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Sunday, October 1, 2023

'O Block' to 'Opportunity Block:' South Side community center construction underway

CHICAGO — The road to New Beginnings Church is about to expand with the help of Project Hood — transforming an old motel into a community center.

Along King Drive at 66th Street, Pastor Corey Brooks once transformed a former skating rink into the now, New Beginnings Church along King Drive at 66th Street.

“I got to tell you; the emotions are high. Everyone’s really excited and I am tremendously thankful and grateful,” Pastor Brooks said.

Pastor Brooks started his journey more than 15 years ago to reinvent the stretch of King Drive, near the infamous ‘O-Block,’ dubbed by the Sun-Times in 2014 as ‘Chicago’s Most Dangerous.’

“We wanted to change that, and we have changed that,” he said.

Project Hood, a nonprofit dedicated to ending violence and providing opportunity on the South Side, purchased the old motel across the street and demolished it.

“The old motel is now gone, and a great community center is along the way,” Brooks said.

The vision of the center is one filled with activities, job training, retail and hope.

“We decided to keep the O but changing it to Opportunity Block and that’s what we’re trying to do is create opportunities for families and for young people to finally be able to accomplish and do something different with their lives,” Pastor Brooks said.

Pastor Brooks drew national headlines for camping out on the rooftop of that motel for months to raise the funds needed in 2012 and just last year on the roof of the church.

He also walked across the country to raise awareness for the project.

The McCormick Foundation donated $8 million dollars to the cause and is set to go in motion this upcoming spring.

A celebration will kick off Monday morning with construction crews moving in and beginning work on the six-story and nearly 90,000 square feet building.

“It’s going to bring great pride to our community to let them know that we have not slighted them in any way to make sure we bring them an excellent facility, Pastor Brooks said.

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