Culture

By Ingrid Sjostrand
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

One in seven Americans – or 40 million people – suffer from addiction to nicotine, alcohol or other drugs, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. This outnumbers those with diabetes, cancer or heart conditions. Chances are you know someone who is struggling with or recovering from addiction.

“Personally, I have had a family member addicted and if my family deals with it anybody could be dealing with it,” Ferndale Police Sergeant Baron Brown says. “Whether it’s the neighbor down the street or someone you know personally, it’s happening all around you and needs acknowledging.”

This awareness encouraged Brown to bring the Macomb-based program, Hope Not Handcuffs (HNH), to Ferndale. HNH allows individuals struggling with addiction to walk into any participating police station and immediately connect with a volunteer, called “angels,” to coordinate treatment options without fear of consequences.

Developed by Fraser-based organization Families Against Narcotics (FAN), Hope Not Handcuffs launched in February 2017 throughout Macomb County and Ferndale. Katie Donovan, Executive Vice President of FAN, says the program is based off the national nonprofit group, Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI), and its program which started in Gloucester, Mass. in June 2016. PAARI has spread to 150 police departments in 28 states.

“We have been following the program for some time, were impressed with its creativeness, the effectiveness and how it was not only helping those struggling with addiction; they also saw reduction in crime, ER visits and less money spent in the judicial system,” Donovan says.

After developing HNH, FAN reached out to members of the community, including EMS, health departments and Macomb County law enforcement to gauge their interest. The response was overwhelming, with all police agencies in the county wanting to participate. While the program had not yet been extended to Oakland County, Brown reached out to FAN about including Ferndale.

“We desperately needed to be involved. I approached our Captain, our Chief and City Manager and we all think it’s an excellent program that we can offer not only our citizens, but everyone in the community,” Brown says. “And community doesn’t just mean the people that live in Ferndale; I always say its community with a big ‘C’ because it includes everyone who comes onto our streets.” Donovan says they are working to expand the program into other areas and that the success so far has been inspirational.

“In its first month – albeit the shortest month of the year – in 28 days we assisted 72 people into treatment. We are so proud of these numbers!” she says. “We have had many police departments reach out, wanting to know more and how they can implement in their own communities, even from different states! This is creating a movement across the nation, which just gives me chills!”

While it’s too early to notice a decrease in crime rates, Brown has seen an impact in Ferndale too – with 12 people coming to the station so far and ten of those currently in treatment through HNH.

Brown is the first to admit that law enforcement doesn’t have the best reputation among addicts, but is hoping to change that perception with HNH.

“Usually police and addicts aren’t two people who are standing in the same room working together, and when people who you wouldn’t expect to trust or rely on the police are coming to us for help it says a lot,” he says. “We just want to spread that treatment is out there and if people – even the police – are wanting you to get help, it shows just how serious this problem is.”

When an individual comes into the station, police will follow standard procedures including a pat-down and a search in the criminal database to ensure the safety of the volunteers from HNH. Nonviolent warrants or a criminal record shouldn’t stop people from seeking treatment, Brown encourages.

“All the things we thought could be fixed by arresting people were all wrong, and we are changing the way we think about addiction,” he says.

“We aren’t looking for lesser charges – shoplifting warrants for example – we will deal with those things down the road. We consider that part of your recovery. Once you have been in treatment and are working toward recovery, we will handle those warrants.”

But for those that still have doubts, Donovan says there are other options.
“If they are uncomfortable walking in, we have an online form they can fill out and an angel will be assigned to them. It can all be done over the phone, as well,” she offers.

Angels are all members of the community and anyone can fill out an application on the FAN website.

“The requirements are passion, believing addiction is a disease and compassion for the addict. All walks of life have volunteered, from people in recovery themselves, stay-at-home moms, grandmas, a retired deputy sheriff, EMS, teachers, nurses, it’s just truly incredible,” Donovan says.

“I have seen such immense passion from our volunteer angels.  They will stop at nothing to help someone, night or day. We even had one angel who slept in his clothes, in case he got a call in the middle of the night.”

FAN works with treatment facilities nationwide and can help anyone, regardless of their insurance, to find the best match for them. Hope Not Handcuffs doesn’t just stop at getting someone into treatment either.

