EAST ST LOUIS ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT

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Outreach Weekend Report

September 17-18, 1999

Contents

Uncovering the Historic Cemetery in Brooklyn, Illinois

by Vicki Eddings

When we first drove up to the historic cemetery site we had no idea where to begin or where we could possibly end. By the end of the day on Friday, all nine U of I volunteers and the Brooklyn residents that had directed us were exhausted and huge piles of brush, trees and debris were piled up and burning. Apparently, the fire burned all night long because we could see smoke as we drove to the site the next morning. After much explaining to the local Police we proceeded with the clean-up. We were all happy and surprised to see a tractor on-site to help clear what was left of a huge brushy area. There were several more local residents there too cutting down what was left after the fire and helping to pile up the brush for more burning. We uncovered many headstones, some dating back to the 1800s and even a brick with some kind of hieroglyphics on it. The pieces will be studied by a historian.

For lunch the volunteers were treated to sausage sandwiches, cooked on-site with a huge home-made cooker, plenty to drink and cookies. As if that wasn't enough we met at the Brooklyn Community Center for ice cream after our job ended. The Mayor of Brooklyn was an excellent hostess and the residents truly appreciated all the hard work the volunteers put in. There is much left to do though. The Mayor is trying to get the site dedicated as an official Historic Cemetery. They hope to level the ground, build walkways and build a brick entry wall. We'll have to keep in touch and follow the progress.

by Jenna Staab

During our work weekend a group of 8 students spent two days helping the folks of Brooklyn, Illinois clean up their historical cemetery. The cemetery's stones dated back to the beginnings of the town and included the founder's family. One of his descendents was with us to do the cleaning!

When we arrived we couldn't even see the cemetery. It was so overgrown that only one stone peaked out from the vegetation. It was a daunting task but we plunged right in starting with the piles of sticks at the edges. We even moved entire trees! By the end of our first day we had cleared a 30x30 piece of the cemetery. To get rid of all that we had cleared, fires were started. We could see the smoke from the highway on the way back to our hotel, but we needed to clear the place.

The next morning we met again, minus 2 students, which meant we were going to have to work that much harder. When we got there we found the police at our site. After some fancy talk they where appeased and our group set right back to work. Of course during the night the fires had spread and what came out of the smoke was fantastic. It was clear that the cemetery was much larger than we had thought. And from the ashes arose a bunch of tomb stones! We were very excited. Our work had truly paid off. Immediately one of the residents began to record the names so they could all be identified in the town's records. Seeing all those head stones was great. Before the fire we could only see one! That was pretty cool.

Working in the sun and ashes was hot and dirty. Completely covered in soot, the effort everyone put forth was very obvious. I've never seen such dirty people.

The residents were very appreciative of our help. They threw a cook out for us right there on site. It was hot dogs by forest fire! No, I'm kidding, they came so prepared, they had even loaded up a grill for the day. It was above and beyond the call of duty and I know I speak for all 8 of us when I say we had a great time. Not only did we provide physical effort, but we also helped to strengthen the ties between the community and the ESLARP program. I look forward to taking a drive by that cemetery during our next trip. I'm sure it will be beautiful.

Washington Park Police and Fire Station

by Eric Gould

When the team arrived at the Washington Park Fire Department and Police Station, we were met by local resident Melissa Blanchard, and two men from public works. Our first objective was to fix the front steps of the fire house/police station, which were made of concrete. Bags of concrete were made available, although no mixing bucket or wood to make formwork was anywhere to be found. Using our 3+ years of architectural experience, the team quickly deducted that simply patching up the eroded concrete was not feasible. One winter of freeze-thaw would almost certainly ruin any work we did. The steps would have to be demolished and completely re-poured. However, upon learning that the building was to be vacated within the year anyway, we decided the steps were good enough to last until then. The public works guys quickly drove away, never to be seen again.

Instead, we were given gallons of paint and instructed to repaint the lobby/stairwell of the firehouse. The lobby as we found it was a heinous shade of vomitous brown, and the plaster had become very weak as a result of water damage. Clearly, something had to be done. We were given plenty of rollers, pans, and brushes, and quickly proceeded to commence our beautification project. Although the white paint was not the best quality, we still managed to slop it on the walls pretty thick to achieve a decent primer coat. The previous dark brown trim was replaced by a more attractive battleship gray hue. A lot was accomplished in just a short time that first day, although the primer coat needed to dry before allocating the second stratum of latex veneer. Throughout the day, the group was brought libations and hors d’oeuvres by Melissa, and was periodically checked by Bob Selby himself. Team Members: Eric Gould, Brett Polich, Mike Locigno, Keith Johnson, Tim Meyer, Grant Day.

