Lee and Charmaine Schreiner purchased an old residential/commercial building at 201 7th Street, Rockford, Illinois in 2005. They rented out five of the six apartments upstairs, keeping the sixth as a getaway for themselves and for others to use on an occasional basis. After they extensively renovated the downstairs, it became the home of Rockford Urban Ministries (RUM), JustGoods Fair Trade Marketplace, a Friday night concert series, the harm-reduction needle exchange, and many other events and progressive activities. They also installed a wind generator and later solar panels on the roof.

            When Lee passed away during February 2020, the future of the building and the activities that the building had facilitated became clouded. Without Lee’s continuing leadership, Charmaine felt unable to manage the property and decided that she needed to sell it. Efforts by a not-for-profit community organization to purchase the property did not work out. There seemed to be a danger that the building would be placed on the open real estate market and bought for speculation, without consideration of its history, guiding values, and important role in the community.

            Two Horizontal members, Howard Waitzkin and David Black, along with another dedicated individual realized that they could combine some of their savings to buy the building and preserve the values that Lee and Charmaine had fostered. 201 7th Street LLC was formed for that purpose. After a substantial down payment to Charmaine, she kindly agreed to “carry papers” for a loan that would be repaid directly to her in monthly installments.

            The new owners are committed to the principles of a local, more mutually supportive kind of economy – often called “solidarity economy,” or “new economy” – in which people support one another through mutual aid and without accumulating large amounts of capital through exploitative profit making. With those principles, they decided to finance the purchase of the building without a bank loan, under which the up-front interest would have reduced their ability to pay off the loan in a reasonable period of time.

The goals and values that Lee and Char have fostered will continue to guides programs in the Center that has been named in their honor. To replace the shuttered JustGoods, The new owners decided to facilitate a new store, called Inscape Collective, selling products made by women and local artists and craftsman, as well as apartment units on the second floor to provide accessible housing that tenants could afford.

The building still houses a concert series, other community-oriented events and activities, an office space and library to be used by local groups dedicated to community organizing and empowerment, and exhibition spaces for local artists and craftspeople and products from 3rd world and indigenous women artists. Also, offered are low-cost programs in various subjects such as holistic health, parenting, and art workshops.  All these purposes reflect the goals and values that Lee and Charmaine had previously fostered, for which we remain deeply grateful.


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