By Jennifer Goeddeke

RELAY FOR LIFE IS A NONPROFIT, WORLDWIDE ORGANIZATION set up to benefit the American Cancer Society (ACS). This event is a celebration of the lives of people battling cancer, and also a remembrance of lost loved ones. It began in 1985 with Dr. Gordy Klatt, a surgeon from WA who walked and ran around a track for 24 hours to raise money for the ACS.

Since that time, the event has grown into the world’s largest movement to end this prevalent and relentless disease. The Relay for Life mission statement is to “Celebrate those who have won the battle against cancer, remember those we have lost, and fight back through research and early detection.”

Every year, teams of people literally camp out at local schools, fairgrounds or parks, and the participants take turns in walking or running around a path/track. The atmosphere is family-friendly and upbeat. Be-cause “cancer does not sleep,” these events always run overnight.

Founders of the Ferndale area event, in 2007, were Jackie Koivu, and Beth Collins from ACS. Then in 2008, Michele Sibula – a lifelong Ferndalian – was asked to help, and she accepted the challenge.

I recently took the opportunity to talk with Sibula, who has been successfully running the Relay for Life events in the Ferndale ar-ea for almost a decade. During that time-span, over $460,000 has been raised for the ACS! Sibula’s personal mission is “to have a world where no one dies from cancer.”

Sadly, Sibula explained, the total donations are down this year, so the main Relay for Life event is not running. (The organization will be changing its name soon to: “Ferndale Area Fights Cancer.”) Sibula added, “it’s important for us to evolve with the times and to stick with what works.”

Meanwhile, the current team of volunteers is led by Sibula, and she is assisted primarily by Tammy Dengate and Sonia Ross. They continue to work hard on smaller fundraising events to benefit the ACS. They just raised $3,000 through a drag queen bingo event at the Royal Oak’s Elk Club in March. Previous popular events have included a “Pizza Palooza” at Ferndale High School, and a bus trip to the Dark Horse Brewery & Firekeepers Casino.

Promotion is through social media/regular media, flyers, and general word of mouth. More volunteers are needed, because lots of work is always involved! Sibula mentioned that their team has a great Community Support Manager from ACS: Chris Rettich. He is effectively guiding their team into the next chapter. Additionally, the Ferndale Upper Elementary School still does fundraisers for them, and the whole Ferndale community has been very supportive. Sibula wishes to express her total gratitude for everyone’s amazing support over the years!

MANY PEOPLE ARE CURIOUS HOW THE ACS FUNDS ARE ALLOCATED. A good portion goes to research, both nationally and locally (as in Wayne State University; the ACS is second only to the U.S. government in providing money for cancer research.)

Resources through the ACS are plentiful too, for both patients and their families. For example the 1-800-227-345 line is staffed by specialists 24/7/365. Anyone can call with any questions , even if it is regarding a friend or loved one. Sibula mentioned that, “it is great someone is there all the time…even if it’s just to talk!”

Patients can also receive a free ‘personal manager’ from the ACS, to stay organized during treatment. Lodging is provided for patients who must travel a distance to receive their treatment. Via the ‘Road to Recovery’ program, volunteers provide rides to much-needed treatment locales. Sibula emphasized that, “having a

support network is crucial for patients, as it is a strong indicator of rate of success in recovery from cancer. It is frightening how many people cannot get to treatment without this volunteer service…they just do not have that kind of support in their lives.”

Naturally, we hope the team keeps up their hard work to raise funds, as almost all of us have been affected by cancer, either directly or indirectly. It is inspiring to see what a huge difference just a small team can make in the battle against cancer. Sibula hopes more local individuals will get involved in the ACS volunteer work, after reading this article!

Visit the Ferndale Area’s Relay for Life website at:

Chris Rettich of the ACS can be emailed at: or called to answer any questions: 586.216.9471. The ACS 24/7 helpline# is: 1-800-227-2345.

For all updates and for more information, visit the Ferndale area Facebook page:

The team office is located at: 22742 Woodward Ave, Ferndale 48220

Story by Ingrid Sjostrand
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

Taking a meditation class, learning to use a 3D printer, and sewing on a button aren’t things you would typically think of doing in a library. But, as the needs of a community grow, so do the available resources. Oak Park Library is a perfect example of this transformation.

No longer known just for stacks of books, the Library has evolved in the 60 years since its opening in 1958, and Director Brandon Bowman has been crucial in navigating the transition since his start in 2014.