“Once they finish a program, we can help them continue their recovery by setting them up with a recovery coach, outpatient therapy, sober living and getting involved in the community again as a productive member of society,” Donovan says.

Visit: http://familiesagainstnarcotics.org/hopenothandcuffs

Story by Sara E. Teller
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

Jay Kaplan is a very interesting man. Born and raised in Michigan, he holds a Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Michigan and a law degree from Wayne State University.

For 13 years, Kaplan was employed at Michigan Protection & Advocacy Services, a private nonprofit organization designed to protect and promote the human and legal rights of people with disabilities in the state of Michigan. While employed at the service provider, Kaplan worked with special education clients. He acquired funding to start a program for HIV and AIDs advocacy, designed to provide legal services for individuals living with these ailments. He also served as staff attorney for the project, which outlasted his stay at MPAS, for seven years.

Jay is currently a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan’s LGBT Project, which was founded in 2001. He advocates for the LGBT community on a number of issues, challenging current laws and moving for reforms. One of the issues Jay worked on was the ability of transgender individuals to get accurate gender markers on their drivers licenses. He also has challenged same-sex marriage laws affecting couples with children. In the State of Michigan, the law states that a gay couple cannot marry if one partner already has kids. This means that the partner without children cannot adopt the other partner’s children as his or her own. Therefore, children are not afforded the same legal protection as those of heterosexual couples.

Back in 2001, Jay was involved in a lawsuit brought against the City of Detroit Police Department for an undercover sting operation targeting gay men in Rouge Park. Thousands of residents were wrongfully arrested and their driver licenses revoked during the sting, which targeted the men due to their sexual orientation. Eventually, the City settled, agreeing to pay damages, as well as amend unconstitutional ordinances moving forward.

In 2004, Jay was involved in investigating another sting near Lansing also targeting the gay population. During this sting, undercover officers pretending to be gay approached men at a rest stop and attempted to engage them in sexual conversation. They were then arrested under Michigan’s solicitation and criminal sexual conduct statutes. The sting was conducted during the weekend of Michigan Gay Pride. One of the men taken into custody reported the incident to the ACLU.

Other notable issues in which Jay has been involved include health insurance – for example, currently hormone therapy for the transgender community is generally not covered by insurance – and domestic partnership limitations for same sex couples. He is working on issues involving faith-based adoption agencies which are currently allowed to deny same-sex couples access
to adoption.

Jay is the humble recipient of a few awards for his hard work. He received the 2006 Unsung Hero Award from the Michigan State Bar, for which he simply states, “It was an honor, but there are so many unsung heroes that deserve to be recognized.” He was also honored with the 2010 Virginia Uribe Civil Rights Award issued by the National Education Association (NEA). Jay also teaches a public interest law course. He says he enjoys the ability to share his knowledge of law with his students, and Kaplan says he chose to attend Wayne State because it is an urban law epicenter. His education and career path have taught him “cultural competency, empathy and communication skills,” all very much needed in his line of work.

Most of all, Jay would like to remind the general population, “the LGBT community includes a very diverse population of people” of varying ethnic and cultural backgrounds. “The issues of one population do not exist in a silo. They intersect across differing groups,” he says. Therefore, the issues the ACLU’s LGBT Project are tackling are ultimately for the benefit the larger community as a whole. And, although there has certainly been notable progress made, Jay says they still have a long way to go.

Story by Jill Lorie Hurst
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

By now, some of you have seen “12th and Clirmount,” a documentary featured at this year’s Free Press Film Festival. Produced by the Free Press in collaboration with Bridge Magazine, WXYZ-TV and a group of cultural institutions led by the Detroit Institute of the Arts, the film shares old home movies and new interviews by people who were around during the Summer of 1967, when an early Sunday morning police raid on a blind pig pulled the bandage off repressed racial tension and frustration in Detroit. Days of looting and violence followed, and the city was changed forever.

The Detroit Free Press won a Pulitzer for its coverage of the riot. Fifty years later, the DFP takes us back to those tumultuous days. A trip down a jagged memory lane for some, a history lesson for others.

