Caring for the Community: Rosazlia Grillier

February 21, 2011 7:06:38 AM PST
Even on a recent cold Chicago morning, Rosazlia Grillier's warmth is fully evident.

She takes pride in showing off one result of her passion for neighborhood youngsters -- the new playground at Granville T. Woods Math and Science Academy in the heart of Englewood.

"I was begging everybody," said Grillier, a neighborhood activist.

The school's principal is still in awe.

"She worked very hard," said Principal Roslyn Armour. "There it was."

Many people in the neighborhood just call her Ms. Rose. She says the reason she works so hard is simple.

"This is a second chance for me."

And she means that quite literally. She's a cancer survivor who was also once severely overweight, so sick in fact, that she almost gave up.

"I was wallowing in self-pity... felt helpless," she said.

Grillier says her two young daughters helped her keep going, not only giving her the shots and other medication she needed to survive, but, more importantly, giving her a reason to live.

"They had to basically do things for me," she said.

What she did was take charge of her life and her health through her faith and good doctors. Then she got lots of training in community organizing, mostly through a group called COFI -- Community Organizing and Family Issues. Today, she's come full circle, helping others to lift themselves up. Now she's the person who's providing the inspiration.

And according to the young men at Powell's Barber Shop at 63rd and Racine, she's a woman on a singular mission to make Englewood a better place to live.

"I would not have stayed," said Sunni Ali Powell, barbershop owner.

It's that dedication to the community that led to Grillier's recent selection as one of Allstate's National Hometown Heroes, nominated by a friend who's seen that remarkable transformation.

"She's had cancer and she's dealt with that," said Kelly Magnuson, COFI, senior organizer.

So, for giving back, in spite of her personal pain, we are happy to join others in saluting this Chicago neighborhood hero and to share her emotional message.

"You feel helpless, but there's light," she said. "How can I be powerless?"