March 2, 2012

Celebrity donation supports local pastor’s dream

Having spent 94 days braving the Chicago winter in a tent atop an abandoned motel in Woodlawn, Corey Brooks was able to come down to ground level last Friday, after a spontaneous donation from filmmaker and producer Tyler Perry brought him $100,000 closer to his goal of converting the building into a community center.

Brooks, a pastor of the New Beginnings Church in Woodlawn, had camped out on the roof of the Super 8 Motel on East 66th Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive since last November, having pledged to stay until he could raise $450,000, enough money to purchase the building.

Brooks, will use Perry’s donation to tear down the motel and turn it into a community center. The center will be the core of Brooks’s Project H.O.O.D. (Helping Others Obtain Destiny), which will provide community recreational facilities, mixed-income housing, and support for local business and restaurants.

Perry was inspired to donate after hearing about Brooks’s campaign on a national radio program, The Tom Joyner Morning Show. The radio show was giving away the motorcycle from Perry’s new movie, Good Deeds, to a church leader dedicated to his community, and a member of Brooks’s congregation had nominated him in the contest. Brooks won the motorcycle, and when Perry heard about his campaign, he called to verify the story and decided he wanted to get Brooks off the roof.

“I’ve learned that people are compassionate, sometimes more than we really realize, and oftentimes the reason why people don’t help as often is because they are not aware of certain situations,” Brooks said. “If they are aware, they are not aware of the severity of it, and when people realized the severity of an issue and how bad it is, as humans we tend to rise to the occasion.”

Now that the church has surpassed its target amount, it can buy the motel from its current owner, businessman Venood Patel, who owes a $1.5 million mortgage on the building to Family Bank and Republic Bank and Trust. According to Brooks, he and Patel negotiated a deal with the bank, allowing the church to buy the building for $450,000 in cash. The papers to turn the ownership of the motel over to New Beginnings Church, originally scheduled to be signed March 31, can now be signed March 6 because of Perry’s donation.

Construction of the community center itself is estimated to cost $15 million. According to Brooks, the church plans to continue employing social media and word of mouth to bring in donations from community businesses and individual donors.

Brooks also plans to apply for a grant from the city to subsidize some of the costs of building the center. Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Brooks while he was on the roof on November 28, commending his efforts to end violence in the South Side community.

Since Perry’s donation, Project H.O.O.D. has received additional gifts of $10,000 and $85,000.

Brooks is optimistic and believes that after being informed of the benefits of the center for the South Side community, residents will help his cause.

“People will again rise to the occasion,” he said.