ROCKFORD (WREX) — On Sunday, West Gateway Coalition President Bob Esmond announced co-founder James DeVoe passed away from COVID-19 complications.
DeVoe founded the coalition and other initiatives as a way to keep his community on the west side of Rockford clean and safe.
"He understood what was going on in the neighborhood and had ideas on how to approach some of the issues," said Esmond. "James was able to make connections with the Rock church and created Project 1013. And every year, besides this year because of COVID, they would have volunteers cleaning up brushes and garbage."
"He had a passion for youth, underserved youth. James stared the teaching gardens, and used the youth in the gardens and in community clean-ups," said West Gateway Coalition co-founder Dyanna Walker.
Esmond says DeVoe's death puts into reality of how serious the pandemic is.
"It just brings to light the seriousness of COVID, the social distancing, wearing masks," said Esmond.
But even though DeVoe is no longer with us, his companions say he would still be pushing for people do better in their community, especially during the pandemic
"If he were here, I think he would say to us that people need to follow the guidelines given to us by the CDC and health department," said Walker.
Both community members are encouraging people to practice social distancing.