‘Angel’ donor saves first black Marines' center with $140,000 gift

Matt Saintsing
February 01, 2019 - 2:24 pm

Photo by Kaylah Jackson

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When Sharon Stokes-Parry received an unexpected call from an unknown number, she almost didn’t answer. Little did she know on the other line was the answer to her hopes and prayers that the historic Montford Point Marine Association building on Chicago’s south side would be saved. 

“I said this could be the call, and you know what? It was the call,” she tells Connecting Vets. 

RELATED: First African-American Marines raising money to save their veterans center

A massive cash injection of over $140,000 was pledged by Chicago mayoral candidate and Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza.

Photo Courtesy of National Archives

“I am donating $73,900 received from Danny Solis’ political organizations and $67,550 received from VAP related organizations and individuals to the very worthy Montford Point Marines war heroes and veterans to save their chapter hall in Englewood and help fund critical repairs," Mendoza said in a statement. 

"These were legal contributions that were fully disclosed as is required by law. Nonetheless, given new information that has come to light regarding these individuals and organizations, my value system dictates that I immediately donate these funds to this worthy cause." 

The money will be used to keep the building open and to renovate the historic building at 7101 S Vincennes Ave. 

“Right now we do have the money for the taxes,” Stokes-Parry tells ConnectingVets. “The taxes are going to be paid, and anything leftover will be used towards renovating the building.” 

As ConnectingVets reported in December, the building was in the process of filing for tax-exempt status when they were slapped with a tax bill of more than $72,000. They had until Feb. 1 to come up with the money or face foreclosure. 

To make matters worse, the building, which also serves as a community center, is in dire need of repairs, including a new HVAC system and roof maintenance. Stokes-Parry says news the building will be saved is a godsend to the broader community on the South Side of Chicago. 

RELATED: Honoring Black Military History: Serving while segregated

“It’s hard to keep hope alive when you have a daunting task or a mountain to climb, they were very grateful, very happy,” she says. “It was a long shot, but a long shot that’s paid off.” 

While the heroism and service of the Tuskegee Airmen or the Buffalo Soldiers is widely known, Americans, typically, are unfamiliar with the first ever African-American Marines. They were trained in Jacksonville, N.C. between 1942 and 1949, where more than 20,000 black men earned the title of United States Marine. 

Photo Courtesy of National Archives

They served in massive military campaigns during World War II, including D-Day and the Battle of Iwo Jima. 

Where it stands now, the Association still has some legal paperwork, but Stokes-Parry says the collection company has told her they will work with them. 

“We’re just very grateful for all the support that we have gotten from the community, from our veterans,” says Stokes-Parry. “We know that in anything we can’t do it alone, and we really appreciate the fact we knew there was an Angel out there.” 

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