Story By : Sara E. Teller
Photos By : Bernie Laframbiose

THE NEW TO YOU SHOP, located inside of St. John’s Episcopal Church off of Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak, offers low-cost donations and consignment items with the purpose of raising money to support community outreach and various charities within the church as well as in the community at large. The shop has been in business for 37 years, originally opening its doors back in 1980.

“The New To You Shop went into business after a recommendation was made by a church member,” explained the shop’s manager, Kathy Williams. In the fall of 1980, the store was established by the Vestry at the recommendation of Ruth Ewing. The original purpose was to supply low-cost clothing and articles, offer an opportunity for profitable recycling of usable clothing, and to use the profits to aid other ministries all while welcoming people in the community.

“We sell clothing for infants, children, ladies and men, jewelry, accessories, collectibles, books, household items and more,” Williams explained, adding that “proceeds from the shop help to support the Open Hands Food Pantry located within the church (which is the largest emergency food bank for Oakland County), the Open Hands Garden, support groups that meet at the church, and a variety of organizations in the community such as Mariners Inn, Haven, SOS, Furniture Bank of Southeast Michigan, Common Ground and many more.” In addition to the items above, bedding, linen, DVDs and CDs and other goods are also accepted.

St. John’s established a Corporate Mission Committee to provide assistance for various types of outreach programs, and funds for the Committee come directly from profits of the New to You Shop. In 2015 alone, the store generated a total of $7,050 for this effort.

Although there are currently no volunteer opportunities available within New To You according to Williams, donations are always welcome and consignment is available on an ongoing basis. “We accept donations any time the shop is open, which is Monday through Friday 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., Saturday 10:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M., and Monday evenings 6:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.,” she said. “We do not place limits on donations, but those interested in consignment should call the store to discuss as this is by appointment only.”

A consignment contract which outlines the terms of sale is available at the church’s website. These types of sales are slightly different from those made from donated items. Dropoff appointments are offered Monday through Friday only, and made by the manager. The maximum accepted per appointment is six manageable boxes with closed lids, or a two-foot span of hanging clothing. The shop sets all pricing.

New To You is located inside of St. John’s, with parking behind the church off of 11 Mile Rd. It is closed on snow days for Royal Oak School students, as well as throughout the summer from mid-June through Labor Day and major holidays throughout the year. All items are reduced once they have been on the floor for more than two months.

For more information, interested parties may visit the church’s web site at, call 248.546.1722, or email


OPEN HANDS FOOD PANTRY, housed in the lower level of St. John’s Episcopal Church, provides emergency food and toiletries to residents of Oakland County. Completely staffed by a dedicated group of Volunteers, the pantry is open every Saturday from 9:30 A.M. to 11:45 A.M. and every Monday from 12:30 P.M. to 2:45 P.M.

Open Hands Food Pantry volunteers place a premium on treating people with dignity and respect, so each household is met with individually to create a food or supply package that helps them most,” said Reverend Elizabeth Bingham.

Open Hands was founded in 1982 by a small group of parishioners from St. John’s Episcopal Church who saw a need to provide a few cans of food whenever families came by who needed some assistance. “The groceries were kept on a small bookshelf in a Sunday School room,” Elizabeth explained. “After a few years, the whole room was taken over as a space to store and distribute food. Over time, more and more space was required, more volunteers were added, and now an entire floor of the church is dedicated for food storage and distribution.”

She added, “Hunger is real in Oakland County” and the specified 2017 goal of the pantry was to feed 14,000 people. Of this goal, Elizabeth said, “14,000 is about the capacity that we can reach with our current hours of operation and current volunteer and funding base. If we were open more often or had more resources, we would serve more people. We don’t despair about that. We do what we can, with dignity and respect for our neighbors.”

Recently, some members of the parish invited students from the Oakland University’s engineering department to develop an irrigation system on a volunteer basis as part of their capstone project. “They got real-life experience in solving a problem for a ‘client’ using industrial engineering concepts and tools,” Elizabeth said of the endeavor and Open Hands Garden was the recipient of an automated irrigation system.” As a result, she added, “Open Hands Garden plants are always well-watered and producing – no matter what the weather!”

