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Freeman Finds Enlightenment, Empowerment in Helping

That proclamation is how Renee Morgan Freeman closes every email, and it is a sentiment that the department coordinator for the city of Lansing’s Human Relations and Community Services lives and breathes each day.

“It is my belief that everyone has a responsibility to serve where they live, work and play,” Freeman said. “The wheel of democracy is depended on the people. If we are not involved, contributing our talents, sharing our voice or have a seat at the table, the community does not thrive, nor does it have the creative elements of diversity.”

Serving the Greater Lansing area is something Freeman has done both professionally and personally for the past two decades, first arriving in the area to work for then-state Rep. Virgil Bernero before transitioning to City Hall. Freeman worked as the mayor’s office manager for 12 years before shifting to the Office of Human Relations and Community Services in 2018.

As department coordinator Freeman performs oversight activity of agencies to substantiate funding and compliance with city of Lansing grant rules and regulations, coordinates and implements special projects and events, assists citizens with birth certificate acquisition and utility financial assistance, and more; however, her work outside of her job has an equally significant impact in lifting and revitalizing the region.

She is actively involved with the Old Newsboys Association of Greater Lansing, an organization established in 1924 to put shoes, boots and new socks on the feet of schoolchildren, but her current passion project is the Greater Lansing Area Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs Inc. Founded in 1935, the organization consists of women of color who are professionals and/or entrepreneurs. She was recently elected as president of the local club and serves as financial secretary at the district level.

“Our mission is to promote and protect the interests of African American business and professional women, to serve as a bridge for young people seeking to enter business and the professions, to improve the quality of life in the local and global communities, and to foster good fellowship,” Freeman said. “Our focus is on LETS — leadership, entrepreneurship, technology and service — which includes health, education and economic development. We take pride in Sojourner Truth being our national matriarch.”

She became aware or the organization while working in the Legislature.

“You know the Lord always put angels in your path. … The point of contact was Gloria Davis, who was president at the time,” Freeman said. “We had an immediate spiritual connection, and she was instrumental in me becoming a member of GLAC in 2002.

“I am very passionate about my involvement with GLAC. It provides the fulfilment of being able to perform, coordinate and implement a multitude of community outreach services dedicated toward youth, families, women and men,” she continued. “It allows me to also fulfill my God-given gift, which is to serve. I love being able to serve others in every aspect of my life through GLAC — as a family member, as a friend, as a colleague and through Christian fellowship. … GLAC provides a sense of sisterhood and family. I have grown and been empowered as a person in so many ways through the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs.”

She said that sense of empowerment is something that is led by the spirit of God — a humbleness that is complemented by confidence, boldness, resiliency and integrity.

“An empowered woman is a person who is not selfish — and willing to help, lift others up and be involved within her community,” Freeman said. “A woman who takes a stand for what is right and not follow the status quo. Some people don’t understand my assertive manner or take my willingness to help as being aggressive, which is only me trying to bring about a positive outcome, being proactive instead of reactive and trying to get things done, making an impact.”

That empowerment also means constantly seeking new challenges and ways to make a difference. One of Freeman’s visions is formulating a movement to restore the Lansing Association of Women’s Clubs clubhouse at 301 N. Butler Blvd. in Lansing.

“It is a historical site, and I believe the building’s structure is solid,” she said. “Many Greek and other organizations such as the Greater Lansing Area Club used to hold meetings at the clubhouse and it was being utilized for other community purposes. … I truly believe the clubhouse has potential, can be repurposed and its impact would be of benefit to the community. If restored and used in the right way, it could make a difference, especially since many places do not permit use of space for meetings after work hours and on the weekend or utilized as a place to congregate for a cause.

“Challenge motivates me,” Freeman added. “I wake up each day with a thankful heart and a positive mindset. I am always thinking of ways to be better or do something that makes a difference, whether it be in someone’s life or for a cause and even in my own life. I am not obsessed with being the face of anything that I am involved with or receiving public accolades. I enjoy working behind the scenes, which is where my best work is done.”