Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and more than 100 volunteer county workers showed their support for community revitalization by repairing two homes in Harvey as part of National Rebuilding Day on Saturday. The annual event is organized by the non-profit agency Rebuilding Together * Metro Chicago and Cook County to help the growing number of homeowners who cannot afford or physically manage to make repairs necessary for them to remain in their homes. These homeowners are usually elderly, disabled or low-income families with children.
“Rebuilding Together is a great example of governments working in partnership with private corporations and unions to assist residents and communities in need,” said President Preckwinkle, who serves as honorary co-chair of the annual program. “Cook County has supported Rebuilding Together since its inception in 1991, when the organization first approached us to spearhead a county-wide initiative. The county has helped promote the program’s mission through community and economic development initiatives and will continue to do so.”
Cook County contributes $40,000 annually to Rebuilding Together * Metro Chicago through its Community Development Block Grant program. This year, the county is sponsoring two of the 68 homes being repaired in one day by Rebuilding Together volunteers.
Preckwinkle encouraged volunteers at one of the county-sponsored repair projects, the home of George and Elizabeth Brewton, located at 129 W. 156th St., Harvey. Mr. Brewton, 77, is a veteran who has been disabled for 20 years. More than 120 county workers volunteered for the Harvey home projects, as well as some city beautification tasks. Many labor union members were among the volunteers. Work teams from the Facilities Management Department repaired the home’s stairs and porch railings, installed a new storm door and repaired the driveway, among other projects. At the same time, volunteers from the county Highway Department and the Forest Preserve District landscaped, repaired sidewalk and installed gutter extensions around the home. Crews from the two departments also partnered to improve the “Welcome to Harvey” sign at 146th Street and Halsted, near the entrance to Kickapoo Woods Forest Preserve. Workers removed turf, restacked the concrete block retaining wall and planted flowers. In addition, crews cleaned up sections of Kickapoo Woods, including picking up litter and removing invasive plant species. The county’s Bureau of Economic Development also provided volunteers and technical assistance for all the projects.
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“Too often, couples like the Brewtons are forced to leave their homes and neighborhoods because they can’t afford costly repairs and upgrades on their homes,” President Preckwinkle said. “This crisis is happening in Harvey and in every community across the country. Communities are losing the very people who helped build and sustain them—and we have to do something about it. Rebuilding Together is responding to this national crisis at the grassroots level, making it possible for the Brewtons and others in the same situation to remain in their homes and to continue being a vital part of the community. Rebuilding Together and Cook County understand that when you help your neighbor, you improve your city.”
George Brewton said county electricians replaced electrical sockets throughout his home and highway workers fixed a flooding problem in his basement, in addition to many other repairs. He thanked the volunteers for “doing everything I hoped and wished for, because we couldn’t do it ourselves. I salute President Preckwinkle and the county and I hope they can expand this program into more poor communities.”
Labor unions that generously assisted Cook County with home repairs and neighborhood upgrades were IBEW Local 134, Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Local 130, the Chicago and Northeast District Council of Carpenters and Painters and Tapers Local 147.