Building on generations of effort in East Mt. Airy

by Linda Bell, Board Chair of East Mt. Airy Neighbors
Posted 1/3/24

The birth of East Mt. Airy Neighbors (EMAN) in 1966 marked the commencement of a transformative movement.

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Building on generations of effort in East Mt. Airy


In the wake of Rev. Rudolph C. Gelsey's thought-provoking sermon, “East Mt Airy: Slum, Ghetto, or Good Place to Live?” the birth of East Mt. Airy Neighbors (EMAN) in 1966 marked the commencement of a transformative movement. In an interview 10 years later, William H. Ewing, then president of EMAN, unveiled plans for physical improvements and diverse programs catering to residents of all ages, showcasing a vision that extended beyond the immediate concerns of the community.

Ewing articulated the aspirations of EMAN, expressing the desire for funds to support homeowners in fixing up their properties and addressing the challenge of privately owned vacant homes. The organization aimed to establish a skill center where individuals of all ages could learn woodworking, metalworking, and dressmaking - fueled by the dedication of volunteers and external funding. The goal was clear: inclusive programs benefiting the entire age spectrum of East Mount Airy.

Fast forward 10 years, and EMAN had flourished under the guidance of visionaries like Mark Gilbert and Eversley B. Vaughan, who remained on the board of directors since its inception. Their commitment was highlighted in a 1986 article by Barbara Bloom, emphasizing how Rev. Gelsey’s sermon spurred the formation of more than 25 committees within a year, addressing not only real estate but also education, city services and more.

During these formative years, Vaughan focused on the education committee, while Gilbert contributed to various aspects, from education and fair housing to equal employment and producing EMAN’s first newsletter. The organization achieved zoning successes, including proposals passed by City Council and the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging high-rise construction. Their influence extended to citywide initiatives, such as writing fair housing regulations that later became the basis for state law.

Now, 58 years since its inception and 37 years since the last referenced article, EMAN stands as a resilient force in the community. Despite the challenges presented by a rapidly changing world, EMAN remains steadfast in its commitment to making a good community better. With a new president, board of directors, and executive director, the organization boasts more than 400 members, reminiscent of its early days.

In response to the perennial question, “East Mt Airy: Slum, Ghetto, or a Good Place to  Live?” EMAN’s mission statement serves as a resounding answer. The organization continues its legacy through partnerships, problem-solving and projects promoting positive community development.

In 2023, EMAN’s Zoning Committee/RCO unveiled a Standard of Operation (SOP) on its Facebook page, reflecting three-plus years of dedication to addressing zoning issues. To fortify its roots and embrace a holistic approach to community improvement, EMAN established an office on the United Lutheran Seminary (ULS) campus, symbolizing a commitment to engagement and resource provision.

The office, located at 7301 Germantown Ave. on Wiedemann Hall’s lower level, will operate Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., starting Jan. 2, with evening and Saturday hours available by appointment. This strategic move aims to reconnect with the 1,100 families mentioned in the 1976 article and engage both new and old neighbors in community initiatives.

EMAN encourages residents to share their stories, pictures, programming ideas and commitment to collective betterment. The newly designed website,, serves as a virtual hub for community interaction. Members and neighbors are invited to participate in shaping EMAN’s identity by providing input on the organization’s new logo.

In an effort to involve the community further, EMAN invites residents to drop by its table at the Northwest Volunteer Connect at Summit Presbyterian Church (6757 Greene St.) on Saturday, Jan. 6, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and share their suggestions for the new logo. Additionally, the organization extends an invitation to join them on MLK Day for a communal clean up at Roosevelt Elementary School, 430 E. Washington Lane, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., emphasizing the importance of being the change one wishes to see in Mt. Airy.