CHICAGO (CBS) — Work is officially under way at the Obama Presidential Center after last week’s groundbreaking, and with the symbolic turning of the dirt, people in nearby Woodlawn hope to turn their neighborhood around.

There is a plot of land, on Chicago’s South Side that holds real promise. It’s a part of Jackson Park where the dirt has been freshly dug for the Obama Presidential Center.

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Construction begins at the Obama Presidential Center. It is scheduled to open in 2025 (CBS)

But this story, as CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra reports, is about streets around it, where residents want a piece of that promise.

West and a little south of the Obama Center land, at 64th Street and Ingleside, you’ll find one of the city’s most vibrant block clubs. It’s a diverse neighborhood and one of the attractions for new residents.


Some came here in the last few years, but Gloria Searcey’s got them beat. She’s had a front-row seat for more than six decades.

In that time, she watched crime take over. Searcey says drug dealers called these blocks home.

“I have seen a lot. All the pharmaceutical guys, that’s what I call them,” she said.

Shootings became common, until the block turned its search for a solution inward.

A shooting captured on surveillance video in Woodlawn. (CBS)

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“Communities won’t be able to fight crime together if they don’t show the criminals that we are really a group of people that care,” said E.J. Hunter.

When Hunter moved in, she and other neighbors spent their own money showing they cared. They built visibility through barbeques and neighborhood cleanups while staying close with the cops in their district. They credit those events with a drop in gun violence.

However, it’s not gone. A 12-year-old,  a son of a firefighter, was shot last August behind Hunter’s home.

“You’ll see that bullet hole through my garage, that’s from that shooting with that little boy,” Hunter said. “That shot right through my garage, shot my bikes.”

The block club needs help from something bigger. And something bigger is moving in, just a few blocks away.

The Obama Presidential Center promises a new chapter for the South Side. But residents here don’t want to wait until 2025. These neighbors want the Obama Foundation’s financial and philanthropic assistance to stop the violence now.

The block club in this part of Woodlawn has been dedicated to reducing crime. (CBS)

“Why not do the work now, before the library comes so the real success story of the impact of the library can be what it did for the community,” said Hunter.

The vision is for the streets around the center to reflect the hope it stands for. And so Ingleside will ask its most influential neighbor to join the block club, and the fight, to make the South Side safer.

As for the future, as seen from her front stoop? “Oh. I think it’s going to be A-OK,” Searcey said.

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Marie Saavedra