Detroit is back on the map these days. Some would argue that it was never off the map. Another discussion. A desolate and (seemingly) broken city for years, it’s now a food destination, a sports town with a new arena going up, a home for technology and small home grown businesses, urban agriculture, the Q Line. We love Midtown, Corktown, downtown. As always, the art, the music, the cars. Up ‘til the mid-‘60s, Detroit was viewed as a “model city.” Federal funding flowed in to help the schools, housing, job creation. A young, energetic mayor worked with the police department, business owners and citizens to maintain peace in the integrated city. The mayor, the citizens and the rest of the country watched that view go up in July 1967. The “model” fell apart.

The smoke in the sky, the military presence, the fear. Memories shared by many. Memories are what executive video producer and Ferndale resident Brian Kaufman was immersed in as he edited hours of eight-millimeter home movies taken by Detroit families in 1967. We didn’t record our lives then the way we do today. Even so, there is plenty of footage. Footage of the riots. Footage of everyday life in 1960’s Detroit. Kaufman talks about the films. Birthday celebrations, Christmas. A reminder that no matter how different we seem, we celebrate the same moments.

“12th and Clairmount” was a history lesson for Kaufman. He was born in Southern California and has been with the Detroit Free Press for ten years. He and his wife Gina Kaufman (a native of Southeastern Michigan who is a Free Press reporter assigned to the metro desk) chose Ferndale as home in 2009. He spoke affectionately of old Ferndale restaurants now gone like Maria’s Italian, and Bart’s – “the best breakfasts”, but says they enjoy the changes in Ferndale and Detroit. Ferndale is a great location for Free Press staff – “a lot of Freepers live in Ferndale.” Kaufman can work at home, but likes to get downtown to the office to be with his colleagues. “I’m not there enough to justify paying for parking.” he said. “So, I park over by John King books and walk down Michigan Ave to the office” (on Fort Street). “I wouldn’t be able to work on the documentary projects if I was freelance. Having a staff job with a supportive boss (Kathy Kieliszewski) is great. Unique in the newspaper world.”

Brian’s first dive into Detroit history came in 2014 when he worked on the Packard Plant project “Packard: The Last Shift,” presented at the first Freep festival in 2014. The Packard plant, a project on the National Parks and now, the ‘67 riots. Interesting and challenging. “How do we take it beyond our web site? We’d like to find partnerships like the one we have with WXYZ TV. We’ll run it through the festival circuit, and hopefully find a distributor.”

“12th and Clairmount” ends with people wondering whether to stay in Detroit, or leave, post-riot. “So much to learn from what happened in Detroit. People assumed things were fine. But they weren’t. This film is about Detroit, but relatable. The problems then still exist today.” Kaufman wonders how we’ll share stories about our past in 50 years. People record more, but the hard copies that we packed away so carefully in order to preserve our memories? They won’t exist.

In the meantime, we have the footage from that summer. See “12th and Clairmount,” an opportunity to learn and to remember.

For more information about “12th and Clairmount” go to www.freep.com/story/entertainment/movies/2017/

Story by David Wesley
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

Former Mayor Craig Covey and Monica Mills began the annual Ferndale Pub Crawl 20 years ago in 1997. Now, after a long tenure of success, the event may be at risk of ending due to gentrification and corporate interest in other local events.

The Ferndale Pub Crawl is historically important in the modern story of Ferndale: Making the city more popular, wealthy and socially-endearing. Craig regaled Ferndale Friends with the history of the Pub Crawl, its impact on the city and its uncharted future.

“Before Ferndale took off in its renewal back in the early 1990s, there were only a half dozen bars downtown. Gays and lesbians began to move into the city in growing numbers, along with a few artists, musicians and other younger residents. A group of us in the gay community tried and failed to pass a gay rights ordinance through the city council in 1991. Later on, residents formed a gay residents association called FANS of Ferndale, which stood for “Friends And Neighbors.” FANS had three goals, which included increasing social activities for our community, civic engagement with the city through community service and volunteerism, and political activism from the gay and lesbian residents.

“We created the first pub crawl in 1997, and had about 35 people traipse around to all six or seven of the bars downtown, including Rosie O’Grady’s, Sneaker’s, Danny’s, Como’s, Tony’s and Doug’s Body Shop. We had so much fun we decided to make it an annual event. By 1999, we had straight people joining us, more bars opened like the Post and WAB, and we began raising money for charity.”

