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Neighborhoods Day has something for everyone

By Phreddy Wischusen
The Michigan Citizen

For eight years now, Arise Detroit has transformed the fleeting glory of a summer day into an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the Motor City. Arise Detroit’s Neighborhood day corrals service efforts and family friendly activities in almost every single of Detroit’s zip codes to show the sum of neighborhood-driven, micro-local projects can be massive. Since its inception, Neighborhoods Day has supported over 1,200 individual efforts; this year, on Aug. 2, over 210 different activities have been organized as a part of the event.

arise detroit logoArise Detroit does not plan the events, instead Neighborhoods Day serves as a platform to promote efforts already in action across the city. “What ever you’re trying to do in your neighborhood we want to try and find a way to help you,” says Arise Detroit founder and veteran journalist Luther Keith. He credits the success of the event to the people who make each event happen every years. “Don’t underestimate the people,” Keith says. “People at Mack and Chene, and the Sorrento Block Club and storefront churches: They built this day.”

“We respect the ideas of the people in the neighborhoods to be leaders.”

John George, founder of Motor City Blight Busters and long-time resident of Detroit’s Old Redford neighborhood, is one of those leaders.

The 25-year-old organization has participated in Neighborhoods Day since the beginning. On Aug. 2, MCBB is going to commence the non-structural blight removal — vegetation, illegally-dumped furniture, tree limbs and debris — from nine blighted properties on the city’s west side with help from an array of volunteers. George is excited about more than the progress they will make beautifying the area. “Blightbusters busts blight six days a week, 52 weeks out of the year. We’re probably one of the most aggressive non-profit housing groups in Detroit. But on this particular weekend, we’re going to join with neighborhoods across the city in celebrating the rebirth of Detroit,” George told the Michigan Citizen. “Sometimes you’ve got to set down your sledgehammer and enjoy the fruits of your labor.” While some MCBB crews will be removing debris, others will be enjoying festivities for a second year at the Artist Village at the Java House in Redford, the hub for MCBB organizing (see story above).

“A lot of times the non-profit groups that do the lion’s share of blight removal are either sidelined or ignored. It’s nice on one day out of the year, a focus is put on the positive things going on in Detroit. It puts new wind in our sails and causes us to want to work even harder,” George says.

MCBB is always looking for volunteers — for Neighborhoods Day or any other Monday through Saturday.

On the city’s east side, another group of artists are bonding together to get Detroit students excited to go back to school (see Steve Furay’s “Backpack Music Fest to collect school supplies”).

Arise Detroit is a not a political entity, which Keith says, unites people across party/political affiliations with the common goal to make the city — every square mile of it — a better place to live. Keith warns of making generalizations about the welfare of the neighborhoods versus the attention being paid to development in the city’s downtown and Midtown areas. “All neighborhoods are not the same in Detroit,” Keith says. “Some neighborhoods in Detroit are doing extremely well, better than the suburbs; some of them are doing worse than third world nations.” Extensive participation in the event by groups from every area of the city proves that all neighborhoods have a future.

“You can’t have an effective community without strong neighborhoods,” says Keith. “I’m truly amazed at how people in neighborhoods have responded to Arise Detroit and Neighborhoods Day.

To learn more, participate in Neighborhoods Day, or see a full lineup of events, visit, or call 313.921.1955.

Interested volunteers can call 313.255.4355, or email to learn more about Motor City Blight Busters.



HABITAT FOR HUMANITY:  For the eighth straight year, Habitat for Humanity Detroit will participate in Neighborhoods Day by helping to construct a home on the east side of Detroit near 4178 Lakepointe. Habitat will also conduct a seven house Blitz Build from August 16 – 23. To volunteer, contact Sandra Cobb at 313.521.6691, ext. 107.

GRANDMONT ROSEDALE CLEANUP: Volunteers from Quicken Loans and DTE Foundation are partnering with the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation to clean up along the Southfield Freeway near Grand River in northwest Detroit from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.  For more information, call Mary Lyons, 313.387.4732, ext. 116.


DENBY SCHOOL PROJECT: Students from Denby High School have created a new landscape for the school’s neighborhood, featuring urban gardens and athletic field enhancements. The school’s seniors launched the project as part of the Capstone graduation activities. During Neighborhoods Day, students will plant trees and flowers, as well as create an urban farm on the school grounds (Grayton Street Detroit) from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

SCHOLARSHIP ASSISTANCE:  The Detroit College Promise, created several years ago to provide scholarships for Detroit Public School League students, will sign students up for thousands of dollars in scholarship opportunities at the Gratiot Splash, Gratiot at Vernor, near downtown Detroit. For more information, call Nat Pernick 248.646.3269.

LEARNING TO FLY:  The Friends of Detroit City Airport and the Davis Aerospace Academy will collaborate to give youngsters the thrill of flying in an effort to interest them in aviation careers. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Detroit City Airport, 11499 Conner. Youngsters ages eight to 18 can sign up for free future plane rides and learn about Detroit’s only school that teaches aviation.

HELP HIGHLAND PARK: DONATE BOOKS: The city’s McGregor Library has been shuttered for years. On Neighborhoods Day, the Next Generation Community Organizers group will be at Manchester and Woodward collecting and donating books, as well as hosting a Farmer’s Market. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 12244 Woodward Ave.

NEW COLLEGE OPEN HOUSE: Grace College of Detroit is a small, Christian-based liberal arts college that opened on the city’s west side without much fanfare. On Neighborhoods Day, the college will host an open house and community festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The college is located at 13660 Stansbury Street, between Grand River and Schoolcraft.


BIG BANG CONCERT: Businessman Errol Jennings is hosting a Big Bang membership and music concert at Russell Woods Park (Fullerton and Broadstreet) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

YOUTH VOLUNTEERS: Youth from the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute will clean up and garden in the area around 4838 Spokane, near I-96 on Detroit’s west side, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

ANNUAL COMMUNITY PARADE: The Crary St. Mary’s Community Council will host its annual parade in northwest Detroit, complete with marching bands, floats and a festive atmosphere. The parade starts at 9 a.m. at Triangular Park, located at Fenkell and Biltmore, and will proceed to Kelley Park, where a community picnic will be held.


DETROIT TIGERS HOMETOWN BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS: The 2014 Detroit Tigers Hometown Championship is a youth baseball and softball tournament extravaganza for children ages 8-19. This marks the 19th year for this popular tournament hosted by the Detroit Tigers Foundation, the Youth Development Commission, and the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department. More than 1,200 young players will participate in a six-day baseball and softball tournament, from August 1- 6, at Balduck (5271 Canyon), Maheras Gentry (12550 Avondale) and Stoepel (14801 Westwood) parks.


THE GRATIOT SPLASH:  The Southeast Gratiot Business Association is sponsoring the Gratiot Splash on Gratiot at Vernor, near downtown Detroit. There will be activities from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., including entertainment, pony rides, speakers addressing community issues, and much more. The Mosaic Youth Theatre will perform at 10 a.m. and periodically throughout the day. Detroit Future City Executive Director Ken Cockrel, Jr. will make a presentation at noon.

JAZZ ON THE AVE: Livernois Avenue, between Seven Mile and Eight Mile roads, will be jumping with the University Commons Jazz on The Ave. The event features three sound stages for jazz and dance performances from noon-6 p.m.

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