“Basically, libraries in the 21st Century are becoming community hubs. It’s not just print materials anymore,” he says. “They are still going to be a place for the books, but we are kind of reinventing ourselves to become something better. It’s technology, programs and community meeting centers – libraries are encompassing all these things.”

One of the best examples of the changing landscape of Oak Park Library is their programming. A variety of programs are available to teach new skills, highlight a business or even just discuss an interesting topic. Programs are free at the Library, although there are some charges for services.

“The neat one I really like is our program, which is basically teaching things that don’t necessarily get taught in school but are very valuable skills to have. Like, cooking without a stove and not a lot of money; Sewing on a button and hemming your pants. These are some of those classes,” Bowman says.

Other programs include learning basic computer skills, joining book club activities, attending movie nights and visiting with guest speakers. On March 21 an Oak Park Public Safety Officer conducted a presentation on crime scene investigations. “It’s having this community knowledge and passing on knowledge, not in a book but in person,” Bowman says.

Aside from new programming, libraries have always been a place of resources. As technology becomes more and more of an essential part of everyday life, the Library works to ensure they always have technology available to patrons. “When people don’t have access to the Internet or the fast speeds of access that we have, they come up here and use our computers. We just added ten new computers last year to meet that need, so that’s huge for us,” Bowman explains.

It’s not even necessary to come to the Library to get access to their offerings anymore. Through digital loaning programs like OverDrive and Zinio, members can view online books, audiobooks and magazines to their phones, tablets and computers. The Library is even making efforts to bring its resources out to homebound members of the community and to students in school settings. They’ve started a book club in collaboration with Ferndale, Huntington Woods and Berkley public libraries.

“We are not confined to our building anymore, we’re going out,” Bowman says. “With our new operating system coming in May, we are going to be able to use tablets to do mobile checkouts so we can take a cart full of books out on the road. Getting out in the community and being more visible is something people don’t realize the Library is going to be doing, even within the next six months.”

With all the new offerings and developing changes you might think that the Oak Park Library has a large team on hand or that they use a ton of tax dollars for their growth. In reality the majority of their effort is accomplished with a small but dedicated staff, grant applications and the Friends of the Oak Park Library (see next page), a nonprofit organization that offers funds through volunteer efforts.

“We are ironically one of the bigger libraries in the area – Huntington Woods, Berkley and Ferndale are all smaller communities than us, so we actually have the largest library – but we have the least amount of staff and the smallest budget,” Bowman says. “What we do offer is a lot of innovation, and our staff is phenomenal.”

Some of the grants the Oak Park Library has received include the LSTA grant through the Library of Michigan, which they used to purchase 10 iPads. They also received the Ezra Jack Keats grant; and the Detroit Book and Author Society Grant.

“Another grant we just got was the Harwood Institute grant. We took a three-day seminar provided by the Library of Michigan that taught us to go out and ask the questions, obtain input and better meet the needs of our community,” Bowman says. “That’s what we want to do over the next couple years; we want to fine-tune our model of getting the input back to us, and fine-tune our communication out to the community.”

Their efforts seem to be paying off with circulation and usage numbers showing an increase over last year. In 2017, 103,592 items were circulated, almost six per cent higher than 2016; 23,000 reference questions were answered; and 3,000 visitors attended programs. Bowman hopes to see these numbers continue to grow and has no plans of slowing down efforts to improve the Oak Park Library.

“Consistently, our statistics are going up. I think that’s because more and more people are becoming aware of what we do. I would love to see those continue to get higher and get more people involved,” he says.

The Library’s 60th Birthday Anniversary that is coming in June presents a wonderful opportunity. “We want to use the birthday party as the catalyst to say, ‘We’ve come to this point and now we’re going to kick it into high speed.’ And go and do all these things – adding more online stuff, more program offerings,” Bowman says. “Look at how we can meet the needs of our community better.”

According to Bowman, the most important thing the Library can do is make sure it’s a valuable resource for the community and that they are indeed meeting the needs of Oak Park. He says he can’t think of a better community to put the work in for.

“I cannot say enough good things about Oak Park!” he exclaims “There has never been a community where I’ve gone in and been so welcome as I have when I came here. I think all the staff agree: We go above and beyond because we feel the people deserve that. They are such good people and the community is such a nice place that we want to give, and make this the place they envision.”

