For hours Monday, volunteers wearing face masks spent Veterans Day ripping aged-carpet from floors, replacing water-damaged ceiling tiles and painting walls alongside a group of African American veterans in Englewood.
They were all helping renovate Montford Point Marines Association, Inc. Chicago Chapter No. 2, at 7011 S. Vincennes Ave. For decades the center has provided a kinship for veterans across the city, but years of lost revenue forced the facility to fall behind on property taxes and building maintenance.
So women and men from Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago, in partnership with Sears, offered a helping hand.
Rebuild Together is a nationwide nonprofit with a mission of repairing homes of people in need and revitalizing communities. Nearly a dozen other projects took place across the country on Veterans Day as part of Sears’ Heroes at Home program.
Sharon Stokes-Parry, the chapter president, said having Rebuilding Together and other volunteers spend the holiday improving the veterans center was a “blessing.”
“I am very proud of these veterans that volunteered their time,” said Stokes-Parry. “We’ve been trying to hold the facility together with very little money, and any bit of help we can get we are extremely proud of.”
Rebuild Together spent a full day clearing the center of damaged material, ultimately providing a clean slate for the center to build on. All materials not used on Monday will be donated to the center to use when they find the funding to address the other concerns facing the building.
The veteran center has secured enough money to fix the roof and repair the building’s masonry, Stokes-Parry said, but the site is far from fully renovated. The roof is only 90% completed, and they’re waiting for the weather to improve before they can finish.
Years of having a decaying roof left extensive damage to the ceilings, walls and floors. The center still has to address those issues and needs a new HVAC system.
It’s been a year since a GoFundMe account was created, and only $30,000 has been raised of its $400,000 goal to fully renovate the center.
“This is the time of the year to donate, and we are in need for those tax-deductible donations by the end of the year,” Stokes-Parry said. “You could adopt us and pick us as your charity of the year because the need is still there.”
Manny Ramos is a corps member of Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.