CHICAGO (CBS) — The Montford Point Marine Association has been given the go-ahead to start the road to recovery for a deteriorating veterans hall founded by the nation’s first black Marines.
Their chapter hall in Englewood has a leaky, rotting roof, and floors that are caving in from the water damage.
The mess for the Montford Point Marines almost ended CBS 2’s Lauren Victory from finishing an interview with chapter president Sharon Stokes-Perry, but the debris now falling from the ceiling is actually a positive sign as roof repairs get underway.
In January, the future looked bleak for the historic veterans’ center. After falling behind on their taxes, they were in danger of losing their hall in January.
“If we didn’t shut down, the city was going to shut us down,” Montford Point Marines Association manager Ron Martin said.
Some divine intervention and political drama changed the course when Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza sent her husband over with a $141,550 donation from her mayoral campaign.
Mendoza donated the money to distance herself from reports it might have come from tainted sources. The veterans didn’t mind.
“It is fantastic to be able to preserve this facility,” Stokes-Perry said.
The chapter hall is dedicated to America’s first black Marines, who were forced to serve in a segregated unit at Camp Montford Point in North Carolina after President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the armed services to recruit and enlist African Americans in 1941.
“We do all these things to maintain the legacy of the Montord Point Marines,” Martin said.
The much-needed influx of cash from Mendoza paid for the workers now repairing the roof, and the red tape it took to get them there.
“We find an architect to send the architect downtown with the contractors; blah, blah, this and that,” Martin said. “It took almost nine months for us to even get this far.”
The hall still needs major renovations after years of flooding, but like Martin’s favorite quote says, “we have done so much for so little and for so long.” The Montford Pointers will persevere.
“Even though, if I turn around and I look up and I see a hole in the wall, and stuff like that, well, you know, that’s a good feeling,” Martin said.
Permits for the rest of the repairs have come through, and a full renovation is expected to be complete by next spring.