And, he wants to make it clear that the things people request don’t have to fit in the normal definition of what a traditional library has been. If it will better the community they are willing to work to make it happen.

“We are currently out in Oak Park, asking what community members aspire for the city. They are invited to tell us anything and we will tailor our mission to what they are asking for. It is a more open-ended question,” Bowman says. “With the community that we have, we need to have a good, strong library. We can draw a lot of people to Oak Park by using the Library as that showcase by saying this is what we can do and we are taking these steps to get there.”

Story by Ingrid Sjostrand
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

Most people admit that they wouldn’t get very far in life without the support of their friends, and the Oak Park Public Library is no exception.

The Friends of the Library, since 1992, is a non-profit organization that has helped back programming, raise funds and make improvements to the Oak Park Library since the 1950s, all at no cost to taxpayers. “We could not do any of the things we do without the Friends,” says Brandon Bowman, director of the Oak Park Library. “Ninety-nine per cent of our funding comes from the Friends organization, they are our main fund raiser.”

Everything from providing prizes and books for the summer reading program to running fundraisers and book fairs fall under the realm of support the Friends offer. Typically, Bowman provides them with a list each June of ten initiatives or programs he wants to implement that year, and the organization chooses which they will fund or give supplies for.

“They help us fund some of the initiatives that the Library staff come up with. The ”Raspberry Pis” (tiny computers used for teaching) are a good example – they just went out and bought those for us. I go to the Friends and say ‘I’d like to buy five Raspberry Pis to start teaching scratch gaming coding in the Library, can you help me out?’ and they provide us with those things,” he says.

Today, the Friends of the Library have over 200 members and are always looking for more support. Individuals can join for a membership fee of $10 that goes directly toward supporting the Library, and you don’t have to be an Oak Park resident to join.

Surprisingly, the Friends have been by the Library’s side since before they had a physical building. In the early 1950s, the Oak Park Library was run out of a bookmobile, and the Friends raised over $24,000 by requesting supplies, furniture and funds door-to-door in Oak Park neighborhoods. As a result, the Library opened the doors to their building at 14300 Oak Park Blvd in 1958, and are still located there. The Friends continue to help with renovations too, supporting remodels in 1968 and 2011.

“Right now, they are trying to find community sponsors for the wishing well – the Ferndale Library has a wishing well and we are trying to do the same thing here – which would allow us to get some more passive funding for things,” Bowman says. “They are going around asking local businesses if they are willing to put money toward that.”

Members meet the second Monday of each month. In February at the Oak Park Winterfest, the Friends of the Library held a membership drive and are still looking for more volunteers for a 60th birthday of the Oak Park Library event in June.

“I know they need tons of volunteers for the birthday party, so we are trying to get people for that. And of course, they are always looking for help coming up with new innovative ways to do fundraising to help the Library out,” Bowman says. “The more people we can get involved with Friends the better.”

Anyone interested in joining the Friends of the Library can fill out an application at the Oak Park Library, through the Library web site, or by emailing:
or visit

Story by Sara E. Teller
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

The Oak Park E-Z Roll, a popular bike-riding event, began three years ago. But the concept came to founder Aaron Tobin well before the first ride. “Four or five years ago, I wanted to start a weekly bike ride. A group of my friends said they were interested. But when it came down to it, we never actually got out,” he said. “So I decided to start a Facebook group. The first time we rode, there were probably 25 people. Now we get 150-200 riders each time.”

The E-Z Rollers meet on a weekly basis, every Tuesday evening at 6:30 P.M., at the Oak Park Library, when the weather is nice. “We ride from the beginning of summer sometimes through Halloween, or whenever it gets too cold,” Tobin said. “We have a hard-core group that is out with us every week, and many others who drop in when they can.”

The E-Z Roll is family-oriented, and the group considers safety first and foremost. “The environment is entirely family-friendly,” Tobin explained. “That means no drinking, no smoking, no loud or offensive music. You can’t wear anything offensive, either. We go out for about an hour, and we just ask that riders leave that stuff behind. We have handheld radios, and we direct bikers along the path. We’re always focused on safety.”

The E-Z Roll was organized as an entirely free event to promote community togetherness. “It’s just a great way to get people off their couches and kids away from their games and devices. The ride promotes comradery, a sense of neighborhood and friendship,” Tobin said. The rides are open to cyclists of all ages. “We have riders who originally brought their kids in carriers on the back of their bikes, and now the kids are riding their own attached bikes. They’ve participated for years. We also have college professors, father-son and mother-daughter pairs, business owners and fast-food employees. Even City Manager Erik Tungate rode with us.”