The Open Hands Garden is fairly new to the church, having been established only three years ago as part of an initiative to be able to provide both perishable and nonperishable food items. “We now have eight raised beds, and hope to expand the garden next year to lengthen our growing season and provide more vegetables. This is a volunteer-intensive project, and people come all over the region to help us plant, weed, and harvest. We always need more volunteers!” she explained.

The food pantry has been supported mostly by individual donations and a few local grants, such as The Village Club in Bloomfield Hills. “The ‘GM Men’s Club’ and ‘Corvettes on Woodward’ are very generous with us, as they use the St. John’s Parking Lot during the annual Dream Cruise and have become very supportive of our program,” Elizabeth explained, adding that donations also come in regularly from many of the local businesses, schools and organizations.

“Cash gifts are the best way to support us,” she said. These donations are tax deductible. “Also consider organizing a toiletry or non-perishable food drive for Open Hands in your faith communities, schools or businesses. It’s always best for us if you collect ‘just one thing’ – toothbrushes, canned soup, or tuna fish, etc.” Donating one specific item rather than mixing and matching makes it easier to shelve the product and distribute it from one place without having to sort lots of items. Some of the goods most needed are personal hygiene products, laundry and dish soap, soup and other canned goods, dried beans, peanut butter, socks, mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves and backpacks.

Small donations are accepted during the food pantry’s open hours. For larger donations, the church should be contacted first via phone or email: (248) 546-1255, option 2, or

The goal of Open Hands is to keep extending its reach. “Our goal is to expand our volunteer base and our pool of funders,” Elizabeth said. “We could do so much more if we had consistent funding. We are in the process of seeking gifts and long-term commitments from individual donors, as well as corporations, foundations, and other entities.”

Story By Andrea Grimaldi

“I woke up one morning and thought to myself, ‘I’m going to die. I’m not going to make it another year.’” Ferndale resident Shanna Stamper realized one morning her weight was killing her, and something needed to radically change if she wanted to live a long life.

A FULL-TIME NANNY FOR MULTIPLE FAMILIES, Stamper knew that becoming healthy would be the only way she could keep working with children, a lifelong dream. Motivated by the desire to stop taking blood pressure medications, and end the aches and other daily challenges caused by obesity, Stamper began a healthy diet and exercise regime. Two years later and two hundred pounds lighter, Stamper could not be more grateful for the progress she has made,and the community standing behind her as she forges ahead.

She started with a membership at the Royal Oak YMCA. “The first day I was out of breath before reaching the front desk,” she recounted. She began with slow progress on the treadmill and stationary bicycle, working her way up to complete a mile, then another, then another.

Stamper began seeing changes in her body and her energy levels. She added swimming to her routine, an exercise that made her feel light in the water and protected her bones and joints as she shed the weight. Soon, she didn’t need the blood pressure medications, and her ailments began to improve.

Stamper joined TV Fitness, on Woodward Avenue with Ryan Carruthers, and began the process of toning her body. She joined countless online communities centered around health and happiness. Sharing her journey online and reading about other people going through the same experiences and frustrations helped her realize a healthy life is completely attainable.

She was friended by strangers who saw her progress and were inspired by her journey. With each recipe exchanged and every supportive message sent and received, Stamper stayed true to her health and path.

Within two years of consistent dedication to her health and fitness, she lost over 200 pounds without surgery or medication. “People are so hard on each other and themselves. You can be your biggest discouragement.” This past spring, Stamper ran her first Triathlon. She spent months preparing and training with the goal to simply complete the race, only competing against herself. Stamper surpassed that goal by placing fourth place in the women’s division and earning a medal, one of her proudest feats.

Stamper did not place goals on her journey – “it wasn’t about the number on the scale or how clothes fit, although those are obvious benefits too,” Shanna explains. “I feel like I’m back in control of my body.” After shedding so many pounds, Stamper began plateauing, losing less weight each week despite working as hard as ever. Rather than getting discouraged by the numbers slowing, she focused on the changes she felt daily.

