CHICAGO (CBS) — While many spent the day posting Memorial Day memes and thanking veterans, Chicago’s Montford Point Marines say they have been forgotten.
The Montford Point Marines were the first Black Marines. They fought in World War II.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Storms Headed Our Way After Midnight; Damaging Winds And Heavy Rain Possible
Their veterans’ center is rich in history – but you won’t know it. They told CBS 2’s Lauren Victory on Monday that while the building has seen some improvements lately, they are barely hanging on.
The Chicago chapter of the Montford Point Marines was in danger of closing because of mounting bills when we first told you about their struggles two and a half years ago. On our next visit, the roof crumbled before our eyes.
Still, good vibes and great conversation are the biggest draws for veterans to the Montford Point Marine Association Chapter 2, 7011 S. Vincennes Ave.
“They need an outlet and we’re their outlet and we want to continue being that,” said Ron Martin who is the Chicago chapter’s Housing Chairman.
The problem with Martin’s place to unwind is it’s also a source of stress.
“That whole floor has to be re-done,” he said, giving us a tour of the back of the building where weddings, repasses, baby showers, and more were held until flooding ruined the floors. Keeping up with the Englewood hall is a struggle. “We have no money. No money. We’re just by the skin of our teeth.”
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.
Much of the veterans center was built in the 1980s by those first Black Marines.READ MORE: Years After Promise Of $100,000 From State And Photo-Op Prop Check, AMVETS Post 14 In Clinton, Illinois Has Not Seen A Dime
Membership is now open to other branches, but is still crumbling. For a while the roof was crumbling, too. In fact, our 2019 visit was interrupted multiple times by debris dropping from the leaking ceiling that was under repair.
Generous donations solved that problem and also brought in new lighting, flooring, ceiling panels, and more.
What still needs to be done? Taxes. The Marines owe $41,000 and say the Illinois Department of Revenue keeps denying their request to be classified and taxed as a non-profit for an exemption.
Hosting events could help them chip away at that crushing debt but the vets need to drop another $30,000 on those aforementioned flooded floors before any parties. Another donation came in to hopefully cover that renovation but the cycle continues. Now the air conditioning isn’t working.
“I can’t paint no roses because we’re struggling,” said Martin. “We can’t rent no halls out. We can’t do no major function of any kind.”
That hurts recruiting efforts for new members, Martin explained. “We’re just existing.”
They’re a chapter rich in history but poor in its pockets.
The public can help by donating to a GoFundMe Page or writing a check out to MPMA and sending it to:MORE NEWS: Some Residents Say A Bears Move To Arlington Heights Would Benefit Community, Others Say It Would Bring Unwelcome Traffic And Crowds
7011 S. Vincennes Ave.
Chicago, IL 60621