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Pastor combats violence to protect community

[SLIDESHOW=42222]CHICAGO (BP) — An Illinois Baptist pastor appeared on the “Steve Harvey Show” last month to bring attention to rampant gun violence in his city. Corey Brooks, who pastors New Beginnings Church on Chicago’s South Side, was part of a four-person panel on Harvey’s show, the majority of which was dedicated to violence in Chicago.

It’s a problem Brooks has been fighting for years, most notably during his 2011 campaign on the roof of a motel across the street from his church. “I was just tired of it,” Brooks said of the crime that riddled the motel. With only a tent to protect him from the Chicago winter, Brooks spent 94 days on the roof, until he had raised $555,000 — enough money to buy the hotel and tear it down. His church is now raising money to build a community center in its place.

In 2015, Chicago had 468 homicides, the Chicago Tribune reported, the most of any U.S. city. More than 2,900 people were shot. Already in 2016, there have been more than 460 shooting victims in Chicago.

New Beginnings Church sits in a neighborhood that one newspaper labeled in 2014 the city’s most dangerous. But when the church moved in to the location, they were looking for a place where they could make a difference.

“We wanted an area that really needed the Gospel, an area that really needed a lot of help,” Brooks told the Illinois Baptist. “God has really been good to us, and we’re doing the best we can do in that area. It’s difficult, but we’re working really hard.”

The church started a non-profit called “Project HOOD” that focuses on mentoring initiatives. It was his time on the motel roof that first introduced Brooks to talk show host Steve Harvey, who gave the pastor his Best Community Leader Award in 2012. Harvey’s foundation has since partnered with Project HOOD.

On the Feb. 15 episode of the show, which tapes in Chicago, the Baptist pastor’s fellow panelists — a former school principal, a journalist and a Catholic priest — came from very different walks of life than his own. But to solve the problem of gun violence, Brooks said, people are going to have to work together.

In fact, that’s why his church chose to affiliate with the Illinois Baptist State Association in 2015. “I realized that this issue is a lot bigger than what an independent church can handle,” Brooks said. “You need to be aligned and partnering and collaborating with other groups that believe what you believe” so that you can bring needed resources into communities,” he said.

“The thing that will change and solve the problem of violence is the Gospel.”

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  • Meredith Flynn/Illinois Baptist