“Life still isn’t perfect,” Stamper explained. “I still have days where I crave pop or have pizza for dinner.” But the main drive is seeing how far she has come. Coming from a place where she could drink ten sodas in a day and now having overcome those cravings is the inspiration to keep going. “It isn’t an overnight process, and I will have to stay committed for the rest of my life. But I’m committed.”

Stamper has incredible gratitude to the friends and support system that has helped her along the way. Support pours in from Facebook health groups, coworkers, church friends, and especially her partner and best friends. The people closest to her texted support daily, and reminded her of her progress when she couldn’t see it. Without the support and kindness, she says she could have never stuck with it.

Stamper also enjoys supporting others through their journeys, and loves exchanging exercises and recipes with others. It is a long and difficult journey to undertake, and reaching out to local groups and friends is a great way to keep on track.

Story By Jon Szerlag

VANDALISM IS MORE THAN JUST A CRIME OF DESTRUCTION of property, especially when it is personal property. for one oak park family, a pumpkin thrown at their window after Halloween had them rethinking their ongoing efforts to transform their home into a local extravaganza and holiday landmark
for the community.

For some, Halloween may be just a day for a quick scare and for children to get candy. For others, it is something more. It is a tradition that seems to be faltering, moving underground as the popularity of Trunk-or-Treat and other similar events take the stage for a safe alternative to going door-to-door shouting “Trick or Treat!”

For the Schaller family, October — especially the night of Halloween — is something to be proud of. Their house, both outside and in, has become a traditional holiday landmark known for elaborate decorations and costumes. “It’s part of an atmosphere,” said Chris Schaller. “It’s a family event, and other families are involved in it as well. We all remember when we were little kids. Trick-or-treating was different back then. It was fun. We want the kids to feel that and keep that tradition alive. [Halloween] is a time for the community to get together, and we are a part of that. We offer a sense of community and a sense of nostalgia and a little part of tradition, hoping that this torch will be carried on with some little kid saying I want to do that.”

All of that almost came to a halt when their son was woken in the middle of the night to a crash which shook the house and knocked numerous items off a wall, including a collectable cuckoo clock. Their son thought someone was trying to break into their house, then noticed the items on the floor and thought they just fell. When he left for work the next day, he noticed that some of the decorations were damaged, and someone had thrown a pumpkin at a window with such force it knocked all of the items off the wall inside. The Schaller family has been decorating their house for four years, and never had any concerns or problems.

“This is the first time someone has messed with our decorations,” said Linda Schaller. “People come by…and they respect it. This year was the first year someone did something. It was my fears being realized for the first time. I am hesitant on how much we will do because I don’t want it to happen again.” Although this act of vandalism, of personal disrespect, shook more than just their walls of their home, the Schallers’ will not let this stop them from continuing their tradition.

“We are not going to let one bad seed spoil all we give to the community, and what the community gives to us,” said Chris Schaller. But he did add that they will take some more precautions moving forward, like moving the pumpkins to the backyard and taking larger, expensive items in at night.

“Growing up, getting a candy bar was such a great treat. It was the highlight of the year: the costume mom made for you, becoming the superhero of the moment. It’s good for parents and the community. And people and kids remember us from the year before and look forward to coming here. We are not going to let one person, or group of kids spoil it for the roughly 200 kids we had this year. We are going to keep it going.”

SARA TELLER AND DAVID RYALS (aka David Wesley), both long-time contributors to Ferndale Friends, are each celebrating the release of new books. Ryals offers a novel which gives a “gruesome” depiction of the African Ivory trade, and Teller’s book provides advice to people who may be in an abusive relationship of a particular type. Both books are being released by the Ferndale-area publisher, Mad Hatter Publishing. Congratulations, David and Sara!

New Book on Narcissistic Abuse Could Save Lives

NARCISSISTIC ABUSE: A SURVIVAL GUIDE, is a new book by Michigan author Sara Teller that could save lives. There’s an insidious, secret war going on, and it may just be happening inside your home. If your spouse or partner is always right and you’re always wrong, if you’re always the one to blame for a mishap,if you’re never good enough, then you may be at war and not even realize it.