There’s a different route for riders each week. “Paul Levine maps out our path. He even considers elevations to ensure all riders can come out. We have a different route each time: riding in Oak Park as well as in neighboring cities, including Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Ferndale, and Berkley,” Tobin explained.

“We promote the event on our Facebook page. We also have a text messaging network that alerts bikers who don’t have Facebook about upcoming rides,” Tobin said.

The E-Z Rollers are not affiliated with any political party, or third-party business or organization, and do not intend on monetizing in any way. Yet, Tobin said, “We do sell t-shirts for just a couple of bucks if riders are interested. And, ‘Ken the light man’ is always around to sell bike lights. We also work with local bike shops, like D&D Bicycles in Berkley, to offer riders discounts on purchases or repairs.”

As interest in the group grew, Tobin also began to print off business cards to direct people to the Facebook page. “People see this massive group of cyclists riding by and they come out on their front porches, waving and cheering us on. They want to know who we are and what it’s all about. So I pass out the cards.”

The E-Z Roll offers a few special events throughout the year, too, including after-ride dinners and a Fourth of July ride. “Chef Cari’s Street Eats offered a fish ‘n chips dinner after one of our rides last year. We’re hoping to do this again this year,” Tobin said. “It offered more of a social atmosphere for riders where we could have more in-depth conversations. The E-Z Roll has helped neighbors meet for the first time, even if they’ve lived next door to each other for years.”

The E-Z Roll team is looking for sponsors for a free helmet giveaway. Business are encouraged to email:

Story by Sara E. Teller

The Oak Park Public Safety Department is a busy place to be. Its Director, Steve Cooper, and his team are cross-trained as police officers, fire fighters, and medical first responders. The Department was the first in the state to combine these services, and Cooper said the structure works really well.

Cooper was selected for the Police Officer Association of Michigan’s 2016 Award, which was issued that May. “I was nominated by my staff. We have so many great men and women. To be nominated by individuals you work with on a daily basis, to know they think highly enough of you to submit you for this, is extremely humbling.” he said. Director Cooper has a plaque on his wall, but jokes, “I really can’t get any mileage off of that anymore. You always have to stay focused and humble.”

Cooper has been with the Department for 28 years, and said public safety officers have been cross-trained for as long as he can remember. “It’s been that way since 1954. Everyone in the Department completes police academy training, training with the fire department, and additional medical first response training. We have individuals looking to join our team that come in already police-certifiable, too, and we just go from there,” he explained.

Once training is complete, public safety officers start their days in police uniform, carrying additional gear and tools with them so they can easily transition roles if needed. “They’ll ride around on patrol with a duffle bag full of fire gear, an extinguisher, and a medical box,” Cooper explained. “If needed, they’ll change right there in the street.”

He said the department always has stand-by officers at the station, as well. “Our stand-by officers are there to process prisoners and handle walk-in complaints. If there’s a fire emergency, we stop what we’re doing and put prisoners in lock-down so officers can jump in a fire truck and respond. We also partner with neighboring departments like Beverly Hills, Berkley, and Huntington Woods, and will call in off-duty staff if we need to.”

To determine whether officers are ready to hit the road, they undergo what’s called a “shadow phase.” Cooper explained, “In this phase, you ride around with a senior officer who is in civilian clothes and handle all the calls. You’re given feedback, and this determines if you’re ready.”

OAK PARK’S PUBLIC SAFETY DEPARTMENT has many community policing initiatives that really make it stand out. The Department recently started a canine unit and took on Canine Officer Mase. “We found Mase at Vohne Liche Kennels in Indiana. They house dogs that undergo special training in their six-week courses. They join bomb squads and police departments, and really are a valuable tool,” Cooper said. “He’s been doing extremely well, just a really great job, and he has grown leaps and bounds since day one.” Mase is named after Oak Park’s fallen officer Mason Samborski.

Every day, Mase is out in the field responding to calls with Officer Mike Hodakoski who, after an intense interview process, was selected to serve as Mase’s handler. “We sent out correspondence to our staff, then conducted an extensive interview process with everyone who showed interest, including home interviews and oral boards. We brought in master-handlers who had canines. It takes a lot of time and commitment to work with Mase. Training is conducted once a week, which needs to be logged and the handler needs to do different activities with him. This really becomes everything you do.”