The annual pub crawl rapidly became a “thing” promoted by the whole city including the DDA. As new bars and clubs opened, like the Post and Club 9, they joined the crawl and the attendance grew every year. Traditionally the mayor of the city always sent off the packs of crawlers, and by 2009 the event was drawing 2,000 participants, more than 20 stops were included, and tens of thousands of dollars was raised for a variety of charities such as the Ferndale Community Foundation, the Ferndale Police Auxiliary, and the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project. The event was always the last Friday of July, and for many pubs it became their biggest night of the year. It was attended by chamber officials, city council members, and even city staff.

As changes came to the city, the charities and the businesses downtown went through change, and over the past six or seven years the annual pub crawl growth began to level off and then decline. Many of the new bars and restaurants chose not to join the event, and several of the original clubs stopped participating and instead began promoting more corporate events such as DIY Street Fair and Pig & Whiskey. As the city continued to gentrify, and support from the city establishment lessened, there was not as much interest in the traditional, grassroots-organized events that raised money for local charities.

“The annual Gay Pride Festival seems to be strong, and has new leadership and corporate buy-in. The annual Blues & Music Festival should also continue under new leadership. But the Ferndale Pub Crawl is at real risk of ending. After 20 years, it may just be a victim of its own success. Also, designed to promote the downtown and walk-ability, maybe it has successfully finished its tasks and accomplished its goals.

“Monica Mills and I announced a year ago that we were not going to manage the event after 2016. So, unless new, younger folks decide to make it happen, then at least that iteration of the pub crawl is done. We raised a quarter million dollars for charities and had a whole lot of fun. The city is now popular, walkable, inclusive, and has more than its share of bars and clubs. And the LGBTQA community got our social outlets, civic visibility, and political recognition.”

Story By: Jaz’min Weaver
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

Creativity runs rampant in Ferndale, a city of art fairs, galleries and specialty shops…and also at the Ferndale Library, where a special book is waiting, just waiting, for you to fill its pages. One of the goals of the Ferndale Public Library Art and Exhibition Committee is to encourage our already lively appreciation of art. In 2013, committee member Linden Godlove came up with an interactive way to do just that. The Two Twenty Two Community Art Project started as a blank book, and evolved into an outlet and archive for diversity of thought and a wide array of media. This collaborative project is a unique method of interaction between members of the community. Its pages include colored pencil drawings, collage, prints, photos, poems and more.

Larger than a usual sketchbook, it evokes the feeling of being small again, when your favorite storybook filled your entire lap. The cover, designed by Patrick Dengate, is a large black and white print, simple, but elegant. A welcoming page with an enumerated list serves as an introduction to the concept of a circulating art book. It takes its name from the address of the Ferndale Public Library, 222 East Nine Mile Road.
A medley of things acted as inspiration for Two Twenty Two. Godlove states, “One: the knowledge that practically anything can be catalogued, added to the library collection, and thus, be able to be checked out – even a blank book. Two: Janice Charach Gallery in West Bloomfield had a 100 Journal Project in 2012, where artists could get a blank sketchbook and have it in their exhibition. One of my friends invited me to fill a page. Three: The PostSecret books, curated by Frank Warren, inspired the idea, as well.”

The last few pages are reserved for information about contributors, so the participating artists can leave a little information about themselves, the media they used, and how they can be contacted. It’s a shared artistic experience for neighbors and strangers, whether you’re contributing or just admiring.

When asked about the noticeable chunk of cropped pages near the center of the book, Linden replied, “The missing pages were blank. Very early on, enthusiastic artists pasted in thick collages and other dimensional art. This is wonderful, but it’s so thick that it caused stress on the binding of the book, which was causing the pages to pull from the cover. In order to make room for some of the thicker pieces of art, reams of blank pages were cut out.” This is followed up with the promise, “No existing art has been removed from the book and never will be.”

Currently, although the remaining blank pages are not sequential, there are still a few waiting to be filled. What will happen when the book is entirely full? “It was intended to be an ongoing project. The challenging element is that we would need to find a book that can be filled expansively, yet hold up to the wear and tear of being checked out repeatedly. I don’t know of what kind of sketchbook could, but I’m open to suggestions,” says the creator.

Checking out Two Twenty Two is worthwhile even if you don’t intend to write on the pages; it’s still a visual adventure, each page holding something new and different. It is a book of juxtaposition that gathers a variety of styles and thoughts, just like the city and residents of Ferndale itself.

