Sharon and Larry Adams / Walnut Way Conservation Corp. – Community Leadership
Sharon and Larry Adams are co-founders of the Walnut Way Conservation Corp., a non-profit neighborhood organization, based in a former private home on 17th Street and North Avenue. Larry Adams is the Director of Environmental Stewardship at Walnut Way; Sharon Adams serves as the Director of Programs. Walnut Way was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2000.
Walnut Way’s mission is “to sustain economically diverse and abundant communities through civic engagement, environmental stewardship and creating venues for prosperity.” Larry Adams applies his talents as a builder, gardener and beekeeper in pursuit of that mission. As a social worker, Sharon Adams contributes her skills in helping people, from children to adults and senior citizens, restore and rebuild their neighborhoods to places in which they’re safe and productive residents.
Sharon Adams had spent many happy times as a child in a home across the street from Walnut Way. She was dismayed to see how the once thriving neighborhood had declined over the years she’d been away, living and working in New York just before returning to Milwaukee in the late 1990s.
Larry and Sharon met in Milwaukee. Sharon needed an electrician to help her restore the turn-of-the-century home, slated for demolition by the city, that eventually would become Walnut Way’s headquarters. “I needed an electrician, and Larry was the only one I could find who would come to my home,” Sharon says. Like Sharon, Larry had traveled the country, too, as part of a military family. Larry and Sharon were married in 1998.
Sharon Adams, then Sharon Foster, graduated from West Division High School in the 1960s. She went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Wayne State University, and did some additional studies at Columbia College in New York. Larry is a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, having served in the Marines.
Sharon describes her own personal motivation in co-founding Walnut Way with Larry: “It was very much a spiritual call for me,” Sharon Adams says. “I returned to my childhood neighborhood, which had been healthy and whole, to find that, 27 years later, it had just become an isolated, crime-filled, and in many ways barren area of the city.”
Looking ahead, both Sharon and Larry are excited about a new capital development that Walnut Way is working on with other partners. This community development initiative is called the Innovation and Wellness Commons. “The intention is to create a healthy, vibrant, North Avenue Corridor,” Sharon Adams say. This hard-working couple, dedicated to continually improving their community for themselves and their neighbors, has earned the respect and admiration of the broader Milwaukee community, along with the 2013 Black Excellence Award for Community Leadership.