CHICAGO – For over 20 years, Pastor Corey Brooks has dedicated his life to helping troubled boys who experienced pain and trauma at young ages. He aims to repair the damage violence in the South Side of Chicago has done to innocent children, which he says has robbed them of their faith, innocence and ability to trust.
On day 33 of his 100-day rooftop vigil to combat neighborhood violence and raise funds for his community center, the pastor was joined by his "right hand," Pastor T.J. Grooms. The two men discussed the difficulties of ministering, supporting and mentoring young boys in the South Side.
"We know of a person, a young boy, that by the time he was 6 years old, he was shot twice on two different occasions," Grooms said.
According to the pastor, this boy, who is now 9 years old, was shot once on a playground and a second time within his own home.
"Can you imagine the trauma? Can you imagine the stress? Can you imagine what he has to go through on a daily basis?" Grooms said. "How in the world can I serve a young boy like this who has been traumatized like this? What can I do?"
The pastor said it is imperative to present this child with another path, to lead him away from bitterness and revenge toward something better.
Brooks recalled a teacher with the Project H.O.O.D summer camp who requested to send this child home for poor behavior.
"I can remember having to sit down and explain to her, ‘listen, this little boy has gone through a lot of trauma, and if we kick him out, where else is he going to go?’" he recounted.
"There are so many kids just like him," Brooks continued. "They may not have been shot, but they’ve definitely gone through trauma."
"That's the reason why, for me, the community center is so important," Brooks said. "We can have more summer programs, more carpentry programs, electrical programs and even getting these kids a chance to learn how to swim."
Grooms added that most kids in the South Side have never even seen a swimming pool.
Both men agreed that exposing troubled children to new people, experiences and ideas is the key to building them a better future.
With enough counseling and guidance, the pastors believe, these damaged kids might be able to release the anger associated with their upbringing and gain tools to help others who may be struggling.
For more information, please visit Project H.O.O.D.
Camera by Terrell Allen.