Looking to free some time in his schedule to pursue other endeavors, Rev. Lewis Flowers, a longtime community activist, has decided to step down as executive director of the Westside Ministers Coalition.
Flowers has been affiliated with the coalition since 1993 when he first began working for the organization as an outreach coordinator. Although he will no longer oversee the organization, Flowers will still be involved with the group.
“I will stay on as chairman of the board, but will no longer serve as director,” he said. “My successor, Phalese Binion, is a great woman and a proven leader. I’m hoping she can take this organization to heights that none of its previous directors have.”
Rev. Flowers has served as the executive director of the organization on-and-off since 1999.
In 2003, he was preparing Mandell United Methodist Church pastor Greg Livingston to be his successor. However, according to Flowers, a week before Rev. Livingston was scheduled to take over permanently, Livingston resigned and took a position with Operation PUSH.
“I was disappointed about that because I was ready to leave,” said Rev. Flowers about his intention to relinquish his duties as director sooner. “I suppose it was a great opportunity he felt he had to pursue at the time.”
After Livingston’s resignation, Flowers says he found it difficult to find the right candidate to lead the coalition until Dr. Binion.
Binion was appointed as the new executive director of the coalition in April. She is the first woman to head the organization since its inception in 1978.
“Whenever you are the first woman to do anything, there is a lot of pressure because your actions are going to be doubly analyzed,” said Binion.
However, Binion adds that she is grateful to the membership of the WMC for allowing her the opportunity to lead an organization that “can change the lives of the West Side in a positive way.”
Binion, who resides on the South Side of Chicago, owns and runs the organization God’s Glory Rings, which provides counseling services for aspiring entrepreneurs.
“I aid business owners in the start-up of their companies,” said Binion who is a separated mother of one daughter. “I show them how to apply for grants, manage their paperwork and market their company effectively.”
Binion has been affiliated with the WMC since 2003. She was introduced to the group during a business summit on the West Side by entrepreneur Sam Long, who had been working with the WMC in the past.
“I was at the summit to network on behalf of God’s Glory Rings, and Long told me about the WMC and what wonderful work they do with youth and area business owners. I decided to reach out to [the coalition],” said the 46-year-old.
Binion, who has a master’s degree in criminal law, a doctorate degree in theology and has spent the last ten year’s running her own business, seemed the perfect fit to take on a role as mentor and leader of the coalition.
Binion is also a member of the clergy at Sakal, The Center for Success and Kingdom Advancement Living on the South Side.
Among Binion’s objectives for the WMC are to aid the area youth in obtaining employment for the summer and monitoring the Chicago Public School’s school closings and launchings within the community.
“The parents don’t want to have to send their children to school where they have to take two trains and potentially cross three gang territories,” said Binion.
“We want to assure that within the community, they have adequate options of where they can send their children.”