He said it takes a special kind of person to understand Mase’s role with the Department. “The canine is a tool used for many different things, and socialization is part of it as well. We need to make sure he interacts with the public. Now that Officer Hodakoski has had a chance to bond with Mase, we’ll be able to bring him to schools and conduct demonstrations to students. It’s important for people to realize Mase is not just an at-tack dog. He follows directions and commands very well, and can go from chasing down a bad guy to being completely docile.”

THE DEPARTMENT ALSO LAUNCHED AN ICE CREAM TRUCK INITIATIVE last summer in an effort to build upon its relationship with the Oak Park community and to make the first interaction with police a pleasant one. “One of my detectives had approached me with the thought that this would be a great way to engage with the community. I like to say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so make it a positive one,” Cooper said. “The truck goes to events like end-of-the-year school celebrations and block parties. It’s not just for the children either. While it’s a great tool for the youth, it’s a great tool for adults, too. We take turns riding up and down the street, sharing free ice cream.”

Oak Park’s Department of Public Works donated the van that’s used, and the Public Safety Department solicited the help of local sponsors to decorate it and get it ready for the road. Prairie Farms donates ice cream every week. The truck runs from the last day of school through Labor Day weekend. “It’s a nice conversation piece,” Cooper said. “People were a bit shocked at first. Then, they started asking when the truck was coming to their neighborhood.”

The Department also has a Community Resource Officer, Devon Benson, who wears many hats. Benson interacts with all three public school systems Oak Park is responsible for, including Oak Park, Berkley and Ferndale, and is the City’s liaison for block clubs, making public appearances and demonstrations at community and city functions.

“Officer Benson helps neighborhoods set up block clubs. He gets them up and going,” Cooper explained. “He attends all meetings and events for the clubs, including summer block parties, and provides updates at these meetings. Mase attended one of these. They are a forum to solve problems and exchange ideas.”

As far as working with the schools, “Oak Park handles student programs for three districts and Benson hosts various programs, such as meet-and-greets and stranger-danger demonstrations,” Cooper said. “He also works with the private schools of Oak Park’s Jewish community, as well as local nursery schools and preschools.”
When not in meetings or at schools, Officer Benson manages Oak Park’s 15 crossing guards, mediates neighborhood complaints and issues, and handles vehicle fleet changeovers. He is a highly visible member of the Public Safety Department.

OAK PARK PERIODICALLY OFFERS AN INTERACTIVE OAK PARK PUBLIC SAFETY CITIZENS ACADEMY and Junior Citizens Academy to the community. These classes are designed for those who have an interest in learning about law enforcement, fire safety, evidence processing, and medical first response. They spend time with various members of the Public Safety team learning things like how to process fingerprints,
how to pick up subjects for a police line-up, how to dress like a firefighter, how police are trained to respond to dangerous situations, and what a firefighter does when responding to a scene to help contain the fire and get people out of harm’s way.

“Detective Robert Cook approached me with the idea,” Cooper said. “We never had a Citizen’s Academy before, and he thought it would be helpful to invite the community to see what goes on behind the curtain, so to speak. We use a firearms training simulator, which is interactive. Actors on screen are given demands. Some obey, some don’t, and we react accordingly.”

The Academy offers a great way for residents to gain a better understanding of what officers face in the field. “They see things on the news and wonder why an officer responded a certain way, but don’t realize we only have a split second to react. You can go into a gas station for a Slurpie, and in the blink of an eye, a robbery is in progress,” Cooper explained. “We lay out all of the equipment and ask residents to try it on. Just our police vests and gun belts are very heavy and can be exhausting to wear for hours on end. They can also operate fire trucks, squirt water from the trucks, and explore the jaws-of-life. Our evidence technicians and special response team direct particular segments, and participants are shown patrol and traffic operations, the detective’s bureau, criminal procedures, forensics, the 9-1-1 dispatch area. This year they’ll be shown a real homicide case and go through how it was responded to. It’s interactive in every way.”

Classes are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis with roughly 25 people per class. Details are posted on social media and on the City’s web site. They include instructions regarding how interested residents can enroll. For more information, contact Detective Robert Koch at (248) 691-7514.