Narcissistic Abuse is real and potentially life threatening. Physical, mental, and emotional abuse are all part of the narcissist’s bag of abusive tricks, and can have a lifelong impact on you and everyone in your household.

If you or someone you know is caught in this situation, this book can help you break free and survive. If you’re a therapist, counselor, or you’re involved in the recovery process, this book brings insight into the inner workings of the abusive narcissistic relationship.

Teller brings to bear her life experience combined with her intellectual and academic studies, and presents a thorough reference book address-ing the real need to identify Narcissistic Abuse, create a survival strategy and find therapeutic relief from the after-effect. She sheds light on:
The difference between narcissism as an inherent human trait and pathological narcissism that is destructive and harmful. Victimization, abuse, and the healing process. Therapeutic intervention and relief

Teller is passionate about helping those caught in narcissistic abusive relationships. Her desire to understand the disorder led to her current pursuit of an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She’s a warm, caring, and driven advocate who aims to shed light on the devastating impact of this often hidden and misunderstood disorder.

A novelist and poet, Sara has honed her craft through four previous books of fiction along with 15 years of publishing, and writing experience that includes newspapers, magazines and book publishers. Not only does she excel at the written word, she’s also a passionate and informative speaker. She also holds an MBA with a concentration in Marketing.

Narcissistic Abuse: A Survival Guide is available in both eBook and paperback on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine retailers.

Elephant Poaching in Africa Dissected With Precision

ELEPHANT PLAY, a new novel by Michigan author David Ryals, rips you out of your chair and across the plains, deserts and thick, hot brush of Africa leaving in its wake the decimated, rotting carcasses of elephant and man. To think you’re undertaking a nice comfortable read when you first pick up the novel, Elephant Play, is your first mistake and lulls you into a false sense of normalcy. All too quickly, you’ll find yourself wondering when you left sanity behind and where this horrifying ride will take you in the end. Getting up close and personal with elephant poachers is no pretty thing. Ryals’ expert imagery may just make you vomit your lunch if you’re not careful. This novel takes you on a journey into madness entwined with a look into the gruesome and brutal ivory trade.

Born in the poorest part of America, our diabolic narrator is driven by a ghastly sense of helpless futility coupled with a compulsive criminality that keeps his chance at fame in sight. It’s a measure of the author’s skill that we live through that hideous dream and emerge from it illuminated. Or bewildered. Or diabolically amused.

David Ryals developed his writing skill, style, and artistic maturity through his debut novel, Elephant Play. His expressive work is inspired by the absurdity of life and satirized through vibrant caricature. Elephant Play is available in both eBook and paper-back on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine retailers.

Gia Cilento
Mad Hatter Publishing, Inc. (MHPI) P.O. Box 20973, Ferndale, MI 48220 248.560.7372

By: Jon Szerlag

INSPIRATION TO CREATE A PIECE OF ART sometimes hits you without warning, and what you do with that is up to you. For Ferndale filmmaker Phil Elam, he took his idea to win numerous awards for his short film, “Swing Low.”

“Swing Low,” a horror/period piece which takes place days before the start of the American Civil War, is Elam’s first screenplay. It is about a slave and two slave owners, one “good” and the other “bad.”

“It’s a period piece…because it is easier for people to digest in today’s times, as we are dealing with social upheaval,” said Elam. “People can look at these social attitudes and consequences that are represented in the short film and say, ‘That is back then, that is not me.’ But you do think that way, and there are consequences. It’s one of those situations where people are forced to look at themselves.”
The idea came to him while he was riding his bike with a friend in Pleasant Ridge, and a single sentence came to him which he blurted out, shocking his friend.

“The line just came to me, it just hit me,” said Elam. “I was overcome with this vision, all these visions, these lines.” Elam and his friend wrote down characters, lines and events as they came to him. He sat down on a Friday to start putting his story together, and by Sunday morning the first draft was finished. “The characters just came right through me,” said Elam. I was hearing their voices when I was writing it.”

