The Crusader Newspaper Group

Walgreens store transformed into economic hub

Pastor Corey Brooks continues to be a man on a mission to transform the people in his community even if it means giving up everything to do it. He is just that passionate about it according to the speakers at the recent ribbon cutting ceremony for his new Project H.O.O.D. Leadership and Economic Opportunity Center on September 27, 2017.

Within months of the former Walgreens store being closed at 6330 S. King Dr., concerns of it becoming an eyesore or new crime den were put to rest, when Pastor Brooks announced plans to occupy the space and change it into some type of training center. Walgreens developed a partnership with Brooks as it closed this Woodlawn location with the aide of the 20th Ward Alderman. The 20,000 square-foot facility has been transformed from a vacant building into a business hub exclusively for start-ups, offering services for small businesses from office space to meeting rooms.

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CHICAGO CRUSADER PUBLISHER Dorothy R. Leavell shakes hands with Pastor Corey Brooks at his new Project H.O.O.D. Leadership and Economic Opportunity Center as Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (center) looks on. The Project H.O.O.D. center is located north of his New Beginnings Church at 6330 S. King Drive.

The event was emceed by India Parson, the founder of B.E.S.T. (Building Economic Stability Together), who introduced speakers that congratulated and acknowledged the dedication and work Brooks has done in the community, including Jim Oberweis. Oberweis, who has known Brooks for four years said, “In my entire life I have never met anyone who cared more for people in his community than Corey Brooks. I never met a man willing to give up anything, give up everything for people without asking for anything in return.”

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner spoke with pride, excitement and admiration for Brooks as he elaborated on how this “true” example of a public-private-partnership came together and is being funded. Some of the funds came from Department of Commerce grants for the job trade development skills being taught at the center.

Before introducing Pastor Corey Brooks, Governor Rauner said, “I have known him for five years and I have never met a man with his heart, soul and passion for helping others get a better life.  And it’s not only a passion; he gets it done through sheer persistence. This right here is fulfillment of Pastor Corey Brooks’ dream he has been working toward for years. And he never gave up, he never gave in for years.”

The Center will provide leadership-training workshops, and training for construction trades, entrepreneurial classes, business seminars, and business events. The center will operate on a five-tier membership fee.

Project Hood is specifically designed for young adults with business interest. Pastor Brooks transformed the site with corporate partners, such as, AT&T, Citgo, Manhattan Mechanical, Oberweis Ice Cream, Metro Ford Car Dealer, Weather Tech and a host of others. Brooks is investing resources in a neighborhood that has been neglected with disinvestment for too long.

This is the third stage of Brooks four prong mission to provide alternatives in a community that he considers, “one of the worse neighborhoods in America.” Brooks established his church, New Beginnings Church, 6620 South King Drive in 2000.   He came to national attention in 2012, while living on the rooftop directly across from his church   for three wintry months to dramatize the plight where teen-age shootings and murders are daily occurrences.

His goal from living on the rooftop was to raise enough money to demolish the motel building directly across the street from the church that was occupied by drug dealers and prostitutes.  The demolition cost was $450,000.  Brooks was determined not to leave the spot, until he raised the money. As Brook appeared on a radio program the final donation came from movie mogul Tyler Perry. Brooks engaged the second phase of his fund raising in June 2012 with a 3000-mile “Walk Across America” campaign. The third phase is transforming the Walgreens building as a temporary site, into an economic development center to open September 2017. The fourth and final stage is the construction of a brand new 60,000 square foot structure. Project Hood, is a $23 million dollar community building that will include an array of business and recreational activity for south siders, that will be located directly across the street from the church, where Brooks lived on the rooftop.

Pastor Brooks’ focus is to create business opportunities to create jobs to stop the violence that plagues this community, with a focus on young African American males. Brooks says, “I am determined to restore this community with resources to include people, events and activity that will turn negative living into positive productivity so that one of the worse places in the city will become  one of the best.”

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