Chicago pastor camps outside to raise money for child center

Chicago Pastor Camping Outdoors (Anthony Vazquez)

A Chicago pastor is camping outdoors for a planned three-month vigil that will take him through one of the city’s notorious winters to raise money for a child resource center in one of its toughest neighborhoods.

The Rev. Corey Brooks embarked in late November on a 100-day “tent-a-thon” campout in a tent perched on a deck built atop eight shipping containers on the city’s South Side A small heater is helping Brooks ward off the cold, while a stove is serving as a firepit for him and others who’ve spent nights with him to help raise awareness about violence and poverty.

He says the tent will be his home until Feb. 28 to help raise money to build a $35 million, 85,000-square-foot-building called the Leadership and Economic Opportunity Center that he envisions as a safe space for children in his Woodlawn neighborhood.

Brooks hopes to break ground on the center in the next two years. He said the center will provide teen programming, a trauma center, sports facilities including a pool, and a schoolroom. He said $7 million has been raised or pledged to the center, with an additional $250,000 raised as of last week since he began his campout.

“Our neighborhood really needs a place of transformation, a place where they can go and get all the things that they need to start trying to change their life. This center is really, really needed at this point in time,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The fundraising campout comes nearly a decade after Brooks camped out on the roof of a shuttered motel, also for three months in cold weather, to raise money to purchase and raze that building, which he said was a hotbed of drugs and prostitution.

Brooks did leave his perch on Saturday to officiate at a double funeral for a mother and her 14-year old son who were killed days apart, WFLD-TV reported.

Cook County has recorded more than 1,000 homicides this year, for the first time since the mid-1990s.

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