Rev. Jesse Jackson, Activists Push for Natural Gas Pipeline to Pembroke Township

Residents are forced to use wood-burning stoves for heat in an area with one of the highest poverty rates in the country

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Reverend Jesse Jackson and a group of local leaders are working to bring a natural gas line to Pembroke Township to help one of the poorest communities in America have a warmer and happier winter.

The township, located in southeastern Kankakee County near the state’s border with Indiana, has a median income of around $16,000 a year, well below the poverty line. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the township has a 30.2 percent unemployment rate and a 33.9 percent poverty rate.

Many residents in the township use wood-burning fireplaces as their lone sources of heat, including Cleveland Brown, who admits that it’s hard work to keep his home warm.

“If I had natural gas, I wouldn’t have to get up and go outside and keep it going,” he said.

Brown’s wish is one step closer to reality, as Rev. Jackson and a group of community activists are working to bring help to the area.

“There are pockets of poverty all over the country,” he said. “My job is to lift up those whose backs are against the wall.”

Jackson is joining the push to bring a natural gas line to Pembroke Township.

“This community has been overlooked for 48 years for natural gas,” Hopkins Park Mayor Mark Hodge said. “We’re in need of industry. We’re in need of jobs, and school needs natural gas to our community.”

Officials in the township will meet with representatives from Nicor in two weeks, and residents are hopeful about opportunities that may lay ahead.

“That would work out for everyone if we could get natural gas. It would make it better for everybody out here,” Brown said.

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