ALTON, Ill. (AP) — A 49-year-old woman who helped to set up a community center in Alton shortly after the deaths of two black men in police custody said she felt obligated to donate her services after knowing that protesters would use these events as launching pads to rally against police brutality.
Carrie Booker began feeding and organizing the Friends of the Alton River Community Center after the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile last year. The events included a rally, a march from a police station to Mayor John Sicher’s office, a meeting and a concert.“We were founded on supporting and supporting the people that we knew had nothing to do with what was happening in the state,” Booker said in an interview Wednesday. “We were not here to say things for them, but just to support the idea. I didn’t want to be like the critics and say that we don’t care.”
Sicher called Booker to thank her for her efforts. She appeared before the press to announce the center would receive an additional $100,000 after being awarded $500,000 in grants through the city’s capital improvement fund. The donations are used to bring the center to a proper state.Booker emphasized that “these people are not against us … just here to support.”
Spencer Fortner, the program’s coordinator, said he was pleased to hear that Booker had reached out. The center is to include social events, computer labs, a library and a performing arts center.“We’re going to utilize this center, not just for Alton but for our neighbors to the south of here,” Fortner said. “I know that a lot of people that went through the community center, and it showed them what were going through every day.”
The program has been receiving an influx of new members.
Mary Bloodworth, a Longwood, Ill., native who is originally from Chicago, came to the center with the purpose of training and helping those with various backgrounds in community service.“I heard that, I’m trying to help people,” Bloodworth said. “If I can give anything and assist them to find something … like I did, I wanted to try and do that.”
Vanessa Berry spent a day volunteering at the center with Booker and Fortner. Berry said she has lived in the south central Illinois city for a decade and has always been an activist in her community.“I thought this would be a good opportunity to give back,” Berry said. “It gives us a chance to be heard, how do we value our voice?”
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