John Cooke, Director, Office of Capital Planning and Policy within the Bureau of Economic Development

John Cooke, Director, Office of Capital Planning and Policy within the Bureau of Economic Development

Introduction: National Rebuilding Day, Metro Chicago - On Saturday, April 28, 2012, over 100 Cook County employees donated their time to rehabilitate two homes in Harvey, Illinois. The Bureau of Economic Development/Capital Planning and Policy, Department of Facilities Management and the Bureau of Administration/Highways Department were highly involved over a long period of time before the day and afterwards. Labor unions that donated their time and talent were:  IBEW Local 134, Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Local 130, the Chicago and Northeast District Council of Carpenters and Painters and Tapers Local 147.

 

John Cooke, Director of the Office of Capital Planning and Policy within the Bureau of Economic Development agreed to an online interview about his experience with Rebuilding Together, Metro Chicago.

ECD: Can you explain the role of the Office of Capital Planning and Policy within the Bureau of Economic Development, with Rebuilding Together, Metro Chicago?

Cooke: For openers, Cook County contributes $40,000 annually to Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago through its Community Development Block Grant program housed within the Bureau of Economic Development. However, staff persons from the Office of Capital Planning volunteer their time to help spearhead the effort each year. If I name everyone, I’m bound to forget someone, but would like to acknowledge Sheila Atkins of my staff, who has been a tireless volunteer for Rebuilding Together- Metro Chicago for many years. She works closely with employees and labor unions to recruit volunteers for the day. In advance of Rebuilding Together – Metro Chicago Day each year, Sheila meets with the home owners, and brings workers out to do work even before Rebuilding Together Day ever starts. I know that the Department of Highways, the Department of Facilities Management and several labor unions also have employees who are dedicated volunteers each year, donating many hours of their time. They are vital to the success of the program.

ECD: What did you work on for the day?

Cooke: The day of the main event, I assisted with hanging the curtains after the painting was complete, moving furniture back in place and hanging pictures. I also assisted repairing the fence in the rear yard which had been damaged by a tree that had fallen last year. 

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle with Sheila Atkins and Herman Brewer, Bureau Chief, Burau of Economic Development on National Rebuilding Day

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle with Sheila Atkins and Herman Brewer, Bureau Chief, Bureau of Economic Development on National Rebuilding Day

ECD: What is the most meaningful part, for you, of being involved in a project like this?

Cooke: I actually worked the weekend before the main event and the main event. The weekend before was interesting because I brought my children 9 and 13. We worked on cleaning windows, scraping paint and washing down doors and cabinets. The satisfaction for me came from seeing the excitement in my kids eager to help and the appreciation of the homeowners excited to see youth helping out. The homeowner even went out and bought cookies for my kids, a gesture they talked about for the entire next week.

ECD: How does work done by Rebuilding Together, Metro Chicago, serve as an anchor for Economic Development in a community like Harvey?

Cooke: The joint effort displayed with the Rebuilding Together initiative serves as a catalyst, creating a sense of pride for the community. It motivates neighbors to improve their properties, and exposes a community to hundreds of new visitors and business that could lead to further investment in a community that has the political and social attention of Cook County Government.  We are demonstrating that local government, businesses and not-for-profit groups are working together to build strong communities in Cook County. 

 

John shared a few additional photos: 

 

Block Party with owners and neighbors before National Rebuilding Day

Block Party with owners and neighbors before National Rebuilding Day

Mrs Brewton (one of the owners of the homes being rehabbed) at the Bock Party.

Mrs. Brewton (one of the owners of the homes being rehabbed) at the Bock Party.

Mrs. Williams (one of the owners of the homes rehabbed) at the Block Party.

Mrs. Williams (one of the owners of the homes rehabbed) at the Block Party.

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle visits the Brewtons after the work was completed on their home.

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle visits the Brewtons after the work was completed on their home.

To Learn more about Cook County’s involvement with National Rebuilding Day, go to:
http://blog.cookcountygov.com/2012/04/30/cook-county-joins-with-rebuilding-together-metro-chicago-for-national-rebuilding-day-project/