“We did a pilot program with Oak Park High School students,” Cooper said of the Junior Citizen’s Academy. “We basically covered the same concepts, but tweaked them a bit to appeal to 16- to 18-year-olds. The programs have been a huge success. They really help us to build a good relationship with the community. It’s very rewarding.” The next round of the Oak Park Public Safety’s Citizens Academy will be held every Wednesday in May 2018 from 6:00 to 9:00 P.M. Those interested in enrolling should contact Detective Koch at (248) 691-7514.

For more information not he Public Safety Department, including information regarding any of the department’s initiatives and events, or how to register for upcoming classes, please visit

By David Ryals

CATHLEEN RUTSY RECALLED THE TEAM’S ORIGINS WITH JOY. “The Ferndale High School robotics team, IMPI Robotics, was founded in 2007, with its first competition during the 2008 season. Some of the mentors were working with a Royal Oak team, and the teacher mentor let us know that the 2007 season would be his last. We had nine seniors on the team qualify for FIRST scholarships! (FIRST, a robotics program founded by Dean Kamen, stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”)

Ferndale also had a team that folded, so we approached the school about a mixed team of Ferndale and Royal Oak students. They supported the idea from the beginning, giving us the closed wood shop room to build in. Royal Oak has since restarted a team, so IMPI Robotics has only Ferndale students now.”

Though the team had a lot of support from the beginning, the transitions made involved far-reaching challenges. Rutsy said, “We were also working with a group in South Africa. We would brainstorm, design, and build identical robots at each location. For the championship event in 2008, ten students traveled to the U.S. from South Africa. Our South African students asked for a team name that would represent their country, so we picked IMPI Robotics. “Impi” is a Zulu word for an armed body of men; in this case, armed with technology and we have young women.

During the economic downturn, the South African team folded, but the students still keep in touch to this day, even traveling to South Africa and Europe to meet. When one of our original students married, her husband secretly invited the South African students, and they traveled to the US to surprise her.”

Through all its challenges, competitions and collaborations, the team has consistently stayed true to its initial aim. Rutsky said, “the main aim of the team has always been to wage a war on technology illiteracy through FIRST robotics’.” But the team has other objectives such as: supporting local charities, encouraging students into STEM careers, obtaining additional corporate sponsorship in an effort to attract more minority and disadvantaged students, start FTC (First Tech Challenge) teams, and get additional mentors. The team has received 501(c)3 status and our main objective never changes but the team evaluates which objectives have been met and identifies new objectives on a yearly basis.”

The standards and work-load has only gotten higher for the team. Rutsky said, “The students perform demonstrations – one for Governor Snyder at his Economic and Education Summit, help mentor FLL and FTC teams in the district, have a student-run team for Relay for Life, have volunteered for the annual Ferndale Clean-Up and the Rainbow Run, to name a few of their achievements.”

The team has been able to support and stabilize their burgeoning growth through a few different avenues. Rutsky said, “All of our engineering mentors are unpaid volunteers because our companies realize that the best way to get STEM employees is to ‘grow’ them. Our companies give the team both financial support and the engineers time off to run the team. In just mentor time alone, the value to the school district is about $250 thousand per year. Over the years we have increased our sponsor support. FCA, Ford, IBM, Schaeffler, and Hydro are our main corporate sponsors, which is how the team is funded. We regularly ask our sponsors, parents and community for more mentors.”

With all of the hard work and dedication of the team Ferndale High’s robotics team is beyond bright. Of its future plans and aspirations, she said, “Our students have already shown that they will continue to do good in the community, so all of the things they are already doing such as charity work, demonstrations, and mentoring will continue. In addition, the students are starting an FLL (First Lego League) team in Ghana, arranging a STEM “science fair” for the high school, and working toward increased underrepresented student involvement. I’m sure the students will come up with other good ideas – they are so proactive and are always thinking. And they have a great awareness of community.”

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.

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Story by Sara E. Teller
Photos By Amy Claeys Photography


Kevin Davis, known to many as K.D., was close friends with Ricky Lentz III for nearly 30 years. The two were bandmates in several groups, the last of which was Longneck Strangler. “I met Ricky when he was 12 or 13, and I was playing in another local band. I was 18, six years older than Ricky. We became best friends. I ended up being the best man at his wedding. We just did everything together – deer hunting, fishing, went to ball games.”

