SAUK VILLAGE | Gary Holcomb spent a long time in the waiting room of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Finally, Preckwinkle sat down with the chairman of the Sauk Village housing commission.
Preckwinkle now makes regular check-ups with a village that was once a forgotten afterthought in the south suburbs.
Holcomb and his commission have brought that kind of determination to their task and the results speak for themselves.
In July 2011, there were 798 vacant properties in Sauk Village. On Aug. 20, the count was 393. That progress is due in large part to the village's seven-member housing commission, led by its chairman, Holcomb.
"It's my village and it's my time to give back," Holcomb said. "The village has always been there for me."
Holcomb served on the commission until 1996, when he resigned over differences with village officials. He, along with Trustee John Poskin and village residents Wanda Lemell, Sharon Nowak, Heidi Parker, Ronnie Starks and Larry Stewart, have made the commission one of the most effective in the south suburbs.
"I hand-picked my commission and they all give 110 percent. I don't do anything by myself," Holcomb said. "We're all longtime residents and want to see Sauk Village return to what it used to be."
The group released a 10-month "report card" detailing its activities since Village President David Hanks asked Holcomb to revitalize the once-dormant commission.
The commission has worked with mortgage holders and Cook County Land Banks to rehab and place residents in 91 vacant homes. Those residents own those homes and the properties are back on the village tax rolls.
Holcomb said they've also worked with Habitat for Humanity and Home for Vets charities.
So far, 148 properties in total have been returned to Sauk Village tax rolls and seminars on foreclosure prevention and job training have been given to 176 people through the commission's efforts. The group has also removed 37 squatters.
The commission meets on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at the Village Hall.