One America - Leader Support Groups

Program: Leader Support Groups, St. Louis, MO
Contact(s): Kevin L. Chestnut, Director: (314) 772-8350
Purpose: To refresh and inspire grassroots leaders, across the lines of race, age and gender

Background Program Operations Outcomes


The City of St. Louis is 97 percent black on the north side and 90 percent white on the south side. A man named Kevin Chestnut helped to form neighborhood associations on the north side for ten years and found that programs were not available to bridge St. Louis' racial divide at the grassroots level. He also noticed that as city residents developed their talents and increased their income, they tended to move away, depleting community leadership resources. Moved by a concern that these difficult challenges were overwhelming emerging leaders, and by a desire to see grassroots leaders work together across racial lines, Mr. Chestnut initiated the Leader Support Groups in May 1993 to support "anyone who is working with others to help improve the community."

Program Operations

The Leader Support Groups are designed to bring together leaders, from all walks of life and across racial lines, to learn from each other. The support groups are assembled and facilitated by the program director. Each group consists of 10 members, all recommended by others as being active in the community, and each committed to meet monthly, two hours at a time, for one year. During the course of the meetings, group members have a chance to share their vision and give progress reports on their current involvements. This opportunity helps the members build respect for one another, and gives them each a chance to get feedback and reinforcement. By giving attention to each member, the program affirms the dignity and importance of each individual initiative in creating a better community.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

Five Leader Support Groups have formed thus far, and several have already completed their year together. The program has created a core group of leaders that consider the welfare and future of the entire city in their planning, and who have developed a cooperative network across racial and social lines. Members' comments and further information can be found on the organization's website, The Leader Support Groups program is independent and relies entirely upon pledges and direct donations from individuals for its support and expansion.

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