With the help of friends, Wendell Moore has planned biennial “old school reunion” cookouts since 1995 to reconnect with childhood playmates from his Capitol Heights’ Central Park neighborhood.
But as attendance grew from dozens to nearly 400 people, it spawned something larger in 2010: A need to give back to the community that raised them.
Moore, 51, who now lives in Lanham, and nearly 10 others started the Pleasant Entertainment & Community Development group in September 2010 to organize charitable events that benefit youth and seniors within Capitol Heights and nearby Seat Pleasant, said Sharon Gainey Waldo, a group member and resident of Peppermill Village in Capitol Heights. The group officially received its nonprofit status in March, Gainey Waldo said.
“We all pretty much went to the same high school, played for Peppermill [Recreation Center], went to the same yard parties,” Moore said. “We were a pretty close-knit community.”
Moore said the organization focuses on the communities of Town and Country, Central Gardens, Central Park, Peppermill Village, Sunset Hills, Carmody Hills, Holly Park and the former Baber Village, which now is the Villages at Peppermill, a townhome community.
Gainey Waldo said she and her friends call Peppermill Village “retirement village” these days because their parents, who raised them there, are entering their senior years.
Today, the group is working on projects such as a tutoring program that coincides with youth sports at Landover’s Peppermill Recreation Center this fall, and creating a contact list of residents who work as plumbers and carpenters as a resource for seniors looking for skilled workers they can trust.
Gainey Waldo said with nonprofit status she hopes to be able to apply for grant funding to sustain projects such as the tutoring program. Prior to that, group members used money out of their own pockets or relied on donations.
“I’ve lived here since I was 3 years old and in October, I’ll be 50,” Gainey Waldo said. “They’re more than my neighbors. They’re my parents and brothers and sisters. We’re family. We’ve been together for 47 years. I think that qualifies as family.”
The charity started in 2010, and for the first two years, group members spent their own money, donating more than a dozen gifts and gift cards to purchase food for a single mother and her four children in Seat Pleasant, Gainey Waldo said.
Last year, the group gave away 50 backpacks filled with school supplies to children at the donation site of Capitol Heights’ Carmody Hills Elementary School. They intend to hand out 100 backpacks outside of the school on Aug. 18, Gainey Waldo said.
One of those who benefited was Mark Johnson Sr., 49, of Temple Hills, whose mother lives in Peppermill Village. In 2011, Johnson, a childhood friend of Gainey Waldo’s, was financially strapped after being laid off from a senior job developer position and was unsure if he could buy new school supplies for his daughters, Kiara and Ciara, who were 7 and 6 at the time.
Johnson now is self-employed and owns his own business, Moa Enterprises Inc., which provides job training to the unemployed.
“They do it from their heart just to get the community together,” Johnson said of Pleasant Entertainment. “Their group just does things from their heart. They take their personal money and pool it together to do things.”
Moore, who lived in Central Park and Peppermill Village, said he loved his community because he appreciates the morals his parents and his neighbors instilled in him to be a charitable, caring person.
“That’s where I learned my communication skills, my people skills,” Moore said. “We were a group of kids who really cared for each other back then.”
The group can be reached at 301-785-5466 or via email at email@example.com.