Discuss Detroit Archives - Beginning January 2006 Detroit Project Day report Previous Next
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Username: Mackinaw

Post Number: 1329
Registered: 02-2005
Posted From:
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 7:25 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Today was Detroit Project Day. The Detroit Project is a student organization at the University of Michigan which fosters ties between UM and Detroit through community service (aka service learning) in conjunction with community groups like the Northwest Detroit Neighborhood Development Inc., The Grandmont/Rosedale community association, MC Blight Busters, several schools, churches, and entities mainly in NW and SW Detroit. There are recurring and individual events/projects/services year round, but today was the culmination, Detroit Project Day. A convoy of dozens of buses carried about 1,000 students from A2 to Detroit. The main focus was the Brightmoor neighborhood. Several schools and other public spaces in NW and SW Detroit were touched.

I was in Brightmoor, on Bentler st. (btw. Outer Drive and Evergreen) and I will share some of the accomplishments of the dozens of students that were stationed on my particular block:
1) Cleaned thoroughly about 6 vacant lots, filled with years of assorted trash/debris, dumped garbage and assorted junk, remains of structures that no longer exist, and tree limbs (many quite large).
2) With the help of NW Detroit Neighborhood Development Inc. we prepared the vacant lots for possible future homesites, and in the meantime prepared garden beds.
3) One empty lot between houses in a more densley populated area was tilled and made ready for a vegetable garden-sharecrop.
4) We manually, or with the help of a tractor, removed the remains of collapsed roofs, or pieces of demolished houses which the city did not completely clean.
5) We demolished a compromised shed behind a gutted, abandoned house.
6) We were able to drain a flood left from yesterday's thunderstorms.
All of this occured between 9:30 and 2:30 today.

Some of my thoughts:
1) I was not at all familiar with this far NW side neighborhood before. It seemed quiet and not too crime-ridden at all. But it seemed, and indeed is, very very poor. The houses are simple depression era one-story frames on concrete slabs with, for the most part, no garages or alleys. Plenty of them are gone, the ones that are lived in are inhabited by a diverse group of underclass. This neighborhood felt more like a poor country setting or something in Appalachia more than a traditional blighted Detroit neighborhood. Perhaps for the extent of empty land, but more likely, because of the simple small houses (I'm used to seeing blighted neighborhoods of beautiful, once-great old brick buildings more towards the core of the city). Of all the neighborhoods that need help, this is surely one of them.
2) The community support and appreciation was certainly there. It was very cool to interact with some of the residents and especially the young neighborhood kids who split time between helping us move debris and playing games in their all-of-a-sudden popular neighborhood.
3) There was a great rally at Stoepel Park No. 1 on Evergreen afterwards. Eleanor Josaitis of Focus: Hope and Pastor Albert Rush of St. Timothy Methodist church shared rousing yet unifying words to a huge crowd. All I can say is the support for Detroit from the current college crowd is astounding, and as long as this support and interest keeps up, Detroit is headed for a major upswing. Whether it is more people living in the city, having fun in the city, volunteering in the city, or just saying good things about it...a large portion of this college community is gonna lead the way on that.

(Message edited by mackinaw on April 01, 2006)
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Username: Kova

Post Number: 205
Registered: 12-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 11:39 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I loved the guy who stuck his head out of the car, stopped, and yelled something at us like " God damn $% $#%#%$&#@&$%$#@^"

It was a good day overall
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Username: Royce

Post Number: 1571
Registered: 07-2004
Posted From:
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 11:45 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I saw one of the lots the students worked on near Lahser and the Redford Theater. They did a nice job of getting it ready for what looked like a garden. That neighborhood definitely could use a little clean up.

Great to see students volunteer their time to help out. I know that they usually do this every year around this time. I've seen them along Fenkell between Lahser and Burt Rd. in the past.
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Username: The_aram

Post Number: 4755
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Sunday, April 02, 2006 - 12:23 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The Detroit Project is not just a one-day thing. There are many, many students who volunteer on a weekly basis at schools throughout the city doing tutoring and things like that. I have not been able to participate the last two years, but I would like to in the future. It's a great thing that is valued not only by the beneficiaries, but also by the UM students.
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Username: Bvos

Post Number: 1365
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Monday, April 03, 2006 - 2:56 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Always an amazing day with the DP. They're always the hardest working group of volunteers you'll ever come across.

Mackinaw, your observations about it looking like Appalachia are correct. The area once was home to a large number of folks who came from Appalachia. There is still a sizable population left, but many have moved on.

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