By Rhea Riley
Andre Lee Ellis, a community servant, and founder of We Got This discussed his passion for Milwaukee neighborhoods and the youth in the 53206 zip-code on There’s Always Something Good to Talk about.
In June of 2014, Ellis was contacted by a local mother who was struggling with her troubled 11-year-old son, Jermaine. Ellis was asked to speak with local police on behalf of Jermaine to prevent potential arrest. While meeting with the officer, Ellis proposed a plan to have Jermaine work in his community garden for 90 days, to keep him off the streets.
That following Saturday Jermaine joined Ellis in the garden, and he also received payment for his services.
“We were working in that garden and that little Black boy looked up at me and said, ‘Mr. Andre I ain’t as bad as they say I am, you are the first person to tell me that I can,’” Ellis recalled of Jermaine’s humbling remarks that Saturday morning.
Later that day, Ellis said Jermaine got a new haircut and went to a local skate rink with the money he earned.
“We have to find a way to take our hands off the trigger and into the soil,” said Ellis.
Ellis’ grassroots community organization provides young boys in the community with a place to stay out of the streets and redirect their energy in a positive matter. Each Saturday morning throughout the summer, the boys are paid for their services with payment provided through grants and local donations.
Powered by his heart and determination to see the community succeed, Ellis instills love and guidance to each participant. Ellis stated that many of the children are discouraged by negativity and doubt brought on by their community, which is why he provides an encouraging atmosphere.
“I may not be your birth dad, but I’ll be your earth dad,” Ellis said to his participants.
The program has also seen some unfortunate experiences. Ellis stated he once was racially profiled when he was detained by patrolling officers outside of the garden. He also stated he had an interaction with local police who asked if the group was ‘cleaning up bullets.”
However, Ellis’ stated that he wishes to continue his work by expanding the program and creating a resource home. According to Ellis, this will continue to keep the positive impact on the community throughout the winter season.
“Young people really do want to make a change here and I see that especially in the 06,” said Ellis. After a difficult summer with neighborhood homicides, Ellis helped change the local attitude and assisted in planning a community birthday and homecoming for local 5-year-old, Erik “Doobie” Williams. Williams was struck by four bullets in a local shooting in August. Williams suffered critical injuries while his father was killed in the incident. The celebration held last Saturday celebrated Williams quick recovery.
To learn more about Ellis community work and the We Got This Program visit: https://wegotthismke.com/