Chicago pastor to spend 100 days in tent to raise money for new community center

Chicago's 'Rooftop Pastor" is getting ready to do it all over again.

Pastor Corey Brooks, who made international headlines 10 years ago when he spent three months on top of a motel in Woodlawn, will begin a new rooftop campout starting Nov. 20, and he won't come down until the end of February.

"This is where we're gonna put the Community Center. 94 thousand square feet. This is where it's gonna be," said Pastor Brooks. 

He already knows every square inch of this vacant lot across from his New Beginnings church in the 6600 block of South King Drive.

His ministry, and his life, revolves around what was once here, and what's to come.

"It's a story of commitment," said Brooks. "It's a story of courage. It's a story of trying to change a community and that's what we need in America."

Ten years ago this month, Brooks climbed to the top of what used to be here. 

The Super Motel was anything but super. It was a gang and drug infested blight on the Woodlawn neighborhood.

"It was kind of the epicenter of the criminality that was going on in our neighborhood," said Brooks.

So, Brooks decided he would live on top of the motel for as long as it would take to raise enough  money to tear it down. 

"It was difficult, especially the first three days. Because I wasn't really prepared for the cold. I did not realize it was going to be so brutal," said Brooks.

Over that long, cold winter, Brooks' rooftop mission attracted international attention. 

"I was getting letters from people all over America, all over the world," Brooks said. "People were sending me letters. I was getting donations even from guys who were incarcerated."

After 94 days, Brooks raised the $450,000 needed to demolish the hotel and he descended into a party. 

"I can remember it like it was yesterday," Brooks said. "There were so many people in the streets. It was such a celebration."

The motel is now gone, but Brooks' mission is far from over.


Brooks wants to build a $30 million dollar community center for Woodlawn on that empty lot, which would include job training, restaurants, a gym and a pool, a theater and studio. 

"Seven million dollars is about where we are," Brooks said. "So we have to raise about 23-million more to go. I'm believing we're gonna raise every penny."

And to raise all that money, Pastor Brooks is getting ready to climb back on the roof. 

"The first time it worked. So let's see if it will work again. I believe it will," said Brooks.

So on Nov. 20, Brooks will climb on top of four stacked freight containers decorated to look like the community center and spend the next 100 days raising attention and money. 

But this time, he won't be going at it alone.

"We're inviting CEO's, celebrities, athletes," Brooks said. "Those people of influence to come and join me."

Donald Biernacki is Executive Vice President of Related Midwest, a real estate developer. 

He's among dozens of Chicago business leaders who have pledged to join Brooks on his rooftop journey — at least for a few days.

"We need to step up," Biernacki said. "We need to do our part in communities throughout the city. And I think this is a really great opportunity for us to do that, to be the leaders we can be. This is a great city and it can be an even better city. And there are things we need to work on."

Brooks is also encouraging the public to help by camping onsite or in your own backyard to raise money and climb one last goal together.

"Chicago needs this," Brooks said. "We need to have places where poverty has been, where we're uprooting it, getting rid of the violence and helping change people's lives. So I'm really excited about it."