'Rooftop Pastor' Corey Brooks raises $18M to begin demolition for new Woodlawn community center

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Wednesday, August 3, 2022
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Demolition is underway for a new community center in the Woodlawn neighborhood. It's the brain-child of Pastor Corey Brooks, who's been camped out on a rooftop to raise money for i

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's out with the old and in with the new for a Chicago man on a mission.

Demolition is underway for a new community center in the Woodlawn neighborhood. It's the brain-child of Pastor Corey Brooks, who's been camped out on a rooftop to raise money for it.

Crews are busy tearing down a building on the site where Pastor Corey Brooks plans to build a youth center. He says it will be a place to keep kids off the streets and away from the violence and crime that plagues the neighborhood.

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When he was younger, Varney Voker ran these streets, making tens of thousands of dollars a day selling drugs. He also spent 17 years of his life behind bars before Pastor Brooks helped steer him in another direction.

"He took me and he showed me how I tore down the community," Voker said. "He showed me people on the corner high on drugs."

Voker is an example of what Pastor Brooks says he's trying to do on a wider scale with the youth center. He has been on this rooftop since last November, raising money to build the center. He's brought in more than $18 million so far and the demolition is an important benchmark.

"To get to the point where we knocked that down, I can't even explain how good it makes me feel," Brooks said.

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Brooks has stayed on the roof through the frigid temperatures of winter, the extreme summer heat, and through rainstorms, like what came moments after our interview. He sleeps in a tent every night, and he admits it's getting old. But he says he remains committed to his goal of building the center debt free.

"I still feel like we haven't scratched the surface," Brooks said. "There are so many people who don't know what we're trying to accomplish and why it's so important."

Pastor Brooks says he's passing some of the time on the rooftop working on a book about his experiences and how he has spent months occupying this 80 by 20 foot space, all according to his faith that it's what he's been called to do. He says Varney Voker is living proof.

"It'll make a major difference," Brooks said. "It will give kids all over a place to go to."

Pastor Brooks said it's important that people see they are making progress as he works toward his fundraising finish line. He still needs to raise more than $16 million.