Godlove puts it best by saying, “It’s a fantastic project because anyone who wants to can write in a library book, and their contribution becomes a part of that book that anyone can check out, as long as the book lasts. It’s an interesting archive of a brief time in our local creative history, with artists from all levels, from budding artists like my little girl nieces to established ones who have had their art published elsewhere. I’m very proud of it and glad that it continues to be discovered and contributed to over the years.”

Photo by Bernie LaFramboise

Oak Park resident and author Soraya Biela discovered and occupied a neglected perspective in the vampire fantasy genre. Where most often the stories are overflowing with Twilight’s precocious young girls and Anne Rice’s charismatic older men, Biela’s storytelling focused on the voice of an older woman. Enter Joey Roxy; a charming woman, a radio talk show host, and a vampire.

Biela has released the first two books in the trilogy, the first entitled Velvet Heaven and the second, Velvet Hammer. The narrative is both relatable and addictive. Seductive situations and bloodthirsty intimacy can be very intriguing for readers who wanted more out of the run-of-the-mill vampire epics. Readers can feel the rush Biela gets out of peering through the consciousness of her characters, and she fashions a personal fantasy that is as enjoyable to the reader as it is to her.

Joey Roxy is completely inspired by a real-life mentor of Biela’s: a talk show host named Rollye, who spins records of obscure soul music. Biela began reaching out to Rollye first as an adoring fan, and was soon enamored by Rollye’s depth of compassion and magnetic personality.

The support Rollye gave Biela during trying times, and the admiration she felt through this relationship, nurtured the creative devotion necessary to model a character that honors their connection.

“As a thank you I wanted to write her into the novel I had going at the time,” Biela said. “But as I began to write I had 50 pages in only a month, and that were way more compelling than what I had been writing.”

As the relationship blossomed, Biela began researching her mentor’s career history. She came across an online forum where a truck driver had accused Rollye of being a vampire because her radio show employed very late hours, and her enduring youthful appearance seemed impossible without some supernatural explanation. This notion excited Biela, and after writing Rollye’s character into a story she was working on at the time, the inspiration snow-balled into the vampire character in Velvet Heaven.

“Here was this intelligent, witty, sexy woman over 60. She seemed timeless,” Biela said. “She was a perfect fit. I started to write my version of her from our conversations both on and off air. I would send her what I wrote for her approval since so much of it was her likeness.”

Biela’s interest in storytelling began as a child with wildly vivid dreams, an abundant imagination, and the drive to be a writer and a creator. As she grew into a lover of gothic literature, her trajectory into this genre seems as natural as a vampire’s thirst for blood.

“Who doesn’t want to be immortal? I’ve always been drawn to [vampires]. I never feel like we have enough time to do all we want in one lifetime. “

Biela’s books are now self-published, which gives her the freedom to maintain the storyline she is interested in telling without compromising her vision. However, Biela has big dreams. She envisions her original creation someday becoming as influential as JK Rowling’s. But for now, Biela is simply thrilled at the future prospect of the realization of her finished trilogy. Perhaps with such adult themes in the same way the wizarding world did for kids, the challenges Joey Roxy faces as an older female vampire, women of the same age can live out the fantasy.

“In book one we see Joey struggling with a human husband, continuing her already dwindling career, and just adapting to life as one of the undead at her age,” Biela said. “In book two we see more of the vampire history, as well as the lineage her husband has which is causing all kinds of problems in their marriage. We see her letting go of her human ways and really embracing the sensual monster she has become.”

Velvet Heaven and Velvet Hammer are now available on Amazon, and the third and final installment of the series still hasn’t seen the light of day. Let’s hope it doesn’t burst into flames when it does!

By Rose Carver

Charlotte Fisher’s newest book is a reminder that we all struggle, and in that reality, we are all the same.

Detroit author Charlotte Fisher is a natural-born writer. In her newest work, she pours a series of her personal experiences into a collection of short stories that reach directly into the human heart of the reader in an attempt to stimulate a powerful empathy for all people.

Hope, healing, connection and inclusion are some of the overarching themes in the book, Take a Lesbian to Lunch. The belief that we all have worth is an important point for Fisher to communicate to all of her readers.

“Through my writing, I am hoping that people begin to see the similarities among us instead of focusing on the differences,” Fisher said.

