|“You don’t sit and do nothing. You keep moving.”|
Wentworth Gardens Resident Management Corporation
In 1951, when she was 29, Hallie Amey moved with her family into Wentworth Gardens, a low-rent housing complex just south of Comiskey Park. Her husband died of a heart attack in 1958, shortly after the birth of their fourth child, but Amey soldiered on, raising her daughters and fighting to make life better for her fellow residents at Wentworth, which was acquired by the Chicago Housing Authority in 1956.
Flash-forward to 1987, when the White Sox announced plans to build a new stadium across the street from their old park. As treasurer of Save Our Homes, a coalition of South Side block clubs, Amey successfully fought to preserve Wentworth Gardens, which is bounded by 37th Street, Wentworth Avenue, Pershing Road, and Princeton Avenue. And some ten years later, as president of the Wentworth Gardens Resident Management Corporation, Amey and her staff persuaded the CHA to renovate rather than demolish the housing complex.
“Her impact is immeasurable,” says Darnetta Tyus, managing director for the office of the CHA’s board of commissioners (Amey has served as a resident commissioner on the board since 1999). “You can talk about all the activities she has engaged in, but there is no way to calculate the impact on individual lives that she has had.”
“She’s like a one-person social agency,” adds Beverly Shepard, executive director for Wentworth’s resident corporation, which manages the project’s day-to-day operations.
Even at 83, Miss Amey, as she is universally known, spends 40-hour weeks in the organization’s office, planning meetings, conferring with neighbors, and discussing ideas for the future. In a spare moment, she will even reflect on their past accomplishments: opening a daycare center, a laundromat run by residents, a convenience store, and a computer center. More recently, the group persuaded Chicago Park District officials to invest $1 million to renovate the 58-year-old Wentworth Gardens Field House, which reopened in December 2004.
And with the accomplishments have come accolades. This past fall, Roosevelt University presented Amey with an honorary bachelor’s degree in social justice and announced the establishment of a $25,000 scholarship fund in her name that will annually provide tuition for a Wentworth Gardens resident enrolled at the university.
While many residents have left Wentworth during the ongoing rehab, Amey has stayed put—despite the urgings from her daughters, all of whom graduated from college (two of them went on to get master’s degrees, while a third earned a Ph.D.). “Oh, my gosh, they would love to drag me out,” Amey says with a laugh. “‘Mama, you done enough—you just come out.’ Not yet. This is home, and I like it here. And there are things I still want to see done.”