Volunteers help tear down 'rooftop pastor's' motel

March 19, 2012 3:18:08 PM PDT
Demolition began Monday on the abandoned motel where Chicago Pastor Corey Brooks spent three months living on the roof.

The vacant Super Motel is coming down at 66th and King Drive, where Pastor Brooks plans to build a new community center in the South Side neighborhood.

"I want to make sure the message is always clear: that we have to stop gun violence and we have to stop young people from being killed and destroyed prematurely," Pastor Brooks said.

Pastor Brooks held a 94-day vigil on top of that motel's roof, raising money tear down the vacant, crime-ridden building. On Monday, prep work for that demolition began with about 100 college students who offered to volunteer over spring break.

"Whatever we can do. Every little bit will make a big difference I feel like in the end," Elyse Vaughn said.

April Robinson brought along one of the youngest volunteers, 7-year-old Bella from Birmingham, Alabama. Bella is helping out her mother and older sister, Emma.

"Well, I think you have to start young with your children teaching them values, how important it is to help. We call it loving your neighbors," Robinson said.

Brooks ended his protest in February after Hollywood mogul Tyler Perry and others donated to the $450,000 needed to buy the property.

"I was impressed. I didn't think he was going to do it. But, look, he's doing it," said Romel Collins, neighborhood resident.

The motel that was once a haven for drugs and prostitution will be replaced with a community center.

"It feels good to be part of something positive," Kenneth Hicks, volunteer, said.

Hicks, Chris Hogan, Derrick Hubbard and Christopher Van Alstine all work with Project HOOD

"I lost one of my kids down the street to a shooting. It's important to me to get up here, get this center built," Hogan said.

"I've been in the pen five times. It's never too late to change," Hubbard said.

Brooks wants to raise another $15 million for the center that residents hope will curb the violence and signal the neighborhood's rebirth.

"Whatever I can do to stop this gun violence, that's what I want to do," Van Alstine said.

Pastor Brooks is confident that he will be able to raise the money to build the community center, which will include mixed income housing, commercial spaces and the New Beginnings Church's Master Academy.

Actual construction crews will start demolition on April 2nd.