And what Elam wrote took him, and film director Marvin Towns Jr., to win awards at the I See You Awards in Detroit, the Crimson Film Festival, the Los Angeles International Independent Film Festival, the Blam Film Festival and most recently the 12th Annual Buffalo Niagara International Film Festival. The awards included Best Film Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Song, Best Short Film and Best Actor.

“I think we all have to be honest to ourselves and open to the universe,” said Elam. “We can if we want it. Information is given to us if we open up to receive it. If you do receive it, I think it is your responsibility to tell and to share it. Tell it the best way, tell it often and tell it as loud as you can.
“Swing Low” is an example of that.”

A trailer for “Swing Low” was shown before the movie “IT,” at Emagine Theaters, and Elam is hoping to get funding to make his short film into a feature-length movie.

Elam said that he is humbled for not only the response his film has gained, but also for the people who stepped up and believed in it to make it a reality when others said they wouldn’t do it.

“It makes me realize there is more to the universe than just me. I know it is not just me. And Marvin, he pulled everyone together,” said Elam. “He pulled the best people in the city, and we shot it and it shows. They are great people.”

For Elam, he has seen the shady side of the entertainment industry, but this also showed him that there are good people in it as well.

“Wherever this takes me, I am blessed and happy and I am looking forward to what is to come,” said Elam. “The most important thing is to be true to yourself, and don’t let anyone define you as a person. Don’t let success or failure define you. Be honest with yourself.”

By: Jeff Milo, Circulation Specialist

THE RENEWAL OF OUR MILLAGE in August of 2016 assured an increase in our services and resources. We are now open seven days, with Sunday hours being 12 Noon to 5:00 P.M.

The latest feature for our Fern-dale Library cardholders allows you the chance to establish a wireless connection to the Internet inside your home, workspace, or even when you’re out on vacation. Starting this month, any Ferndale patron (age 18+, with an account in good standing) can check out a Wi-Fi Hotspot for one week; the device provides you unlimited 4G LTE wireless internet access for up to ten mobile devices at once. These devices are small, lightweight, and very intuitive to set up. They can give home Internet access to those who can’t afford it.

We’re excited to announce more new digital services and subscriptions available at our library, including an increase in amount of streamable and downloadable con-tent through the Hoopla App ( We’ll also link you to NoveList, an expert online source of “read-alike” recommendations, the “A-to-Z World Travel” databases, digital magazines, and Mango’s language learning re-sources. For more info, visit:

KIDS WINTER READING CHALLENGE SINCE FERNDALE SCHOOLS will be on holiday break soon, that makes our upcoming Winter Reading Challenge an opportune time for parents to make sure these young minds are still in gear when the New Year arrives. Reading for recreation when kids are away from school is invaluable. But it’s that much more fun when there’s prizes and programs included!

Library reading programs have been shown to effectively boost literacy and broaden young readers’ vocabularies. So, the Ferndale Library invites kids to take their Winter Reading Challenge. Running Dec. 1 – Dec. 30, the FADL Winter Reading Challenge requires 20 minutes worth of reading for at least 15 days of the month. Participants will be given a game board to color in each reading day. Once complete, participants can come into the library for a prize: a free book and/or a prize from our gift card grab bag!

Phoenix Freerunning Academy will host a program at the library for kids ages 8 and up on the introduction to the swift, obstacle maneuvering technique of parkour. Other fun programs this December include an interactive workshop with the 4th Wall Theatre Company, and a double feature family and teen movie matinee.

As usual, FADL’s weekly story-times and early literacy programs will continue through the entire month for our youngest patrons.

FIRST STOP FRIDAY VISIT THE LIBRARY AFTER HOURS at 8:00 P.M. on the first Friday evening of every month for free concerts by local bands. December 1st features two pairs of married couples, Gifts Or Creatures and The Bruised Reed; each blend a range of indie-pop, folk, and Americana, with emphasis on harmonies and tender, catchy melodies. This is a free event, sponsored by the Friends of the Ferndale Library. Follow us on Facebook for more information and regular updates.