A survivor of addiction and a masters student at the University of Michigan, Fisher  downplays her projected identity in the world that makes her appear different. Her writing exemplifies what she’s learned in her 50-plus years on Earth, and she attempts to remind everyone that we all struggle in our lives, and through that connection we can realize what makes us the same.

“The fact that I am gay doesn’t make me unique,” Fisher said. “The larger part of me—my pain, my challenges, my fears—connect me to every other person on the planet who has felt the same way. Sharing our emotions connects us with each other. It’s what brings us together to heal and move forward.”

Sharing her story is her contribution to the emotional ether, and her vulnerability is potent. She is unapologetic about her past, and reminds us through her writing that compassion is the highest form of consciousness. She hopes her writing gives others the courage to claim their own truth.
“In some way, we’ve all been the lesbian, or the fat girl, or the weakling or the guy who can’t read or the guy who cheated on his wife, or the wife who’s been cheated on,” Fisher said. “It’s almost impossible to judge others when you see yourself in them. I’ve been judged, and I’ve also judged others harshly. Today I try to see ‘me’ in everyone I meet, and offer them compassion. When how we look at the world changes, what we see changes as well.”

Writing is a natural process for Fisher, as she’s been doing it since she was in the seventh grade. She exudes devotion for the process of moving thoughts and feelings into words and stories. Not only does she try to reach others through her writing, but she also finds the outlet she needs to work through the issues that she struggles with in her own life.

“If I kept all of my pain and self-hatred and shame inside of me, I would have likely killed myself with my addiction,” Fisher said (she’s been sober since 2004). “Because I’ve shared my stories, I’ve learned two important things: Most of what I thought about myself wasn’t true. I actually do have value. I do have purpose. I am loveable and strong and important. [And second] I’m not alone. Other people have had the thoughts and experiences. Through my writing, I believe I’m helping others to recognize that they are also not alone, that there’s hope, and that we all have the courage to make our lives fabulous.“

To learn more about Fisher, get in contact with her, or to order her newest book, go to lesbianlunch.com.

Jack D. Arlan

What will happen if the President/Congress/Supreme Court acts to (fill in the blank)?” “Will they really do (this or that)?”

We’ve all heard these questions over the past few months.

People are asking these questions at the kitchen table, on their job, at their place of worship and on the street. Few are untouched by concern, and their concerns are many. One illustration is Medicare, the primary source of medical coverage for the elderly: What’s the effect on you, your parents or grandparents if it is changed, eliminated or privatized?

What can ordinary citizens like you and I do in a time of change and transition? How can we be heard in a time when federal policies and programs may dramatically impact many of us directly? People – young and old, a populace of varying color, religion, orientation and political persuasion -want and should have an influential voice.

Ezra Levin, Leah Greenberg, Angel Padilla and a few dozen other former congressional staffers recently published a guide for citizen-participation called Indivisible. It showed up on the web last December, and has been received by the public with enthusiasm. It’s a handbook for those who want to make their stance known on issues and hold their representatives in Washington accountable. Much of the advice is based on the successful tactics of the Tea Party. There is an overt anti-Trump tone, but the information is useful to people of all political positions. It may be found easily via Google or go directly to www.indivisibleguide.com.
Congressional staffers know how your Senators and Representatives think. They have seen how small groups of constituents can have an enormous impact on what our lawmakers do.

Your congressional representative and two United States senators want you to believe they care about you, share your values and are working hard on your behalf. Senators run for reelection every six years, Congressmen every two; they are always in a position of running for reelection or getting ready to do so. Even those in a “safe” seat care about threats in the next primary.

Your senators, Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, need to be responsive to the people of Michigan; they don’t worry as much about someone in Kentucky or Alaska. Your Congressman (for those in Ferndale, that’s Sandy Levin of the Ninth District) doesn’t lose too much sleep over those in Traverse City or Saginaw; he values his constituents first.

All of your members of Congress have web pages, showing their Washington DC and local offices, contact information and much about them and their work. Remember that independent checks are easily accessible, via the web, for voting history, your congressman in the news, etc.