Work began quite early on Day 2, as there was still much to accomplish. The now superior painting skills of the team allowed for a quick second, third, fourth, and fifth coats to be appropriated. Upon completion of the stairwell, the team was informed that the police squad room was also to be refinished within the afternoon. Fighting through falling plaster, broken windows, hideous shag carpeting, and spiders big enough to eat small deer, the team bravely managed to enter the aforementioned room. The reprehensible fecal brown color of these quarters rivaled even that of the stairwell. Although it appeared that this room had not been used in quite some time and probably would never be used again, the team dutifully rolled coat upon coat of white in a half-crazed attempt to rid the world of the nefarious brown hue which will haunt our dreams for years to come. Indeed, enough True Value Latex Base was applied to make the paint a load-bearing element. However, the victorious aroma of elbow grease and fresh paint eventually overcame the stench of the 40-year-old shag carpeting, and the room looked about as good as humanly possible. Melissa, Bob, and the fire/police employees all agreed that the improvements made the station a much more agreeable place….to tear down within the year. Team Members: Eric Gould, Brett Polich, Rodney Howlett, and Randall Butler.

Washington Park Senior Citizen's Building

by Michael Organ

On Friday the 17th and Saturday the 18th of September, students from Professor Robert Selby and Professor Kathryn Anthony’s studio participated in painting the Washington Park Senior Citizen’s Building. The students volunteered in order to help out theCommunity interest group CACO who are an organization interested in improving the conditions in the East St. Louis area. Melissa Blanchard was the contact person for the CACO and Kathy Haywood and Curtis Young from the EPDC (Emerson Park Development Corporation) and the Lessie Bates Davis Center, respectively, helped to coordinate the project.

The job involved painting a large meeting room and adjoining hallway. On Friday the students arrived at 2:00 p.m. to begin work. Members of the Senior Citizen’s Center supplied paint and other necessities including snacks and pop. The paint used on the first day was inadequate and did not cover the walls as well as it could have, so on Saturday better paint was supplied which allowed the students to complete the job successfully.

The volunteers included: Manny Hernandez, Amy MacDonald, Emiel Guede, Grant Day, Tim Meyer, Katie Sharp, Michelle Hawkins, Ryan Kirsch, Mike Benes, Mike Organ, Emily Wang, Aaron Wilson, Eric Gould, Rodney Howlett, Randall Butler, Brett Polich and Professor Robert Selby.

Washington Park Welcome Sign

by Joe Fox, Emily Wang, and Aaron Wilson

This project, which took place on Friday September 17th involved the erection of a welcome to Washington Park sign and the landscaping of the site. Lafayette Canada, an East St. Louis resident supervised the work. By the time we arrived at the site Mr. Canada had already started digging the sign post holes. We helped him with this and cleared the site of vegetation. The work went quick and in a few hours the posts were set, the sign bolted on and we were covering the dirt with mulch. After we were finished a few people driving by took the time to stop their cars and tell us how much better the corner now looked. Mr. Canada and Ms. Blanchard were very pleased that this project was completed in quick time. Participants: Lafayette Canada, Robert Selby, Joe Fox, Rob Schults, Randall Butler

Bride of Christ Church, Alta Sita

by Arturo Barin

The first work week of the semester was an enjoyable experience for the group assigned to the Bride of Christ Church. The members in this group included Arturo Barin, Kyle Kim, Scott Klimek, and Edmund Velasco. Reverend Prude and his wife were very welcoming and gladly accepted us into their church. Our group and the Prudes worked together on various projects that needed to be done in the church.

Friday, September 17, 1999: The four of us arrived at the church in the afternoon. We were brought there by Yanni Sorensen of ESLARP. Originally, the project was to lay out carpet along the aisles of the church. However, the carpet had not arrived yet. We were able to lay out and nail down the wood sub-flooring. We took turns nailing and were assisted by a carpenter and friend of the Prudes?. After this was all done, we relaxed outside and played catch with the Prudes' grandchildren, Dominic and Brandon.

Saturday, September 18, 1999: We returned to the church early Saturday. Since the carpeting project was postponed, we did other things around the church. Armed with dust masks, we started by replacing some broken wood in the ceiling below the balcony. Eventually, the new wood was painted. Later, Scott and Kyle placed a handrail along one of the stairs of the church. Meanwhile, Edmund and I removed bolted seats in the balcony and replaced them with better ones. Later in the afternoon, outdoor work was done. This included shrub trimming and weed whacking. Also, some damaged siding along the church was replaced. When all the work was done, we were given a grand tour of the church and were allowed to ring the bell in the tower, all the while, continuing to goof around with the two kids.

