Friday, January 29, 2010


Volunteers bring in a new refrigerator donated by REO Movers to replace the one stolen. They also contributed other appliances and a kitchen table & chairs. (Photo by Brad)
Ernestine Hawkins, 87, happily surveys volunteers working to put her home back together after it was damaged by a crooked contractor and his crew. (Photo by Brad)

Patricia Marshall, Geneva Peterson & Deacon Charles Franklin organized the volunteer effort to repair Ms Hawkins’ home and make it livable again. (Photo by Brad)

Ernestine Hawkins is 87 years old. She worked for 35 years for Western Electric and has lived in the same North Lawndale graystone on the 1300-block of South Troy since 1948. Ms Hawkins is still alert and spry and is able to take care of herself. But, she was identified as an easy mark by an unscrupulous crook posing as a home improvement contractor.
When Mark Diamond called on Ms. Hawkins early last summer and made her an offer to modernize and make repairs to her home, she agreed. But, Diamond and his crew, now under indictment by the Attorney General’s office, began to systematically dismantle Ms Hawkins’ home and steal her belongings. They took her stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer, damaged her electrical wiring and plumbing, stole her dishware and silverware. Workers sat in her backyard bragging, “This is our house now.”
Ms Hawkins was upset, but didn’t know what to do and had no one she could turn to for help. One day, while taking a walk, she met her neighbor, Patricia Marshall, and told her what was going on. Ms Marshall swung into action, notifying police and the Attorney General. The men were removed from the premises and Diamond was told never to return. But, Ms Hawkins’ house was a wreck.
Ms Marshall contacted Geneva Peterson of Chicago Area Project and Deacon Charles Franklin of St. Joseph Missionary Baptist Church, where Reverend Donald McFadden is Pastor. They, in turn, reached out to volunteers and businesspeople for help. Everyone met at Ms Hawkins’ house on Dr. Martin Luther King Day to put things back together.
REO Movers donated a new stove , refrigerator, and kitchen table and chairs. A dishwasher, washer and dryer were given. Volunteers worked to clean up the mess the phony contractor and his workers had made.
More still needs to be done. The radiators were dismantled, the gas lines and water lines were damaged, so Ms Hawkins needs help from licensed plumbers, electricians, and heating contractors to make her home safe and livable again. Contributions of housewares, dishes, and utensils are appreciated. Anyone who can help should call Geneva Patterson at 312/588-3864.
On the day honoring Martin Luther King, a North Lawndale senior realized she is not alone and is, in fact, surrounded by caring new friends willing to look out for her.

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