One Chicago pastor is taking it upon himself to try to end violence in his community through a very unique fundraiser to build a community center, showing the importance of the Church actively working to better the lives of the poor and downtrodden.
There are many ways to raise money, but few are as creative as the path that Corey Brooks has taken. The Chicago pastor is camping in a tent for 100 days in the frigid Chicago winter. His goal? To raise $35 million to build The Leadership and Economic Opportunity Center, which is aimed at curbing violence in the area.
“I’m in an environment on the South Side of Chicago that can be a pretty tough,” Brooks stated. “To be outside in the elements, to make that sacrifice over a long period of time, draws attention.”
Ten years ago, he camped on top of a motel for 94 days in order to raise money to buy and tear down the building, which was a source of drugs and prostitution. At the time, it was Chicago’s most dangerous block, but while it has improved somewhat, the area is still plagued by violence.
“The shootings in Cook County are at an all-time high since the ‘90s,” Brooks said. “Our neighborhood really needs a place of transformation, a place where they can go and get all the things that they need to start trying to change their life. This center is really, really needed at this point in time.”
The pastor and his organization, Project H.O.O.D., want to build a center as a safe space for children that will feature sports facilities, a trauma center, and education opportunities.
“We’re going to tough it out. We’re gonna try to be as patient as we possibly can,” he said on WGN Radio. “We’re going to be here every single day till the end. I pray every day so that someone will take it upon themselves and find it in their hearts to really, really help us. I try not to expect one certain person to do it. Whoever feels led to help, it would be a tremendous blessing to our community.”
Some have joined Brooks including Michael Paulsen, senior vice president of Lockton Companies. Paulsen was at the campsite on November 20 when he heard gunshots. “No one down there really batted an eye about it because it seems to be so common down there,” he said. “It’s similar to someone’s dog barking.”
He continued, “What I have learned is many of the different gang factions on the South Side of Chicago are street by street. You could live on Martin Luther King Drive but not be able to cross the street to the other side because that would be another gang. What we’re trying to do is create this community center not only to provide training for people to find meaningful work, but also to bring together all the gangs in the neighborhood to one place so they can stop fighting.”
Paulsen issued the “CEO Challenge” to try to get other executives to join the effort in job training and stopping violence. Todd Ricketts, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, has accepted the challenge, saying, “We all see the issues in our city and when you look around at who can make a difference, Corey stands head and shoulders above the rest.”
Brooks isn’t just talking about making a difference, he is actively doing it. Rather than lobbying government for more gun legislation or welfare, he is carrying on the age-old tradition of the Church going out into the community and trying to improve the lives of others. For nearly 2,000 years the Church has been active in helping others, whether it was rescuing babies left to die by their parents, providing medical care, building orphanages, caring for the elderly, or working to help abolish slavery, the Church has always voluntarily sacrificed for others.
It is a new and unwelcome development that the Church relies on the government to take care of others. The government was never tasked with being the safety net, the Church was. We don’t need more legislation; we need more people like Pastor Brooks willing to be the hands and feet of Christ.