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Nov 7, 2019

#OptOutside on November 29 with Middle GA (and the rest of BGR! Nation)

By opting to act, we can work toward a more sustainable future for all. As part of REI’s #OptOutside, we want to highlight one of our awesome BGR! members who embodies this spirit in working toward the collective good! Meet Charise Stephens! 
Charise Stephens has been an active member of BGR! Middle GA since January 2014.  A single mom, she raised two kids (now adults) in Macon, Georgia. With the high health statistics of obesity, Macon’s youth Charise decided to spring into action to decrease those numbers. In 2018, and with no funding, she opened the first makerspace in the community.  She intentionally selected the historic Pleasant Hill neighborhood because she wanted the community to see the earnest investment in the youth.  
 Charise is the recipient of the 2000 Mother of the Year award for Central Georgia and even at that time, she turned her pain into action. Almost 20 years later, Charise still realizes there is a state of emergency losing our youth to violence on a daily basis and the need to help bridge the gap with the youth.  Charise’s motto is simple, “Give Kids Positive Things They Can Do”. In one year, she has successfully implemented youth programs such as a youth cycling group, mountain biking, kids market (kids get to keep 100% of their profits) literacy and mentoring, digital arts camp, girls only esteem programs, and many more outdoor adventures. Macon has kids that have never been out of the city and now they get a chance to travel throughout the state of Georgia.  Since the program’s inception, none of the kids have had major behavior problems at home/school… not even one!!!
 Charise is a humble servant leader and really utilize her relationships to make a change in the lives of hundreds of youths.  This one scenario sums up her passion for the kids. One little boy came up to her at the NICA meet and said, “Coach Charise, we are just like the other kids”.  Keep in mind that with 1000 kids, only about 20 were black. We didn’t have fancy tents or half of the other stuff that other teams had and our kids still felt like they were just as blessed as the groups and kids with the expensive items.
 In 2020, Charise plans to implement youth baseball/softball, swimming (beginning and competitive series), and a learning garden/outdoor lab. She also plans to continue being a Difference Maker one child at a time for as long as it takes to ensure the youth are prepared with the needed tools to become successful adults. Charise Stephens is an unsung community advocate! November 29th is just a few weeks away! How are you going to Opt to Act?.