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From roof-top pastor to fitness challenge, it’s about building community

Former Gov. Bruce Rauner and Pastor Corey Brooks in 2018 | Mitch Armentrout/Chicago Sun-Times

Corey Brooks, the CEO of Project H.O.O.D. (Helping Others Obtain Destiny) and the pastor of New Beginnings Church in Woodlawn, has a new challenge.

Losing weight.

Brooks, who became nationally known for camping out on the roof of a decrepit motel across the street from his church, and staying there until he had raised enough money to tear it down, has come a long way since 2012.

His efforts to build a state-of-the-art community center on the South Side to reduce violent crime has attracted the attention of wealthy supporters like Hollywood mogul Tyler Perry who donated $100,000 to the cause.

But when Brooks publicly supported former Gov. Bruce Rauner over Pat Quinn, a sitting Democratic governor in 2015, he turned off many in the city’s struggling African-American neighborhood.

The unusual alliance resulted in Brooks getting a seat on the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority board, and snagging a couple of other wealthy contributors to his cause.

But like too many of us, Brooks has struggled with maintaining a healthy weight.

Last year, Project H.O.O.D. donor, Richard Edelman, challenged Brooks to a six-month weight loss challenge.

Edelman promised to give $1,000 to Project H.O.O.D. for every pound Brooks lost.

The public was asked to make a pledge per pound due at the final weigh-in on June 7, 2019.

This challenge, however, was delayed for three months, presumably because Brooks could not lose the weight.

On Monday, Brooks posted a heart-tugging announcement.

“I spent part of this weekend in the hospital with the doctor warning me that my very life is now at stake,” Brooks said in a press announcement.

Brooks shared that he was headed to Premier Fitness Camp located in California to deal with his stubborn weight problem.

A supporter is sponsoring Brook’s fitness trip, according to a Instagram posting.

“Pat Milligan, my longtime mentor and great friend, has known that losing weight is a great struggle for me and that to be successful, I would need a lot of support,” Brooks said.

“For 30 days, I will undergo physical training and workshops to develop a healthy mind, body and soul. By the time you receive this message. I will already be on a hiatus from social media until I return.”

If you’ve ever been responsible for raising money to help finance a cause near and dear to your heart, then you understand the stress Brooks has been under.

In January, he turned to GoFundMe.

“Americans are giving to building walls to keep people out and giving to ladders to bring people in. We need AMERICANS who will give to build a Community Center to keep Americans alive,” Brooks posted.

So far, the GoFundMe account has raised $2,892,170 of its $25 million goal from 147 donors in two months.

But Brooks acknowledges that this project has taken a personal toll.

“My family, my church, my community, sometimes my sanity have all suffered. And now my health,” Brooks said.

Given his fundraising schemes, it is tempting to dismiss this latest effort as another publicity stunt.

If so, it’s a much-needed one.

Black women have the highest rates of obesity in the nation, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

That means that black women are the ones most likely to suffer from conditions such as hypertension and diabetes — conditions that can impact a person’s quality of life.

If Brooks can use his own struggle to highlight the benefits of healthy eating and regular exercise, maybe it will rub off on others — men and women — who are struggling with shedding pounds.

More important, if we are going to do the work that will bring an end to the wanton violence that continues to plague our communities, we need more than brick and mortar.

We need healthy bodies and healthy minds.

Too often we are so desperate to save our families and our communities, we neglect taking care of ourselves.

Brooks did not return my call seeking a comment on his health issue. I’m praying that he gets what he needs from the fitness camp.

So far, it looks like his biggest challenge will be staying off social media.

Brooks was back to posting on his Instagram and Twitter accounts within hours after his arrival at the luxury camp.

“I am thinking about doing a social media journal for the thirty days that I am [at] Premiere Fitness Camp. I will only be able to post and not respond…” he tweeted.

I can see now the trainers will have their work cut out for them.