By Jennifer Goeddeke

NOW AT THEIR PERMANENT LOCATION IN OAK PARK (9 mile & Scotia), Knight Light Candle is certainly a mind-expanding store! With an abundance of light streaming in from the multiple high-set windows and an eclectic selection of items, Knight Light is a relaxing treat to browse around. The store is a family-run business, previously situated for two decades in Detroit (at Mt. Elliott & Gratiot). Customers come from all over to shop – including many from out-of-state locations and Canada.

Owner Ron Hammer started out in the candle business over 30 years ago, at a company called Skippy Candles. In 1990, he moved on to work at Goodwill Candles. Soon after, in 1992, he decided to open his own store and Knight Light Candle was born!

I recently met with Ron, Jon, Ben and Nancy Hammer for a guided tour and interview. It was immediately clear the Hammers love what they do. Immediately upon entering the building, customers are given individual attention. And Ron pointed out, “our customers always come back!”

As the name would suggest, the candle inventory is impressive. There are candles to represent almost any possible occasion, and to enable wishes or prayers to come true.

Some are even designed with humor in mind, such as the “Shut Your Mouth!” or “Obey Me!” candles. Certain candles have specific messages attached for customers to read; all candles sold can be individually blessed or ‘dressed’ with special oil. Other stores, and some churches, buy candles from Knight Light in a wholesale manner because of the high quality and variety available.

There is a diverse inventory of other unique and in-expensive items to choose from, including incense, pure oils, jewelry, crystals, beads, shells and more. The products sold cover a broad spectrum, from new age and metaphysical to various different cultures/religions.

The Hammers are always open to specific questions, and encourage customers to ask for advice. Knight Light Candle offers a great experience, and one well worth repeating!

10332 West 9 Mile, Oak Park MI 48237
Monday-Thursday 10:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M.
Friday and Saturday 10:00 A.M. – 7:00 P.M.
Closed Sunday

0 1715

By: Rebecca Hammond
Photos: Bernie LaFramboise

YEARS AGO, PHIL AND I WERE WALKING HOME AFTER BREAKFAST at a now-defunct eatery with potatoes as good as their staff was rude, and were marveling that we kept returning for more punishment. We stopped to talk to a handsome, elegant man, barefoot, wearing only athletic shorts and a diamond earring, who was smoking a cigarette and looking up, watching a friend on his roof trying to catch a stranded baby raccoon. The three of us chatted, then Phil and I headed home. And we looked at each other and said, “Oh, that was Councilman Covey!”

If there’s a such thing as a Jack of Many Trades for social change, Ferndale has just regrettably said goodbye to one. Longtime resident and champion of gay rights, water issues, and social justice, Craig Covey is returning to his home state of Ohio. He’s a former Ferndale mayor – the first openly gay mayor ever in the State of Michigan – city councilman, and CEO of MAPP (the Midwest Aids Prevention Program). He’s the creator of the Ferndale Pride Fest. He held a seat on the Oakland County Water Commission, and the Oakland County Commission. He ran for office and won many times, and he wasn’t afraid to go for long shots and lose either, like running for Oakland County sheriff against an incumbent. He appeared fearless and tireless, willing to take chances, prioritizing what he felt was right above any attempt to conform to what seemed uniformly popular. But popular he was, and very successful on a number of levels.

FF: Craig, you’re leaving Ferndale after decades of making a difference. What brought you to Michigan years ago?
Craig Covey: I came from Columbus Ohio in 1985 to become director of the Michigan Organization for Human Rights, the group that later became the Triangle Foundation. I had founded the gay rights group in Ohio, and Michigan wanted the same thing up here. I saw a kernel of possibility in Ferndale. This was 1989, and the downtown was an empty canyon. Woodward had adult theaters, strip clubs, and massage parlors. It was a blank canvas.

Metro Detroit did not have a “gay neighborhood” like every other major city. A few of us saw Ferndale as a possible place to try and attract LGBT people, artists, young folks, and other alternative types. It took a decade to make this happen but eventually they came to this eclectic, middle-and-working-class town, and created what we now know as this cool place.

