Left Justified: An open letter to the City Council

Dear Aldermen:

When a board member of Rockford Urban Ministries (RUM) first acquired 201 Seventh St., we believed we could offer a wonderful gift to the Seventh Street neighborhood. RUM envisioned a fair trade store selling new gift items from mission groups from around the world. The space was large enough to also encompass our office and the offices of the Total Health Awareness Team. But the fair trade store would be front and center.

We were surprised when Mr. Bill Mohr of the Mid-Town District screamed bloody murder. We were saddened when our favorite alderman called us just “another church thrift store” and that he didn’t want any more “church social service agencies.” There would have been little, if any, opposition if Mid-Town had not spread its hate rumors of what RUM was planning for 201 Seventh St. The Fair Trade store would have opened to accolades. THAT would have had a separate, discrete entrance, and no one would have been the wiser. THAT could have done their much-needed business, and Seventh Street would have had a new, unique gift store drawing many customers to the area. You, the aldermen, would have been proud to have helped cut the ribbon!

My dear City Council, the Total Health Awareness Team has taken more “druggies and prostitutes” off the street and put them into recovery. For every day THAT stays closed, the chances of people acquiring HIV, hepatitis C or a number of other diseases increases. Because of the city’s long, bureaucratic intransigence, lives are at risk, not to mention the meager resources of this 42-year-old church organization.

Dr. John McHugh, whom I consider to be a saint who cares for the medical needs of the poorest of this community, had been invited to speak about the Total Health Awareness Team at Valkommen Plaza. But a panel of seven “stake-holders” made Dr. McHugh sit through a verbal barrage of harassing questions that he was not allowed time to answer. The “moderator,” the director of Mid-Town District, Mr. Bill Mohr, led a witch-hunt and used the poor doctor as a prosecutor would a criminal. I only heard about the “program” the evening before and expected the worst. The “audience” was made up of elderly from Valkommen Plaza. They were afraid of “needles, druggies and prostitutes.”

THAT works hard and professionally, and stemmed the tide of an epidemic among the drug-using population of this city. You know that the upper class uses drugs just as much, if not more, than the lower class. This is a citywide problem, and the Total Health Awareness Team addresses it in the best way available.

I beg you to please stop the delay and allow the Total Health Awareness Team to move into the building, and you will see a positive transformation of the gateway of Seventh Street.

Yours in Christ’s Love, especially for the city,

Stanley E. Campbell

Executive Director

Rockford Urban Ministries

“actions, not just words”

201 Seventh St.

Rockford IL 61104

(815) 964-7111


Check out our Web site: http://www.gbgm-umc.org/urbanmin/

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Nov. 16-22, 2005, issue

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