CHICAGO (WLS) -- Members of the New Beginnings church and Project H.O.O.D. celebrated the start of work on a new community center in Woodlawn Monday.
"It's not just a day to celebrate a building. It's a day to celebrate the transformation of a community," said Pastor Corey Brooks, Project H.O.O.D.
Brooks spent months camped out on the rooftop of a trailer in the lot to raise money for the center, about $35 million so far. The facility will include a gym, a pool, a theater and meeting rooms. Most importantly, it's a place for people to go to do something positive rather than hang out in the streets.
"It's about keeping them alive. Keeping them alive, 'cuz it's dangerous out here. Very dangerous," said youth counselor Pierre Blakney.
Blakney lost two of his brothers to street violence, and served six years in prison himself for drugs and guns. Now he works with the church, counseling young people to take a different path.
"This center will help a lot of kids to not lose their brothers, their friends," he said.
That's also why Brooks spent so many long nights on the rooftop; he wanted to bring attention to "Block O," what he said was known as the most dangerous block in Chicago. Now he wants the "O" to stand for "opportunity." The community center will not just be a place for recreation, but also education and inspiration.
"Creating jobs, creating opportunities. Giving hope, inspiring people to have vision for their lives," Brooks said.
"The goal is to see the building full and vibrant as it is in the pictures," said volunteer Negin Moayer.
As big as the part was Monday, Brooks said there's an even bigger one coming in about 18 months when he hopes the facility will be finished.