GAGDC’s CEO Carlos Nelson helps revive community

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CEO CARLOS NELSON (blue shirt) and the GAGDC team celebrating the Chicago Prize (Photo credit Chicago Prize)

By Joseph G. Phillips, Chicago Crusader Sports Editor

The Chicago Bears 2021 NFL Draft featured Carlos Nelson, CEO of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation as he announced the Bears draft pick. This year, the Bears held the 20th pick of the NFL Draft. And to Nelson and most Bears fans’ surprise, Chicago traded up for the 11th pick of the draft and selected franchise quarterback Justin Fields.

After word got to Nelson via an NFL executive that the Bears traded up, Nelson would become a huge part of Chicago sports history with his announcement.

“With the 11th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the…” here Nelson paused to change his word to my…  “My Chicago Bears select Justin Fields, quarterback, Ohio State.”

Nelson, after making his amazing announcement on NFL Draft night, will be embedded in the minds of Chicago sports fans all across the world for many years to come.

In addition to Nelson’s fame garnered during his huge announcement, he is also recognized as a successful executive and is currently the CEO of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC).

The group was recently awarded $611,000 by the Chicago Bears and Bears Care on May 19.

The Bears will help Nelson and the GAGDC build a state-of-the-art training center and teaching kitchen in the new Healthy Lifestyle Hub currently under development in the Greater Auburn Gresham community.

According to the Chicago Bears, the critical project will help increase access to health- and wealth-building opportunities for residents of the South Side neighborhood.

“With this investment in the Healthy Lifestyle Hub,” said the Chicago Bears organization, “The Bears and Bears Care have provided more than $1.92 million to COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts.”

The group said the GAGDC will convert a long-vacant building at 839 W. 79th St. into a multi-purpose space including a Federally Qualified Health Center, pharmacy, bank, restaurants and more.

“Carlos Nelson and the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation team have done such an incredible job of gathering input from the community to understand their needs and vision for the area’s future, so investing in the Healthy Lifestyle Hub was an easy decision for us,” said Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips.

“We are excited to play a small role in this project and help bring a renewed sense of hope to the Auburn Gresham neighborhood.”

The Healthy Lifestyle Hub’s training center will serve as a multi-purpose instruction space and conference room, which will be equipped with free wi-fi, broadband technology services for videoconferencing and dynamic interior design elements to ensure versatility in usage and comfort.

Classes will focus on health and wellness, fitness/movement, financial literacy and many other topics created and designed in line with Auburn Gresham’s “Lifelong Learner” motto and GAGDC’s focus on advancing residents’ health and wealth.

The teaching kitchen will offer classes for people of all ages and include a mix of industrial-grade equipment and tools found in a typical home kitchen. Video technology will allow live streaming of classes led by the GAGDC, the University of Illinois’ Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships programming, and others.

The GAGDC continues to fund- raise for a green roof suitable for programs and events. To donate and learn more, visit [gagdc.org/donate.-html].

The GAGDC was also the recipient of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation’s inaugural $10 million Chicago Prize and received funding from the City of Chicago’s INVEST South/West program.

“This past year brought challenges unlike anything we’ve ever seen, but it also surprised us with some unbelievable blessings,” said Nelson.

“With funding from the Pritzker Traubert Foundation’s Chicago Prize and the city of Chicago’s INVEST South/West initiative, our vision for the Healthy Lifestyle Hub was able to come to life.

“And now, as a lifelong Bears fan, to be able to say once again ‘MY Chicago Bears’ are investing too, it’s simply a dream come true. We are so grateful for the support we’ve received from everyone involved and look forward to the Healthy Lifestyle Hub opening next spring.”

Nelson was one of four community advocates representing an NFL team and announcing their first-round pick on stage with Commissioner Roger Goodell at the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland. The Bears nominated Nelson for the opportunity, due to his impactful work with the GAGDC.

Nelson said in an interview with the Crusader that he is looking forward to hanging up autographed jerseys from rookie QB Justin Fields, safety Eddie Jackson and many other Chicago Bears players from past and present in the new Hub.

NELSON’S GRASSROOTS

WORK IN THE GREATER AUBURN GRESHAM

COMMUNITY:

As the Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC), Nelson has impacted the organization since joining in 2003. He is a mechanical engineer and certified project manager focusing on construction and real estate development. Nelson has been a long-time stakeholder in the Auburn Gresham community, a community he has been a part of all his life, a place where his grandparents have resided since 1963.

While working in Chicago’s Loop as an engineer and living near 79th & Racine during the 1980s and 90s, Nelson had a strong desire to help people in need. He tutored in the Cabrini Green Tutoring Program, and in April 2002 became more involved in his own community. Nelson, a life-long Bears fan because of his father, began volunteering for the newly formed not-for-profit organization, whose executive director left in December 2002 to relocate to Michigan.

Nelson accepted the position of executive director in January 2003, leaving corporate America behind. Nelson often says that he “has not worked a day since 2003, as working to rebuild his people and community is not working at all.” He joyfully asserts, “not many people are blessed to do what God put them on earth to do.

Joseph Phillips is a Chicago native, who has been a sports writer for over 15 years. He also hosts the SC Media News and Sports Network Q&A radio show on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago. He can be reached at sports@chicagocrusader.com.

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