34th District Candidate Richard Wooten wants grants and programs to bailout struggling churches

Pastors to hold Press Conference on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Captain’s Hard Times Dining in Chicago


Chicago, IL – Chicago Businessman and Police Officer Richard Wooten,  a candidate for State Representative in Illinois’ 34th District and Committeeman in Chicago’s 6th Ward, said if he is elected to those offices, he will fight for programs to revitalize struggling churches.

The churches are struggling, Wooten said, because high unemployment led to a decline in church attendance and tithing, resulting in a growing number of churches going into foreclosure or severe debt.  In many churches that are able to keep their doors open, Wooten said the pastors are spending less time addressing the needs of members and residents, because they have to spend too much time making sure the electric and gas stays on. This week churches received even more bad news when Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration announced that the mayor wants churches to start paying water bills, adding to the mounting utility debts.

“If Wall Street and the automotive industry can be bailed out, why can’t we provide support to our churches?” asked Wooten, an associate pastor at Faith Walk Church International in Chicago. “The economy has had a devastating effect on our churches, which have been the backbone of our communities. When they are healthy, our families are healthy, and when our families are healthy, our communities are healthy. If we truly want to help people in need, we have to help our churches.”

Wooten will gather with pastors on Tuesday, March 6, 2012, at 10 a.m. CT. for a press conference. The press event will be held at 434-440 E. 79th St. in Chicago.  

Dating back as far as the slave era, black churches have produced some of the nation’s greatest leaders and served as centers for spiritual guidance, counseling, rehabilitation, education, housing and employment. Churches are also major centers for families that need food or meals and support to pay their energy bills. But the economy is forcing churches to cutback.

Wooten wants to reverse this trend.  He is appealing to the Obama Administration and state legislative officials to provide churches with grants and programs that are used to aid small businesses.  He said he will fight for this kind of legislation if elected.

“We must do something to stop the hemorrhaging,” he said.  “These grants can give churches financial relief and access to information and expertise that can rejuvenate the churches and strengthen their outreach ministries that have helped so many citizens.”  

The important role churches play in Chicago and around the state is evident every day, Wooten said. Just this past Sunday, Apostolic Church of God used its influence to give its congregation a firsthand explanation for Chicago Public Schools’ decision, despite strong community opposition, to close under performing urban schools. That message was delivered by CPS CEO Jean Claude –Brizard.

Several weeks ago, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago announced plans for Imani Village, a 27-acre community next door to Chicago State University, where the church hopes to build sustainable housing, an urban farming and agricultural center, retail stores, community health centers and an NCAA-certified sports complex.

Last week, Rev. Cory Brooks, the founder of New Beginnings Church of Chicago, ended his 94-day campaign on the rooftop of an abandoned drug infested hotel in Englewood. He came down from the roof after raising $450,000 to raze and purchase the property for a community center.

Several years after he entered the ministry, Wooten founded Gathering Point Ministries, a unique organization that embraces a holistic approach to working with youth, offering services to both youth and their parents to build stronger families and vibrant communities. The idea is to help parents address their psychosocial support needs, such as health, education, housing and unemployment, which ultimately have a direct impact on most of the issues that youth face in their homes and communities.

“This is an example of what churches are capable of when they are healthy and have the resources,” Wooten said. “They can build housing, maintain strong ministries that deal with healthcare, such as cancer and HIV; they can work with ex-offenders and help them with their re-entry into society. They can also address issues of employment, crime, poverty, education and foreclosure. When we empower the churches, we empower GOD’S people.”