Metro Detroit is one of the most segregated large cities in the country and, for all of the diversity in the region, very few were promoting it as the amazingly positive thing that it is. Visionary leaders such as former city manager Tom Barwin had a role in understanding the importance of attracting the
“creative class.”

When did you first run for office?
I got involved in local politics pretty quickly, as I had been an activist since my early teens in Ohio. With gay leaders like Rudy Serra and Ann Heler, we began to work toward a gay rights ordinance by 1991. That effort of course took ten years and three ballot initiatives. At that time Ferndale was still under the control of conservatives and “Reagan Democrats.”

I first ran for city council as an openly gay candidate in 1995, and came in last place. But, under the leadership of folks like Chuck Goedert and Bob Porter, Ferndale started to become more diverse and progressive, and I won a seat on council just in time for the millennium.

What was that decade of Ferndale’s transition like?
The push-back from all of this was quick and sustained. Certainly, there was resistance from the top levels of the police administration and others to our notions of inclusion and diversity, particularly around matters of race. To this day, Ferndale has the least number of officers of color than any city around us. As the march toward high-end development and further gentrification continues, I hope the city does not price itself out of reach to young people, seniors, and ethnic and racial minorities. It would be a shame if we turned into another Royal Oak or Birmingham.

That seems an ongoing risk. What were the strengths you brought to all this?
I’ve always been best at providing leadership to start new things and provide the creative angle to challenge the status quo and rock the boat. I’m less effective sometimes at sustaining more mature organizations. Of the several careers paths I participated in here, my favorite was the election and holding of political leadership.

But, after 13 years as a councilman, mayor and commissioner, there was no path left to continue such work. With Republicans gerrymandering districts and many Democrats staying in their offices for decades, it was time to go. When I first moved to Michigan in 1985, my Congressman was Sander Levin. When I left the state last month in 2017, my Congressman was still Sander Levin. There are very limited opportunities for energetic Democrats with new and progressive ideas. Young people need to get involved and run for local office so we have choices in our elections.

What’s sending you back to Ohio now?
I had always planned to move back to my home state eventually, and set the age of reaching 60 as my deadline. I had always planned on getting some land and living in a more bucolic setting. I want to hear crickets and the wind more, and less car alarms and police sirens. Besides writing a book or two, I will be planting trees and advocating for Mother Earth.

What memories do you hold most dear?
I’m proud of many great things about the City of Ferndale. We put the city on the map and folks noticed. It would be surprising to many here now that just a few years ago the City banned tattoo parlors, massage therapy, and even dancing in the down-town. Gay people and African Americans were barely tolerated. The downtown was barren, and the neighborhoods bordered on shabby. Today it is full of energy, young people, and at least purports to be welcoming to all.

Is it smooth sailing from now on?
The danger is to lose perspective and not go over-board. If three festivals per summer are great, that doesn’t mean that having ten festivals is better. If 20 clubs and restaurants are cool, that does not mean that we should allow 40. If building some new apartments or lofts is desirable, that does not necessarily mean we should construct high-rises and fill every single space with expensive development. If bike paths are desirable, that doesn’t mean we need 42 giant yellow walk signs on less than a mile of Hilton Road.

A few words about Craig:
Monica Mills: Craig was a wonderful neighbor, extremely helpful mentor, fair, hard-working boss that led his staff well, and a friend Larry and I will cherish forever.

Councilman Dan Martin: Craig was always willing to take a stance on what he felt was right. It didn’t always make him popular, but he followed his passions and beliefs. He was a believer that by leveraging government you could make positive social change. He was a very credible public servant and a good friend.

Rudy Serra (former judge/county commissioner): His work for equal justice has been continuing since his arrival in Michigan. Craig grew to be a recognized leader of the LGBTQ community and then a valued member of the entire Ferndale community. His service as mayor of Ferndale marked an important, coming-of-age moment for the city. Craig moved to Ferndale during a time of increasing development, diversity, and prosperity. His election to council and, more importantly, as mayor, helped to solidify our community’s reputation as an LGBTQ-friendly area.

stephanie loveless, publisher of Ferndale Friends: In Ferndale’s 90-year history, there aren’t many who have left a bigger mark on our city. Craig was instrumental in making Ferndale a better place to live, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude for it.