How do your Congressional members feel about issues you’re concerned about? Are they speaking up? Are they attempting to support or oppose relevant policies or programs? There are four key areas where a handful of local constituents have the opportunity to make an impact:

1.    Townhall meetings. Public, in-district events are regularly held.
2.    Non-town hall events. These are ribbon-cutting ceremonies, parades, etc.
3.    District office(s). Your member of Congress has one or more local offices that he or she is at on a regular basis. It’s open for visits and meetings.
4.    Coordinated emails and telephone calls.

Indivisible is chock-full of detail about how these areas may be effectively utilized. It deals with the ways to ask questions and get answers, create public awareness as to responsiveness (or the lack thereof) and utilization of things like signs and other indications of support. There’s also a wealth of information about the formation and makeup of groups, which can be effective even starting out with a handful of like-minded folk.

Keep two things in mind: First, the authors recommend you concentrate on one issue at a time; your representatives don’t want to hear or address a bushel of issues in a single interaction. Second, focus on matters that have a current legislative priority; your influence is greatest with matters in the public eye now.
Also note that positive reinforcement can be important even if your member of Congress is already speaking and acting in accordance with your views. He or she, and their staff, can be energized by knowing their constituents believe they’re doing a good job; opponents notice.

IT’S A TIME OF TRANSITION, A TIME OF CHANGE. WHAT OUR GOVERNMENT DOES OR DOESN’T DO WILL IMPACT YOU. BE AWARE, BE VIGILANT. DEMAND THAT YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS ACT ON YOUR BEHALF.

By Maggie Boleyn

The holidays are just around the corner. Everyone has someone who is a little, well, challenging, to shop for. What if you could combine shopping while enjoying craft brews, sweet treats, music and giving back to the community? Check out the “Good Karma Christmas – Holiday Market and Party.”

Good Karma Club founder Muszall says, “The holiday season seems to bring out the best in people.  Everyone is feeling festive and looking for a way to give back to those less fortunate. The Good Karma Christmas -Holiday Market and Party is a way to celebrate and embrace that.  You can get together with friends, have a drink, and do some holiday shopping in a way that supports some of our amazing local non-profit organizations.”

This years’ event is Wednesday, December 7, so by the time you see this it may already be over. This year they are expanding to include a holiday market and unwrapped toys will be collected for the Judson Center. Bringing an unwrapped toy could boost your “good Karma.”

Karma, of course, is a Sanskrit word which, loosely translated, refers to a belief that whatever good (or bad) ff16666_gkc_teamyou do comes back to you, whether in this lifetime, or another. So, by doing something good, something good will happen to you, and vice versa. Whether or not you strictly subscribe to this belief, Good Karma Club certainly strives to do good for others through many local volunteer opportunities.

“The Good Karma Club is all about helping the local community and supporting great local non-profit organizations,” Muszall said. “It’s a great way to meet some like-minded people.”

Averaging more than 100 volunteer events per year, held at a variety of local venues means you should be able to find something to suit your abilities and schedule. “Since the Good Karma Club started in January of 2013, we have had over 300 volunteer events,” Muszall said. “Some of our regular volunteer activities include Forgotten Harvest, Motown Soup, and Everyone’s Garden among others,” she continued.

Like many community minded professionals, Muszall said she wanted to become more involved and volunteer, but had a difficult time finding and fitting in opportunities around a busy work schedule. “It was a frustrating and discouraging process,” she said.  “I figured that I wasn’t the only person in this situation. So, I wanted to create an outlet to make volunteering easier and more fun.”

Convenient volunteering hours are the hallmark of Good Karma.  “We do our best to make it convenient for our volunteers,” said Muszall.  “All of our Good Karma Club volunteer activities are in the evenings or weekends, and they don’t require a big commitment,” Muszall said.  “You just show up and work for a few hours with a nice group of people.”

Currently, 40 different Metro Detroit non-profit organizations participate with Good Karma Club. The current membership has grown to nearly 2,000 members.

The Good Karma Club Christmas and Holiday Market will be held at Loving Touch located at 22634 Woodward Ave in Ferndale on Wednesday December 7th.

In case you missed this year’s Holiday party, don’t wait until your next life to check out Good Karma Club’s other activities. Visit their online calendar for upcoming events at:
www.meetup.com/Good-Karma-Club/events/

Muszall noted that, typically, Good Karma Club has several events each month. Find Good Karma Club on Facebook, or sign up to volunteer at http://www.meetup.com/Good-Karma-Club/