Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Owner of food & liquor store stands up for community

From the Chicago Tribune:
Amid the neon beer advertisements, a handwritten sign in the window describes a program in which the store's owner will give $125 to any person turning over a gun to Chicago's 14th District police.

A second sign warns that the N-word is not to be used inside, even jokingly. A third, reads, "Aqui No" or "Not Here," inviting readers to think of activities—such as gang affiliation or drug use—that will not be tolerated in this neighborhood.

These messages look out from the windows of La Borinqueña, a Humboldt Park food and liquor store named after its Puerto Rican origins, where owner Raymond Figueroa wants patrons to look past the liquor and read his message.

"Sure, it looks like a contradiction," Figueroa said. "The liquor store is an afterthought. The initial thing was to make sure that we keep the flavor of the community. It's a center point. People will go and buy their beer just about anywhere. And if they have this place that's been there for 30 years, then I'll keep it that way. What is important for me is that I'm able to make a difference."

The 60-year-old attorney—a former domestic relations judge and former Chicago alderman whom everyone calls "Judge"—is using his corner of the world to reform a neighborhood. While seeing more and more building rehabs and new construction, these blocks east of the actual Humboldt Park on the city's Northwest Side are still battling some of the crime that was once more prevalent.
Solving the problem of inner city crime surely takes the efforts of not only politicians or even the police but everyday people willing to find ways to solve a problem. It also helps if groups of people work together for that same purpose to solve a problem.

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