Becoming a Community Listening Fellow &
Interview with Charlie Wirene of The HUUB

Orange, NJ

"[...] our community is filled with gifts, assets, and treasures that I intend to be an advocate for.  
I walked away from the training, a better friend, listener, neighbor and participant." - Patricia Rogers

"The Community Listening Fellows will be talking with folks from Orange to do an asset survey
of the city's residents, associations, and institutions.  By getting to know more about people's gifts and skills,
we can work with them to share those assets with other people in Orange." - Charlie Wirene

By Patricia Rogers 

Over a year ago, I met Charlie Wirene and his wife when they came to Hat City Kitchen for brunch.  Awesome vibe, and really nice people.  They told me that HCK was recommended to them by Molly Rose Kaufman, a good friend of mine, and who I worked with in community organizing.  That is when I knew they were good people.

Later on, I found out that Charlie had come from a job interview at the First Unitarian Church of Essex for a director program for a re-imagined community space.  I remember him being hopeful for the position and myself having a good feeling about it.

Fast forward, and Charlie and I are beginning the Community Listening Fellowship with The HUUB.  You may recognize that as the venue for Don't Drop the Mic and RADICAL: Orange events.  In order to better serve the community, the fellowship is meant to listen/engage with the people already here to see how we can use The HUUB as a community space that can really make a difference.

Becoming a community listening fellow with Khemani, Holly and Manny began with the ABCD Training of Cities.  Here we learned several different approaches when looking at the people and places here in Orange.  In short, to keep some things close to the chest, our community is filled with gifts, assets, and treasures that I intend to be an advocate for.  I walked away from the training, a better friend, listener, neighbor and participant.

When I think about what I have been learning since joining this group, it just proves why organizations like University of Orange, The HUUB and Ironworks are really important.  Genuine people with their ear on the pulse.  I feel this new approach will open up the city of Orange to myself and to really enter what I think is becoming a renaissance.  The surge in community leadership and activity is incredible, and I get to meet all of those doers around the city.

Learning that some of the public and our readers consider Masconsumption to be an asset, has pushed me to put a little bit more pressure on myself.  I want to make sure I am doing what I can to use the blog as a platform to do some real work.  I want to connect the right people and enhance those organizations and people involved as much as I possibly can.  The fellowship and training has also allowed me to introduce the brand and the Valley Arts District to new people and longtime residents of Orange.

I hope to also use this opportunity to bring more to the group that sometimes falls in the gray area around here.  The more I can get exposed to and advance in my career, I want to look out for ways I can also give my peers the same.  At the end of the day this is what it is all about.  Every Thursday I leave the church, after meeting with Charlie, Manny, Khemani, Holly, Molly and a variety of people we are connecting with, I am so thankful to be a part of all that is going on.  I feel such satisfaction from the work I am doing and can not wait to continue. 

I must say there are a couple highlights to becoming a Community Listening Fellow.  Working with Molly again, the food, and collaborating with Charlie Wirene.  As the Founding Managing Director of the HUUB, he brings such a great vibe to a whole endeavor.  I believe that us working together is fate, and a lot of small things coming together seamlessly.  I wanted to hear a little from him before we get into the thick of our work.  Read our short interview below:


Patricia Rogers: Wow, how times flies. It was just yesterday I met you and your wife at Hat City Kitchen.  So, Charlie, what is The HUUB and how would you describe it?

Charlie Wirene:  The HUUB is the new Urban Ministry program at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Essex County in Orange.  Our mission is to create a public space to advance the U.U. values of strengthening democracy, building community, and respecting the worth and dignity of every person.  We are opening the church's doors as a resource for folks in Orange to work on social justice issues.

What you hope your new position can do for the First U.U. Church?

I am the Founding Managing Director of the HUUB, and I want to make the church an active center of community-building and social justice activity in Orange.  My specific responsibilities are two-fold, really.  One is to develop and implement a building maintenance and improvement plan for the church, neighboring Hale House, and the grounds.  The other is to build relationships with individuals, groups, organizations, and institutions in Orange and work with them to make the city a healthier, happier, and more just city.

How did the Community Listening Fellowship come to be?

The Community Listening Fellowship is the central piece of the Community Listening Project, which is expanding the HUUB's efforts to get to know people in Orange.  The project is built around the Asset Based Community Development strategy and was modeled after the work of De'Amon Harges at the Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis.  This is a great article about the church and De'Amon's work.  The Community Listening Fellows will be talking with folks from Orange to do an asset survey of the city's residents, associations, and institutions.  By getting to know more about people's gifts and skills, we can work with them to share those assets with other people in Orange.

Read the article that inspired the Community Listening Project here.

Talk about the Community Listening Fellows.

The fellows are a group of diverse and engaged young people from around the area.  Their experience, skills, and interests make them a great team to get to know the diversity of folks in Orange and build connections between them around shared assets.  The fellows include academics, organizers, writers, and actors.  They are already engaged in important activities around Orange and are bringing exciting new ideas to the table as Fellows, thinking about new ways to get people together at a table to talk about their city and the assets that exist here.

What is the key takeaway from the ABCD training?

The biggest takeaway for me was how powerful simply reframing how we look at the city to see assets and opportunities instead of needs and deficits can be.  There were 15 of us participating in the training, and we came up with a massive list of individuals, groups, associations, and institutions that we have access to or relationships with, and who aren't necessarily talking and working with each other to make Orange a better city.  Just voicing the skills and assets we have as individuals helped to create an entire web of opportunity and potential for connections to share those assets.  It was super exciting to see how the day progressed and the things we walked away with from this simple shift in perspective.

How do you feel Masconsumption is helping the community?

Masconsumption is shedding light on and giving voice to the local grassroots and startup activities that are happening in the Valley.  There is so much going on in Orange and having someone like Patricia who knows what's happening with a single artist, idea, or organizer or with the mature project or bigger institution, and everywhere in between, means everything gets its deserved coverage.  Masconsumption has developed a unique voice and reporting style that comes from living in a place for years, something every community needs to make sure people living in a place know what is happening there.


I hope to be able to get more insight from Charlie as time goes on.  Stay tuned for more!


100 YEAR HOUSE: A Housing Justice Conference

Saturday November 5, 2016 @ The HUUB, 35 Cleveland Street, Orange, New Jersey 07050

The church is one of many houses on Cleveland Street and in Orange that are 100+ years old.  These are wonderful buildings with a ton of deferred maintenance.  The conference invites neighbors to discuss the joys and challenges of the 100 year house.



Thursday, December 1, 2016 @ Rosa Parks Community School, 369 Main Street, Orange, New Jersey 07050

A full musical concert celebrating the life and activism of Rosa Parks.



Sunday, January 29, 2017 @ Hat City Kitchen, 459 Valley Street, Orange, New Jersey 07050

Masconsumption Media presents the 3rd installment of the neighborhood’s most talked about parties.  Enjoy gourmet food, live and DJ entertainment, photo-booth and more.  Dress code: “stylish-formal.”


Watch a recap from Don’t Drop the Mic III at The HUUB here:

Read recap from the DDTM 3 event here.

About the Writer

Patricia Rogers, #ValleyGirlNJ, lives in New Jersey's Valley Arts District.  The native New Yorker works as a writer, blogger and community activist. Starting Masconsumption Media in 2012, she has been passionate about capturing the stories of the vibrant up and coming Valley Arts District neighborhood through her blog, zine, events and more.  She blogs for Jersey Indie, Luna Stage, and Hat City Kitchen and offers many creative media services.  Visit her blog and keep up with your favorite Valley Girl on social media at @valleygirl_nj (Twitter / Instagram).