Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Uptown Community Impacted By Burgers & Baptists

Crimewatch: "Burgers and Baptists"
A few months ago there was an announcement here of Positive Loitering at the corner of Wilson and Sheridan at the Uptown Baptist Church. Yesterday, "Crimewatch" on Channel 5 included a segment about that evening and the backstory. Here's a transcript of the segment (all transcription errors and typos mine alone):

Success Story: "Burgers and Baptists"

Narrator: One represents the Golden Arches, the other represents the Pearly Gates. Together, they're working to bring a little piece of heaven to a busy North Side street corner.

Pastor Phil Miglioratti, Uptown Baptist Church: My hope is that, as people come to this corner of Wilson and Sheridan, that even long after the commercial is past, they'll be saying, "This is a great place, I'm Loving It."

Narrator: The Uptown Baptist Church anchors one side of the corner on Wilson and Sheridan; a McDonald's restaurant anchors the other. Now the Baptists and the burger business are in business, together, to keep this corner clean and safe. They've officially adopted the corner through the city's Adopt-A-Street program.

Cmdr. Gary Yamashiroya, 23rd District: This is an unusual thing because it's probably one of the few times that you have a private corporation, a for-profit organization, like McDonald's, and you have a not-for-profit, the Uptown Baptist Church, who are both agreeing to work together to keep this area clean, and I think that, with the Police Department, I think that makes a great partnership.

Narrator: 23rd District Police conducted a roll call on Sheridan and Wilson as part of the Adopt-A-Street ceremony. The ceremony was held on a Wednesday in keeping with a new church tradition to gather outside every Wednesday night during the summer months.

Pastor Miglioratti: So every Wednesday we get together. We began in June by doing prayer walks, where we would just walk around in twos and threes, praying for people quietly, praying for the neighborhood, asking God to bring blessings.

Narrator: In July and August, the church added a lemonade stand to the prayer program. Anyone who passed by was offered a free glass.

Carrie Schwetz, Uptown Baptist Church: We have Prayer Night, we have Lemonade Night. It says, this is a good place to come into. We're not just feeding the spirit and the soul. We want to also bring about a quality of life in the streets.

Darnice White, Uptown Baptist Church: There are a lot of new people who've moved into the area and we want them to know, as well as the people who've been here a long, long, long time, that we're here as a community with them together, to work together with them.

Pastor Miglioratti: So it's been great to be in the community, to meet the community, and -- we hope -- doing something of need and substance for people.

Narrator: Uptown Baptist Church leaders were looking for something concrete they could do to improve the community.

Irma Perres, CAPS Community Organizer: We started to talk about what we could do and we came up with doing an Adopt-A-Street, a roll call. And in the meantime, too, we spoke to McDonald's, and McDonald's wanted to be involved. So I suggested that they form a partnership.

Angelo Karavites, McDonald's owner: And I think if all of the residents, as well as the business people and the organizers, we all get together, we can make Uptown the best community in Chicago.

Narrator: Nearly two years ago, this corner was Ground Zero for a drug conspiracy case called Broken Arches. More than a dozen people were indicted. Police say several of them sold drugs near or even on McDonald's property.

Deputy Chief Daniel Dugan, Area 3 Patrol: It was one of the highlighted street corner conspiracies that we brought up last year at the CAPS Oversight meeting. And it's been a success for this area.

Cmdr. Yamashiroya: What resulted from that were a lot of positive things. We've met with the owner of McDonald's and he's been wonderful. Very cooperative. He wants to be a great community partner. He put cameras up on top of McDonald's to make sure, and his security staff has been trained ....

Deputy Chief Dugan: Corporate McDonald's has stepped up to the plate. They've honored every request that the Drug & Gang House Section has made as far as improvements to the facility, security....

Narrator: Meanwhile, CAPS workers and volunteers keep up with their efforts to make sure the drug dealers don't return. One way to do this is to recruit community and faith-based organizations to join in the effort. Uptown Baptist is a tremendous boost to the cause.

Irma Perres: Actually, they were not involved, and since we started this, they really jumped on it and they've been great. They really love being out there with the community and working with the Police and CAPS. They really just have had a good time with it.

Richard Thale, Court Advocacy Chair: It's been a tremendous change, just walking up and down the street. It's much, much safer. We don't see the same guys hanging out, the same people who were involved last time we talked here. It's made a huge difference.

Narrator: And residents hope to see even more of a difference, now that Uptown Baptist and McDonald's are coupled with CAPS.

Pastor Miglioratti: So we're trying to work together. We're really just starting. So we're hoping that this partnership can have some things we haven't even thought of yet.

Cmdr. Yamashiroya: With McDonald's, with Uptown Baptist Church, and the Police Department, we're all going to make sure that Wilson and Sheridan is going to be a safe place for families, for children, for parishioners, for customers, for everybody that either lives in or visits this community.

There were a lot of crowd and group shots illustrating the story, and it was great to see so many familiar faces, right there on my tv. In addition the people interviewed in the story, I also recognized Meg Gilman of CAPS, Sandra Reed, and several neighbors I met at Clean and Green last spring. Nice positive story about the neighborhood.

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