Adventures in Motivation

by Joe Fox, Emily Wang, and Aaron Wilson

Saturday morning on September 18th, 1999, four students set out to accomplish high goals. The neighborhoods of East Saint Louis were the focus. Early to rise, Joe, Rob, Emily, and Aaron, headed to “Adventures in Motivation”, a youth leadership agency which provides “resources necessary to combat the negative influences prevalent in the Greater East Saint Louis Area.” Although highly determined to accomplish their tasks, the team of four encountered a few bumps in the road.

Arriving on time was the primary goal. Once the team was assigned their task, they immediately set off. Unfortunately the planned 10 minute trip became an extended road trip through East St. Louis. Twenty five minutes after leaving, the team realized that high rolling hills, desolate roads, and cemeteries were not the location of the AIM building. The only lasting hope was . . . a cry for help (i.e. the coveted payphone).

After calling the building and speaking with the Executive Director of AIM, Stanford Scott, the team realized they were sent on a wild goose hunt. After being clearly directed, the team arrived there promptly. The four were relieved to have finally arrived at their destination, and all were anxious to begin their work. However, the enthusiasm of the students dissipated when they were informed that 4 did not equal the 14 that were expected. The man power of Joe, Rob, Emily, and Aaron would not work for the landscaping necessary. On top of that, the equipment for the jobs was not available. No hands and no tools? No problem. The four put their brains together to accomplish something greater. A design project!

Mr. Scott, the executive director of AIM, was in need of grants for developing the rear lot of land which extended to the new light rail system. His applications for grants were often denied due to the hierarchy of necessities and lack of fully projected ideas for uses of the land. So with the help of four brilliant up and coming architecture students, Scott will have a new design for his empty land. The students will draw up a comprehensive plan of the area which Mr. Scott will be able to use in his efforts to recieve funding for the project. Soon it will be a hub for youth activities such as soccer, baseball, tennis, golf, basketball, biking, and possibly rollerblading. With wide open fields, a new light rail track and bike path being placed adjacent the rear property line provides an enormous potential for future uses. The students will set to work on providing Mr. Scott with the necessary tools to display his dreams of creating such a place.

Participants: Joe Fox, Rob Schultz, Emily Wang, and Aaron Wilson

Emerson Park

by Robert I. Selby

We had a good tour on Friday. On Saturday, we did door knocking and leafleting. Students met many residents and made new or renewed contacts re: EPDC. On Saturday, Lessie Bates Davis Center was locked so this team had no headquarters to use nor a good place to receive lunch.

Archival research at Don Johnson's CDCC

by Catherine McCulloch

On our first work weekend in East St. Louis (9/17/99-9/18/99) I got the job of looking through Mr. Johnson’s files, at CDC Development Corporation. The files consisted of prospective residents for his housing. Mr. Johnson specializes in low-income housing and is an authorized TIF developer. On Friday, I worked with Prof. Anthony and then on Saturday with Beth Pagano at his office in Emerson Park. The idea behind looking through these files was to gain information as to what kind of people live or wanted to live, in Emerson Park. We found quite a bit of helpful information. We selected about twenty files, and Xeroxed pages we felt would be helpful. We not only looked for information that gave us a broad view of the people, but also for files that caught our eyes, that gave us a sense of who these people really were. To insure confidentiality, I whited out the names of all the applicants, as well as their addresses and social security numbers. I placed all twenty some Xeroxed files in a binder in our studio for only the students and professors involved in this housing project to view.

The information we found most beneficial was:

This information will enable my class and I to get a better idea of what kinds of people will potentially be living in the homes we are building for the Emerson Park area. The more we know about the neighborhood and its residents the better we can design homes for its families.

 

Carver Community Center

Carver Community Center was once a school that was now going to be renovated into a place where people could take classes, find some shelter, and get off the streets. It was the task of Keith Johnson, Manny Hernandez, Emiel Guede, and Amy MacDonald to do yard clean up on the outside and housekeeping on the inside.

Arriving early, our group decided to clean up some trash, rake cut grass, and clear ivy off of a fence. After about an hour or two of this about eight community members came to help. We then moved to the inside of the building where floors were swept and moped, windows were washed and general tidying was accomplished.

However, we did run in to some problems, such as having no running water. But that was fixed by making trips to the church across the way. Better tools would’ve made the job look cleaner but we made due with what we had.

We did get to talk to the community members a little when we had lunch and towards the end of the day when everyone was tired and sitting out front for a break.

Thanks...

to Colleen, Vicki, Vickie, Craig, and to Cathy Klump (who had to sub for Craig and James) for tireless efforts.

More photos from the weekend.

Document author(s) : Listed Above
Last modified: 18 October 1999, Deanna Koenigs
EAST ST LOUIS ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT