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

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
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.


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:

Muszall noted that, typically, Good Karma Club has several events each month. Find Good Karma Club on Facebook, or sign up to volunteer at

By: Jeff Milo, Circulation Specialist

Winter reading challenge for kids of all ages: Expanding and developing youth literacy is a round-the-year-job, so the Ferndale Library is starting sign-ups for its first winter-time reading program, on Monday, November 21. Ferndale’s Youth Services Librarians received a record number of participants during their Summer Reading 2016 program, so now they’re encouraging kids of all ages up to Grade 12 to take advantage of their time away from school work during upcoming winter breaks to have some fun with recreational reading. The Ferndale Library invites kids to take their Winter Reading Challenge. Running Dec ember 1–December 30, the FADL Winter Reading Challenge requires 15 minutes worth of reading for at least 15 days of the month. Librarians will provide each young reader with a fun, interactive log to color in for each reading session. When fully completed logs are turned in during the last week of December, kids/teens can receive a free Chipotle gift-card or a free book (their choice). Three days of programing wraps up Winter Reading starting December 28 with a theater workshop presented by 4th Wall Theatre Group. On the 29th, it’s “Full Steam Ahead,” with hands-on exploration stations and then a matinee mock-New Year’s Eve for kids on Dec 30th. Call the Kids Corner for more info: 248-546-2504.

Looking to revive your holiday decorations and zazz up your present wrapping? Do you have rolls and rolls of wrapping paper at home that still works, but you’re longing for a fresh patterns after so many years? On Saturday, December 17, the Ferndale Library is hosting a holiday/wintertime swap of varying decorations, where people can drop off and trade their paper, bows, bags and other decorations with other patrons. This event coincides with our ongoing Crafternoons program (always on the third Saturday of the month). Come for the swap from 2-3 PM and stay for other crafty events, including a bow making station where you can learn how to make new and fancy types of bows. There will also be a hot chocolate bar and other crafternoon activities like sewing and knitting. Come make some new craft-loving friends and find new wintertime trimmings.

The Library’s Art & Exhibition Committee unveiled it’s latest exhibit, “Urvakan,” a collection of drawings and paintings by Berkley-based artist Mark Benglian. The art will be on exhibit at the library until January 14. Benglian’s work focuses primarily on intuitive mark-making and storytelling. The images he conjures can be whimsical and haunting at the same time, while working in almost a trance-like state with a captivating milieu of muted tones, curious/unique entities and transfixing collages.

By Sara Teller
Photo By Bernie LaFramboise

The Ferndale Memorial Association was orginally founded in 1919 out of the Ferndale Memorial Society, by members of the American Legion and VFW organizations. It continues to be a community-driven group, and residents of Ferndale are encouraged to participate in the organization’s ongoing meetings, events and other initiatives. The Ferndale Memorial Association coordinates the yearly Memorial Day parade and observance, and the Veterans Day observance. “We have the oldest, continuous Memorial Day parade in the state of Michigan,” says Barbara Earl, active Ferndale Memorial Association Director.

Barbara herself has been with the FMA for 43 years, following in her father’s footsteps who was a World War II veteran and former member of the FMA. Five years ago, the Ferndale Memorial Association began working ff16654_page_1_image_0004with the City of Ferndale to plan a much-needed renovation of the city’s Memorial Mall located at the 9 Mile Rd and Livernois corridor. “The preliminary work – planning, design, and securing proper permits – took up the majority of the time, but we are hoping to have the renovation finalized within the next year,” Barbara says.

The Memorial Mall was originally constructed in 1956 as a commemorative centerpiece for World War veterans, both I and II, affiliated with the Ferndale community, whether in residency, or by school, work, or other means. Additions were made a few years later to include a brick monument upon which the names of deceased veterans who were associated with the city are still proudly displayed.

The City’s Memorial Day and Veteran Day services are centered around this Memorial Mall, a well-known pillar to local residents, including the city’s annual Memorial Day parade. “As part of the Memorial Day services, we have a tradition of reading all of the names of the veterans who passed in the previous year. We put their names at the niche of the monuments for an entire year, with new names added year after year,” Barbara explains.

The various events are kept tasteful out of respect for the veterans and their families, without the hustle and bustle of carnival or vending activities. The city will celebrate its 100th-year event in 2018.
The Mall renovation will make the Memorial area more accessible to all of Ferndale’s residents, regardless of mobility or age. “The main objective was to make the mall more handicapped accessible,” Barbara says.
“We’ve added the needed structure to hook up new handicapped ramps and walk ways, which will be designed to help senior citizens with limited mobility get around as well.” The improvements will ensure the Memorial Mall’s landscape meets all Americans with Disability Act (ADA) standards.

There are two planned phases to the renovation, with the first phase currently underway. It includes demolition, site prep and improvement to the existing structures, making them ADA compliant. In Phase 1, existing vegetation is being removed, and hand rails and ADA approved ramps are being installed. The existing brick wall is undergoing repairs, a new limestone cap is getting installed at the top of the wall and the limestone steps are being replaced. “The main expense will be in installing sidewalks and walkways in the Mall that will connect to the existing curb cuts already installed by the city. That is our current fundraising push, so we can begin that work next summer,” says Ferndale Memorial Association member Karen Roos.

Phase II will focus on landscaping, fencing, engraved brick placement, and renovation of the existing brick area. “We’ll replant flowers, and place new trees and bushes,” Barbara explains. “The goal is to maintain the area, making minor improvements to clean up the space, but leaving it as the Founding Fathers intended.” The City of Ferndale and the Ferndale Memorial Association hope that making the needed improvements will help to preserve the Memorial Mall for future generations.

The Memorial Mall restoration project is projected to total between $40,000 and $60,000. Fundraising events, including a large civic and community outreach campaign, have been scheduled. The plans were shared with the public during this summer’s Memorial Day celebration, and the group is currently focusing on completing the ADA structure. Donations are also being graciously accepted. The FMA will work with the City of Ferndale to determine how residents can best get involved as the project moves forward.

Those interested in volunteering their services or in making donations can contact Joann Willcock through the Ferndale Memorial Association at

By Sherrad Glosson
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

Christine Kole, now one year into retirement from the Ferndale School District, is living her days in the bliss of enjoying her four grandchildren, and caring for her husband and family. She moved to Ferndale at age 19, and has spent her entire adult life here, enjoying the diversity, the friendly residents and the quaint old home. Christine stated, “The city of Ferndale was very different in a way. The architecture, and the way the community is involved with each other is very appealing.”

Her daughter attended the FACE Preschool in the old St. James school building, and Christine was so impressed that she applied for a job there. Her college courses were concentrated in child development and she loved children, so it was a good fit. Christine made her transition from school to school, including evening child care at Ferndale High, Clinton Center, Roosevelt, Wilson, Coolidge Intermediate, and JFK Academy.

During those years, Christine had her third child late in life, just when her husband was diagnosed with a serious illness, so she took a break from teaching. Later, she returned to what she had been doing for years, in the school system. It didn’t stop there! She wanted to be more involved in the city she adored so much so she became a community activist and a big Ferndale supporter. She reached out and volunteered with the senior program at the Senior Nutrition Site, taught Stretch & Tone classes through Ferndale Adult Education for ten years, got involved in local cable TV, doing commercials. She also ran the “Kiddie Kapers” at the Ferndale Recreation Department (writing and narration), produced a commercial for the Ferndale Concert
series, co-produced, wrote and narrated an award-winning cable overview of the Ferndale preschool program in the mid- ‘90s. A parishioner at St. James for many years, she wrote bulletin articles, sang solo (professionally) and in choirs, did publicity and led home based “Renew” Bible study.

Throughout her professional singing career, she’s had opportunities to perform in coffee houses as a teen, sung in bands, in duos, weddings, parties, for the Ferndale seniors, at the 75th Anniversary celebration and at many metro Detroit area churches.

What a pleasant circumstance to have such a motivated and willing person with so much passion and joy being a helping help and community activist in the city of Ferndale. Christine McCabe Kole is our friendly neighbor of Ferndale.

An open door or window, a startling sound, or sometimes a traumatic event like a car accident, can separate a pet from its human and leave it wandering the streets.

“It is estimated that one in three companion animals will become displaced in a lifetime,” Leah Doslea says. “Mobility is the top cause for displacement, if your animal can move or if your animal travels with you, it faces potential displacement risk.”

Doslea, who grew up in Ferndale, is the founder of “For the Love of Louie,” a Michigan-based community Facebook group aimed at using social media to reunite pets with their owners and offer a platform for posting found animals. Currently, the group boasts over 1000 reunions per month and has found K9 dogs, senior animals and even a partially-paralyzed tortoise.

Doslea started the group in 2011, after sharing a coworker’s missing family pet on social media and receiving an overwhelming response.

“I was in complete awe of the compassion that quickly surrounded me; strangers shared information with their networks, performed searches, distributed flyers, contacted local veterinary clinics, generated ads and offered encouragement,” Doslea says.

Soon after her coworker’s pet was found, another dog named Louie went missing. This Louie had been recently adopted out of a hoarding situation, and was only visiting the area from Baltimore. His great escape, which included climbing a dresser, lifting a window and pushing out the screen, had him on the run for three weeks. Doslea thought she would try using social media again and, after the sharing and support of thousands, Louie re-found his family.

“His reunion, once again, demonstrated the importance of awareness, the power of social networking, and the compassion embedded in our community. Recognizing the need for broad displaced animal advocacy, ‘For the Love of Louie’ was launched.” she says.

The Facebook page is run by a small group of administrators, and is online 18-plus hours a day. They welcome volunteers and offer training. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact — all you need is a computer, Internet access and knowledge of Microsoft Excel.
What are some ways to ensure your pet returns home safely? Identification such as tags and microchips are the best start, says Doslea.

“A collar with an identification tag is important, as it’s visible to a potential finder and contact can be quickly established,” she says. “Microchips are wonderful invisible identification tools; Collars and tags can fall off and microchips provide alternative identification.”

And if you come across a lost animal, Doslea says the worst thing you can do is make assumptions. Even though an animal might look disheveled, underfed or skittish, these are all potential side effects of being displaced.

“We have networked and reunited animals witnessed being thrown from vehicles, tied to posts, and placed in random fenced areas — these actions were not done by their families,” Doslea says. “While it’s important to use our voices to speak for animals, we must be mindful of our words and actions. We best serve displaced animals by avoiding assumptions, following laws, and embracing advocacy.”

While For the Love of Louie is not an official organization with a logo yet, Doslea says that the community is what makes it successful and her favorite part of running this group is seeing strangers’ eagerness to help reunite animals with their loved ones.

“For the Love of Louie would not be successful without the community; every share, suggestion, tip, or positive comment has value and may lead directly to a reunion or provide knowledge or encouragement to families and finders. Those seemingly simple ‘shares’ have the ability to cover distance far more rapidly than a displaced animal and can yield great joy,” Doslea says. “We are truly grateful to each and every person who engages in displaced animal advocacy.”

Story by David Stone

Darlene Hellenberg, Interim Director of the Ferndale Area District Library, wants all Ferndale residents to have access to the wonderful materials the FADL has to offer. That’s why, in 2015, they began a delivery service to apartment complexes. And that’s why, on Wednesday, December 7, Ferndale’s Traveling Library, and Ms. Hellenberg, paid their monthly visit to Withington West and Autumn House apartments.

They “provide specially selected titles for residents to check out and borrow for one month. With the Traveling Library,” she said, “we’re able to service an area of our community that can’t always make it into our building to access materials or services.” She hopes more people at Withington West and Autumn House will sign up. She would also like to hear from other apartments or residences that could benefit from this service. She likes to speak of the impact this program has had. “One of our outreach patrons lost a ton of weight because of the cookbooks we brought.”

Then she told me how she determines what books to bring. She told me that “when we sign people up for cards, we gave them a little form with a series of questions.” From these answers she determines what kinds of books people will want. She then uses that information to select popular authors and their more recent books. Later, the book selection is based on what they started checking out.

I asked our dedicated library director to tell us a little about herself. “I grew up in Ferndale,” she replied. “I am a Ferndale High School graduate. I have worked at the Ferndale Library on and off since high school.” Hellenberg began her library career as a library page, and has since “worked in most of the departments of the library. She went on to say that her “favorite area of library life is getting to buy the adult fiction. Putting a book in the hands of somebody who is excited and wants to read, that’s my favorite part.”

She explained to me how the nature of our community influences the types of books she orders. She pointed out that if a book has a “sort of off-beat title” she will almost always give it a try. She likes to order books that may be “getting a little buzz but are not super mainstream.” She also pointed out that “new book authors, first book authors do well.”

Hellenberg wants to make the library available to even more Ferndale residents. If anyone has difficulty getting to the FADL, “They can call me and we can figure out something. It may be something as simple as signing people up for library cards, and if they are mobile, they can come here and use the library. She also mentioned that if they are not mobile, they can be added to the Traveling Library’s list of stops.

So, if you would like to get to the library but are unable to do so, call Darlene Hellenberg. Perhaps the library can come to you!

Ferndale Area District Library,  222 E. 9 Mile, Ferndale, MI. 48220

Story by Ingrid Sjostrand

Bus shelters aren’t the most visually appealing structures in a city and Ferndale was no exception – until recently, thanks to the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority (DDA), in collaboration with the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART).

In August, they completed the first installment of the “Put the Art in SMART” project by renovating the bus shelter on West 9 Mile, right off Woodward Ave. Not only does it have a fresh coat of vibrant red paint, it features a rotating collection of art in place of old advertisements and — most notably — a green, living roof.

The project began as collaboration from DDA design committee volunteer Dustin Hagfors and Chris Best, co-owner of Rustbelt Market, with the help of Cindy Willcock, operations manager of the DDA. “The idea to replace the ‘Get Tested STI’advertisements, which were no longer under contract, and make the screen into a revolving art gallery was what jump-started the plan,” Hagfors says. “Through collaboration with Cindy and Chris, we were able to develop an idea that brought some vibrancy to the community.”

Through connections at SMART, Hagfors, who has a master’s degree in urban planning, arranged a meeting where he and Willcock pitched the idea to Madonna Van Fossen, SMART’s Oakland County Ombudsperson.

“SMART gave their blessing to our idea for the first shelter and has been very open to all we’ve pitched,”  Willcock says. “[We] ran our idea by Van Fossen and she was very interested and enthused — she even came out and helped us clean and paint the shelter!”

When Best heard about the project, he knew exactly how he wanted to contribute. “I have been dreaming about putting a living roof on these bus stops for three years.  The way these structures are built, they are just begging for it!” he says.

And Best had the expertise too, having built a living roof on his own home seven years ago, which has the same slanted roof structure as the shelters.

These updates do more than just make Ferndale more aesthetically pleasing, Hagfors says.
“It draws positive attention to the great transportation options we have available,” he says. “Ferndale is one of the only communities in Metro Detroit that has multiple lines of bus service available seven days a week, and my hope was that an artistic shelter would not only bring attention to mass transit but also make mass transit cool.”

Willcock notes the importance of a clean, safe place for those waiting for the bus, and has research to back it up. “It’s been shown that these types of enhancements actually help mitigate vandalism to the shelters and surrounding area; in fact, a federal study concluded that more people used public transit systems that incorporated art.” Willcock says.

The project needed to be completed quickly; after approval from SMART on August 10th it already had a prime-time TV spot for the following week.

“The bus stop – or at least its location – kind of picked us! The ultimate deciding factor was that Detroit Public Television was going to be filming ‘Dream Cruise Road Show’ on Nine Mile, right in front of the bus shelter on August 18,” Willcock says. “We wanted to make sure Downtown Ferndale looked great, everything just lined up for us!”

A total of 12 volunteers helped complete the project, including Best, Hagfors and Ryan Williams — who created the “Art in SMART” posters. Ferndale businesses jumped at the chance to participate too, by providing plants and donating money.

“Modern Tree and Landscape LLC saw our post asking for plants, and donated nearly $400 worth!
Without that generous donation, I don’t know how long it would have taken to get all the plants needed,” Best says. “Renaissance Vineyard Church even chipped in with a donation -churches usually accept donations, not give –love that Pastor Jim!”

There are three other shelters in Ferndale, and the DDA hopes to start executing renovation of those in the spring of 2017. In the meantime they will work on developing funding, and Hagfors says he’s already creating some eye-catching ideas for the other shelters.

“As the DDA volunteer manager, there’s nothing more gratifying than having a volunteer take such interest and ownership in a project and being able to help them turn their idea into reality!”  Willcock says. “Anyone interested in getting involved or finding out more about ‘Putting the Art in SMART’ can contact the Ferndale DDA at 248-546-1632 or”

Best is excited for the potential of the project and notes that it couldn’t have happened without the DDA.
“The DDA does a lot for the downtown and this is just another example of that; they acted like the glue to bind everyone together to make it happen,” he says. “Projects such as this continue to set Ferndale apart as an example of what is possible in a downtown. Ambition plus creativity plus execution equals amazing every time.