1st Neighbor is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established by a trio of black women educators, Dr. Charlene Austin, Dr. Ida Short and Ms Betti Wiggins.
Dr. Charlene Austin is an entrepreneur, educator, and motivational speaker. Charlene has held various positions in her career, but the most rewarding and inspiring has been as a professor where she could nurture the critical thinking skills of students. She is passionate about education and believes that education is what equalizes us in our society. Charlene Austin continues to speak at various churches and organizations promoting and encouraging others. She believes her life experiences have influenced her desire to maintain our cultural history by celebrating our culture and promoting leadership in our community to make society a better place for the next generation.
Dr. Ida Short is a dedicated educator and community activist who has worked to improve educational opportunities for K-12 and college students. Her primary research involves expanding education and workforce opportunity for African American males who have had experiences with the criminal justice system as a profiled citizen, juveniles or incarceration. . Her past in the role of Vice President of the Detroit Public Schools Board of Education focused on school improvement and experiential learning thru school gardening. As a Detroit Public Library board member she championed public's access to literacy opportunities provided by the library. Ida Short continues to seek job training support for youth and the wider community. As a literacy advocate she teaches composition to community college students.
Ms. Betti Wiggins is an award-winning School Nutrition Administrator with over thirty years of experience. She has worked in numerous school districts across the country. Currently, she is the Officer of Nutrition Service in Houston (Tx) Independent School District. She has built her reputation around serving healthy school meals for students, school and community gardens and agriculture literacy. Her work comes naturally, given she was raised on a farm in southern Michigan. She believes students and their families should have more than a consumer relationship with food.
1st Neighbor's members have a long history with Idlewild Michigan being property owners and summer residents. Through their love of Idlewild, they decided to join forces to help bring the "Black Eden" back to a bustling community that benefits both residents and tourists.
1st Neighbor's vision for the Casa Blanc Hotel is to preserve the Hotel’s cultural legacy as a Green Book site, establish a museum, housing for veterans, several B&B suites for cultural tourist and a transformative educational and training center for youth and the wider community.