This story originally aired during the summer of 2012.
In the first of a two-part series, WNIJ’s Jenna Dooley finds out what it means to live in Rockford.
Michelle and Lawrence Boyd hit a road block in raising seven children when Lawrence lost his job after 17 years. They found a fixer-upper on Park Avenue near downtown Rockford a little more than two years ago. Michelle said it had a new roof and a new furnace, enough to house her growing family:
But it had problems too.
This summer, a church group from just outside of Pittsburgh made it part of their summer mission trip to the Midwest to do repairs on low-income homes. Rockford Urban Ministries has been inviting church groups to the city for the past decade. Most of the materials for repairs come from the Jeremiah Project, a consortium of downtown churches. That’s how the Boyds got their home on the list.
For Lawrence Boyd, the improvements are a chance to see his neighborhood differently:
“Couple of weeks ago we were saying ‘we’re just going to fix this up, we are going to rent it out, and we are going to move cause we want bigger.' But I think what they are doing with Rockford…downtown Rockford, Rock River, the River Walk, we are right here on Park Avenue at Beattie Park I think there’s going to be a lot of changes coming in the next few years so I think we are going to hold on to this.” - Lawrence Boyd, Rockford resident
The Boyds’s story is one Mayor Larry Morrissey would love to tout. After seven years in office, Morrissey wants people to view Rockford as home, not just a place to pass through.
“It goes beyond how much that I make in my job, it goes to the fact that I feel like I’ve got a place that is my home, that I’ve got deep connections to and that I certainly believe my children will have every chance to be a strong bond with and hopefully be able to grow here and raise their own families here.” - Larry Morrissey, Rockford Mayor
Recent data shows the Rockford metro area jobless rate was tied for thirtieth in the nation. The number of unemployed is not only the highest in the state, but also in the Midwest.
Morrissey says high on his list is revamping the public school system, and ensuring students are ready for opportunities after high school. That may mean transitioning students into careers earlier on.
Jack Becherer, President of Rock Valley College, also believes having educational institutions in the area benefits the overall community:
“Rockford’s a great place to learn because we probably have too many people who don’t see what their destiny is as a learned person, so it’s an exciting part of our job at Rock Valley College to let people know that they can do it and we are there for them.” - Jack Becherer, Rock Valley College President
For those who grew up in the city, uncovering Rockford’s potential is easier for some than others. In Part 2, we’ll hear some of Rockford’s oldest citizens, and a new creative group trying to raise the positive profile of the city.