Neighborhood Awards: Meet Pastor Corey Brooks

Every day this week, JET introduces you to a nominee from the Steve Harvey Neighborhood Awards “Best Community Leader” category. Here is the final nominee, another individual dedicated to improving the lives of those in their city and beyond.

You might recall the South Side Chicago pastor who camped out on a vacant motel rooftop during the winter of 2011 to send a message. Since then, Corey Brooks of New Beginnings Church has watched as his mission has traveled past the crumbling buildings in some of the city’s most impoverished areas, through the heavy gang-infested blocks and, finally, is catching the attention of the masses.

For the second year in a row, the activist is a nominee for the Steve Harvey Neighborhood Awards and he says he’s “elated” to be considered for Best Community Leader.

The former motel he once targeted was more than an eyesore. For Brooks, it was a symbol of crime, due to prostitutes and drug dealers loitering around the property. With his church located directly across the street, Brooks knew he needed to act quickly to save the block. His goal at the time was to raise $450,000 to buy the motel, which he did in 2012.

Brooks wanted to replace the deteriorating building with a youth community center because he was tired of the shootings that plague Chicago’s neighborhoods. If that meant freezing in the Windy City’s bitter and biting cold, he was ready to hunker down, and he did.

Since then, Brooks, has gained national attention for his community work and valorous plans to curb violence. His nonprofit, “Project Hood (Helping Other Obtain Destiny),” was formed in 2012 to help eliminate the persistent gun violence–news that has given the city the unfortunate moniker of “Chiraq.”

The church’s religious shepherd says he wants to ensure his organization focuses on one community at a time and says that he looks at the economic, educational, spiritual and social issues when searching for answers. There are other groups who have similar goals as Brooks, but he says his organization is unique.

“We gang up on the problem and not each other,” he says. “We’re so solutions based and people focused–that’s what makes us different.”

Once the center is built, the organization will reach even farther into the West Woodlawn community, to help both the formerly incarcerated along with youth who might be targets for local gangs. If he wins the $30,000 award from the Neighborhood Awards, Brooks says every dime will go straight to the building fund. He also envisions it serving as a model that can then be replicated across the country.

Brooks credits his present and future success on four pillars that he advises other leaders to adopt.

“Collaboration, communication, organization and determination,” he says. “Those four things are essential if you’re going to build a not-for-profit.”

The winner of the Community Leader award will be announced during the Neighborhood Awards ceremony on Aug. 11 in Las Vegas. JET magazine, the official media sponsor, will be on hand for the festivities. Click here to meet the other leadership nominees.