ENGLEWOOD — Sitting quietly in Englewood is a building that honors the nation’s first African-Americans to serve in the United States Marines Corps.
But time could be running out for the Montford Point Marine Association’s Chicago chapter 2 hall at 7011 S. Vincennes Ave.
For more than 50 years, the building has served as a community meeting space, resource center and safe haven for veterans. But due to a growing tax debt and a list of needed facility repairs, the center is in jeopardy of shutting its doors for good.
Center officials estimate they need about $100,000 to cover back taxes and make repairs to the building. A GoFundMe campaign was launched to help raised money, but so far just $8,465 has come in.
Montford Point was the segregated part of Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C. where roughly 20,000 African-Americans Marines received their military training from 1942-1949.
After a reunion in 1965, Montford Point veterans from World War II created the Chicago Montford Point Marine Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving veterans and the community. They eventually settled in the Vincennes building.
“Our WWII heroes represent the first African-Americans to wear an eagle, globe and anchor,” Sharon Stokes-Parry, a Marine and president of the association, said of the Marine Corps emblem.
“They fought for our country at a time where they had to ‘fight for the right to fight.’ The Montford Point Marine story is not just military, Marine Corps or black history, it is American history, and these courageous warriors should have a place to feel comfortable and safe to tell their stories amongst other veterans,” she said.
But after years of missed tax payments, their tax debt has been sold to a real estate company that has given the center until Feb. 1 to pay the debt or face foreclosure.
“Montford Point serves as a referral and resource center. It is a place where veterans feel comfortable and safe to share their stories amongst other veterans — most of them have never shared these stories with their families or non-veteran friends,” she said.
In addition to their tax debt, the center has a growing list of repairs that prevent the space from being rented out. They GoFundMe campaign seeks to cover the cost of repairs and the tax debt as a last ditch effort to save “the oldest African-American Post in the city of Chicago”.
“Our call to action is for anyone who has served or has a loved one who has served to donate via our GoFundMe page or direct mail.” Stokes-Parry said. “We will not stop fighting to save our facility.”
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