Chicago rooftop revelations: Mentoring is the key to transforming people’s lives for the better, says pastor

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On the 27th day of Pastor Corey Brooks’ 100-day roof guard on the south side of Chicago, he met a real estate agent named Jim Purcell, who flew in from Athens, Georgia, to spend a night on the roof. What bound these two men was their commitment to mentoring young people. It did not matter that these two men came from different races, different backgrounds and different parts of America; they saw that young people in their areas needed mentors, and they moved up.

When the campfire on the roof burned brightly, the pastor asked Purcell what made him become a mentor. He replied that it was simply just having “a heart for the people who have to live in conditions that just don’t really seem right.” He credited Hals Farnsworth, an Athens pastor at the Redeemer Presbyterian Church, for inspiring him.

Like Purcell, Farnsworth had been concerned about the sight of seeing people “fighting so badly through poverty” and felt compelled to do something. “His question was, how can I bring the black society together with the white society and form a common bond,” Purcell said. “And he decided that football was [the common ground] and he started a program called Downtown Falcons. ”

Brooks related to what Purcell said.


“It’s really important because we live in a day and time, especially in Chicago, where people will think that many of our problems are the result of racial problems. And I pray to be different,” the pastor said.

“I think all the problems we face if we all work together – and I say a lot about being neighbors, if we can just be neighbors – there is absolutely nothing we can not overcome,” He continued. “I know for you, you’ve been a mentor, and we’re really big on that.”

For the pastor and Purcell, being a mentor is far more than being a volunteer. One of the challenges of being a mentor is that one must not only possess guidance, but wisdom on how to dispense it so that it lifts youth. And a mentor can only be right if he or she really sees the drunk person in front of him or her.

For these two men, the question of race diminishes the effectiveness of this process, for it reveals little or nothing about a person from the beginning. There are far more important human qualities such as talent, interests, needs and aspirations to unite albeit race.

“Some of the kids I had the most trouble with on my team just really want some attention,” Purcell said. “They wanted to know I loved them, and I loved them, and it goes all the way from childhood to adulthood.”

When Purcell got to know the first group of children who showed up, he and the other mentors realized that the children needed and wanted more. The football program, which had grown to 300 children, was expanded to include basketball teams. Then a school was added to give these young people the full range of opportunities.


Brooks could only smile. He has traveled this road all his life. And that’s why he’s sitting on top of the roof today with the goal of raising enough money for his dream: to build for his town hall called Project HOOD (Helping Others Obtain Destiny).

From Athens to The south side In Chicago and beyond, mentoring is the key to empowering countless young people to transform their lives for the better.

“I keep telling people that the government can make laws, but they can’t change hearts,” the pastor said. “It is God and people who work on the hearts.”

For more information, please visit Project HOOD.

Eli Steele is a documentary filmmaker and author. His latest film is “What Killed Michael Brown?” Twitter: @Hebro_Steele.

Camera by Terrell Allen.

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