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A faith-based South Side Madison community development organization will celebrate 25 years of helping to grow leadership in Madison’s African-American community.

The Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership and Development will host a free anniversary event Nov. 3 at Overture Center. The event will include dessert, a presentation by Nehemiah’s founder and president, the Rev. Alex Gee, live music, dancing, a chance to look back at the group’s work over the years with current and former staff members, donors and program participants and a look at the organization’s future efforts.

Since 1992, the center has provided resources including job training, housing and mentoring through programs aimed at youth, the formerly incarcerated and parents.

“I’m proud of the fact that we’ve listened to the community for 25 years and responded to those needs ... and that the community continues to invite us in,” Gee said.

“I’m proud of the fact that many of the leaders and influencers in our organization used to be participants in our programs,” he said. “I’m proud that people whose parents that sent them to our programs are now sending their children.”

Gee said the organization has served thousands of participants and has made Madison a better place by strengthening its African-American community, with an emphasis on developing leadership.

“It’s all about really empowering people, supporting people, helping them up to their own feet so they can control their own destiny,” he said.

Gee said Nehemiah had four principles when it was founded that are the same today: academic assistance for elementary students, youth leadership development, family development and housing and economic development.

In the future, Gee said, Nehemiah will focus more on economic development by encouraging more black community members to start businesses or attracting more black entrepreneurs to Madison.

“It’s more than job placement. It’s wealth generation,” he said. “That’s what will keep youth in Madison and bring great change.”

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Chris Aadland is a reporting intern for the Wisconsin State Journal.