Ex-gang member opens ULON resource center in Avalon Park

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A new resource center offering help and support for ex-offenders looking to change their lives around and get a fresh start has opened in Chicago's Avalon Park neighborhood.

Community activist Pete Keller said on Thursday that his dream, which has been in the making for nearly 20 years, has finally come true with the opening of his ULON Resource Center.

"Now we're giving the kids an outlet, somewhere to go," Keller said. "ULON Resource Center is going to be a safe haven, a safe haven for the community of Chicago."

Keller introduced ULON - or United Legion, One Nation, which was officially founded in 2015 - to the Avalon Park neighborhood. After collecting donations, Keller was able to move the organization out of his home and to East 87th Street.

"The need was calling," he said.

Keller's unlikely journey to activism began at the infamous Cabrini Green housing project, where the now 51-year-old survived as a gang member and drug dealer. He'd already been sent to prison four times on drug-related charges, but it wasn't until he was shot during a near fatal encounter that his life changed forever. The bullet is still lodged in his head.

"I couldn't give any more time where I'm not a father a community figure anymore," he said.

Since his awakening, Keller's written two books about his life at Cabrini. He said he is not just offering ex-offenders another chance, but anyone looking to do something positive with their life. The center features a counseling room, a homework room and a computer room.

"You're able to come in here and do it and we have printers as well," he said.

There'll also be a food pantry, clothing room for new donations, along with plans for poetry slams competitions and movie nights.

And Pete Keller's vision doesn't end there.

He hopes to see ULON community centers in other Chicago neighborhoods and other cities around the country.
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