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Prince George's County Executive Seeks Counsel of Interfaith Leaders

WI Staff | 1/26/2011, 10:32 p.m.
n celebration of Maryland Economic Development Week, Prince George's County Economic Development Corporation in conjunction with County Executive Rushern Baker hosted a bus tour on Oct. 27 to development sites in the county like Limbach Facility Services, located in the historic Brick Yard mixed use complex in Beltsville, Md. (L-R Limbach Company Branch Controller Kyle Knoernschild, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, Prince George's County Council member Mary Lehman D-District 1) Photo Credit: Khalid Naji-Allah

Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III, kicked-off his first series of "Conversations with Interfaith Leaders," with a standing room only audience at the Sanctuary at Kingdom Square located in Capitol Heights, Md.

Members of more than 100 faith-based organizations representing every religious sector in Prince George's County were represented and participated in a candid dialogue with the County Executive regarding their concerns and suggestions. Several pastors of churches located in the District also attended and participated in the nearly two-hour long discussion on topics that ranged from educational and community center facilities, re-entry programs, economic development and, foreclosures to public safety.

"It is fitting to be here this morning, because this is about helping each other and taking a holistic approach to developing our communities," Baker said. "You, the interfaith community, are the face of our communities and who people trust. Partnering with you to expand your existing programs, learn about your needs and our county government services are just the beginning steps of making a good county, great."

Often during the meeting, Baker said that he, nor his administration, had the answers to the problems the county is facing. What to do with returning offenders, for example, "is a huge issue that the county cannot solve," Baker said. "I don't have all the answers and that's why I am counting on your input and talent to tell me what you need and how my administration can assist you now and well into the future. Today is not just a one time discussion; it is the formation of a partnership."

Reverend Henry Gaston, pastor of Johnson Memorial Baptist Church in Southeast, said he attended the meeting because of his concerns about the cross-border crime that impacts the District and Prince George's County. His church about a mile away from the Prince George's County line and "a lot of the crimes are committed by people who go over there and do their stuff and come back."

Baker said he plans to meet with D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray to share ideas about programs in the District that work. "No one treats the border between D.C. and Prince George's like the Berlin Wall," Baker said.

Rev. Maxwell Washington, pastor of St. Matthews Baptist Church in Southeast, said his church has purchased 10 acres of land in Prince George's County and plans to build and move his congregation there soon. "How do you feel about churches moving into the county?" Washington asked.

"This is a conversation that comes up," Baker said. "We want to see development and see our neighborhoods grow. When you see an opportunity; we should help you grow. We welcome your congregation out here," Baker said.

"I don't have all the answers and that's why I am counting on your input and talent to tell me what you need and how my administration can assist you now and well into the future," said Baker. "Today is not just a one time discussion; it is the formation of a partnership."

Baker also announced the creation of a "Faith-based and Non-profit Office," that his administration has established to focus specifically on developing and sharing community resources.

"Over 20 years ago my family and I moved to a modest home in Cheverly we stayed for many reasons, among them was our church family and, today, this holds true," said Baker. "The community outreach we received and still benefit from was insurmountable. I want to thank everyone here today for coming together and taking these important first steps as we move forward as one Prince George's."

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