit every Sunday morning.

Rev. Meeks in retirement, now serves as the President/CEO of the Hope Center Foundation.

Guacolda Reyes

Guacolda Reyes, Chief Real Estate Development Officer for The Resurrection Project (TRP), oversees financing, development, and construction management of TRP’s real estate projects, including all of TRP’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) affordable housing and community facility projects. Guacolda started her career as a social worker but quickly became a female pioneer in the affordable community development industry. Mrs. Reyes is a graduate of Catholic University in Santiago, Chile, and has Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Imelda Salazar

Imelda Salazar has been an organizer with Chicago’s Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) since 2007. Originally from Guatemala, she has been a key actor in SWOP education, immigration, and housing organizing campaigns. She also has an expertise in teaching leadership development for public life. She is one of the fourteen recipients of the 2019 Leaders for a New Chicago Award given by The Field Foundation of Illinois and McArthur Foundation.

Richard Townsell

Richard Townsell is a Chicago (North Lawndale) native and thought leader in community development. In Richard’s 20+ year career in community development, he has developed nearly 500 units of residential and commercial properties (which have totaled over $100 MM in total development cost) and helped to design comprehensive community plans for affordable housing, education and economic development initiatives. 

Richard is the Executive Director at the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation. Richard has taught community development courses at Northwestern University's Asset-Based Community Development Institute as well as with the Chicago Rehab Network’s Urban Developer’s Institute.  He holds a Bachelor of Science from Northwestern University in Mathematics Education and a Master of Science from Spertus College in Nonprofit Management. Richard has received many awards for the work including the Fellow of the Year at Leadership Greater Chicago’s 20th anniversary and a Leadership for a Changing World Award from the Ford Foundation. 

Richard has been married to his college sweetheart Stephanie for over 30 years.  They have two adult children, Lena and Gabriel.  Richard is currently enrolled and pursuing a Doctorate in Ministry at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

Amy Totsch

Amy Totsch is the leader organizer for United Power for Action and Justice. 

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