By: Sara E. Teller

EARLIER THIS YEAR, THE MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF TALENT AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT created a new pilot program to help refugees successfully transition to American life. In May 2017, the Department stated in its official policy issuance: “The recent influx of immigrants (refugees and persons granted asylum, or ‘asylees’) and other persons granted legal authorization to work in the United States from distressed locations outside of North America creates a unique workforce challenge as many of the impacted individuals cannot document their prior educational and employment history. In addition, these individuals may face significant language and cultural barriers and difficulties finding adequate housing and transportation. Providing additional support and access to resources to this population via the workforce system is critical to ensuring their successful transition into Michigan’s workforce.”

The Refugee Navigator Pilot Program was born, and over half a million dollars was allocated toward its development. The program is being offered at all eight Oakland County Michigan Works offices, including Ferndale’s. It is also available in Kent, Macomb and Wayne Counties. These four counties were chosen because they are currently experiencing the largest influx of new American citizens.

The May official policy issuance further states, “The intent of [the] pilot is to assist all work-authorized immigrants, with overcoming language barriers, lack of a documented educational and employment history, and other barriers to employment and their successful integration into Michigan’s economy.” Navigators (as the pilot offices are called) “shall operate with a degree of autonomy within the Michigan Works! One-Stop Service Centers within each of the four designated counties. They shall have specific training in dealing with the refugee population.”

“WE BEGAN SERVICES in June 2017,”explains Pamela Bellaver, Supervisor of the Ferndale Michigan Works location. “We feel this program is important in assisting work authorized immigrants and legal refugees in their transition.”

With such great diversity in Oakland County, the Ferndale Michigan Works office specifically received a wealth of community support in establishing the pilot program. “We have experienced an outpouring of support in our community for this program and look forward to assisting as many individuals as possible,” Pamela said.

So far, everything has gone off without a hitch, and the program is operating as anticipated. “We have not experienced any challenges to date as we continue to spread the word about this excellent program,” she adds proudly. The pilot offers a wide variety of services to its participants, assisting with everything from pre-employment information sharing to post-employment professional licensure services and career advancement training.

WHEN A NEW CITIZEN enters a MichiganWorks pilot office, its employees will first determine whether he or she is eligible to receive assistance from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) adult, dislocated worker, or youth programs. A one-stop delivery system assists with outreach, intake and orientation to the program’s information. “Work-authorized immigrants referred for navigator-facilitated career services will be pre-screened to ensure that they have legal authorization to work in the United States and that they possess documentation to support their status,” according to the official issuance.

Officials clarify that the program is only for legal, documented American citizens, stating, “It is not the intent of this program to serve undocumented immigrants or anyone who does not have legal authorization to work in the United States.”

Once citizenship is determined, the office will conduct an initial skills assessment designed to enable career counselors to garner a better picture of each participant’s specific needs. These assessments include literacy, numeracy, and English language proficiency testing, as well as aptitudes and abilities (including skills gaps) assessments, and determinations of supportive service requirements.

After the center has an idea of what will benefit a particular individual, a list of available job openings will be provided and he or she will undergo job searches and placement assistance, as well as career counseling as needed. Information regarding in-demand industries and occupations will be offered, as well as tips regarding needed skills to obtain vacant positions, industry earnings, opportunities for advancement, and workforce and labor market employment statistics.

If necessary, referrals to other programs will be offered, including additional workforce development programs the individual may be eligible for. Upon request, participants will receive assistance and referrals to various other services that will help in his or her transition, including language acquisition or English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, housing, health care and child care assistance, transportation options, opportunities to receive a high school diploma or professional licensure, public assistance, legal and financial services, and civil rights information. According to the policy, “Each navigator will be required to maintain a robust network of federal, state, local, philanthropic and faith-based organizations.”

Ferndale residents who know of any refugees or “asylees” who may benefit from pilot program can contact their local Michigan Works office at 248-545-0222.