He describes being as blown away with the young teen’s musical talent as he was with his appearance in the early days. “He was so tall and had a beard, I swear, even at that age. He had hair down to his waist, definitely didn’t look like a preteen.” Ricky was in a band with his father, Rick Jr., at the time, and was already capable of playing numerous instruments when Kevin first met him.

“Ricky was in a band with his dad. That’s how he started. His dad inspired him when Ricky was little and he was playing with a microphone when he was two years old. In the early years, I handled the bookings and promotional events,” says the former musician’s mother, Marlene, who was very proud of her son’s accomplishments.

“At 16, Ricky was doing very well playing all around at local bars, such as New Way,” Marlene says.

“He played in just about every bar in Michigan by the time he turned 18,” Kevin explained. “We did a lot of shows at Emerald Theatre back then, as part of the Psychedelic Blues Society and then with JoCaine.”

Ricky was a forced to be reckoned with on stage. “He’s was involved in all different genres of music from punk, to rock to reggae,” according to Marlene. Kevin adds, “Even at a young age, Ricky could play the guitar like Jimmy Hendrix.”

Marlene describes Ricky as a family man, first and foremost. “His presence on the stage and off – it was almost as if he was too different people,” she explains, adding, “On stage, he had a very commanding presence. Off stage, he would wear glasses and a ball cap. He was humble and quiet, always putting his family first.”

RICKY LEAVES BEHIND his wife Lana and two children, Lulu, five and Henry, three. “I remember one time I walked into the living room and he was singing a song from a cartoon that was on the T.V. while the kids ran around and danced,” Marlene recalls. She said Ricky was known for singing “Let It Go” from the Frozen movie for the kids. “He never left a family function without saying thanks for having us. Always with gratitude. Him and Lana had a special relationship, too. Near perfect as a marriage could be.”

Kevin echoed her sentiments. “Ricky was a God-fearing man, a man of faith. He loved his family, his two children and his wife. His main priorities were God, his family, and the band, in that order. And, he loved to make people feel good about themselves.”

“I have no words to describe how heartbroken our family is,” said Ricky’s aunt, Melissa Schwartz. Her family has been heavily involved in the area for many years. “My family has been ingrained and active within the community for three generations.”
Melissa says Ricky “inherited all of the positive traits of both his mother and father. He was special – a very dutiful man.”
Kevin said Ricky never forgot his roots and was always reaching out to the community, hoping to give back. “We always tried to be charitable,” he said. “Especially to Hazel Park, our hometown. We grew up together. Knew a lot of the same people and had many of the same friends.”

Kevin said the band had a shared goal of wanting listeners to hear their music and relate to it. “We wanted it to reflect what people went through in life. Let them have their own artistic translation of the lyrics, let their minds paint a picture.”
And, Ricky, who wrote some of the music, was very intelligent. “He was real smart,” Marlene says. “Always a book in this hand and the Bible in his pocket.” Kevin and Ricky were engineers by day and they would often “talk to each other in German.” He laughs, “We were always challenging each other, you know, with different trivia and tidbits.”

KEVIN SAID THAT IN 2012, Longneck Strangler signed a deal with Funky D Records and put out an album in 2014, entitled Home. “It was meant to be a tribute about going back home after being gone on the road. There was a trilogy of songs relating to home titled Home, Coming Home and Get Back Home. Listening to the tracks now, I can feel Ricky’s emotions in the lyrics,” he says. “I just hope memories of Ricky will live on through the songs.”

“One time, I was watching a performance,” Marlene recalls. “An audience member said to Ricky ‘you’re our hero.’ My son shook his hand and replied, ‘No, you’re mine.’ That’s the kind of person my son was.”

ON AUGUST 20, 2017, Lana, Lulu and Henry unexpectedly lost Ricky Lentz – husband, father and sole breadwinner – to an extremely rare congenital heart condition. The young family was only beginning their lives together and was unprep-ared for such a tragedy. After spending most of his life as a musician, performing with Longneck Strangler and many other bands, Ricky had begun a new career to provide for his new loves; his wife and young daughter and son, only five- and three-years-old.
Sadly, these few years were not enough for Ricky to set up his loved ones for a future that unexpectedly and unfortunately would be without him. Ricky was a proud and private man, rarely one to ask for help. We know, however, that in his death, Ricky wouldn’t want to cause any hardship to anyone, and would want to know that Lana, Lulu and Henry were taken care of.

As you can imagine, it is extremely difficult for the family to recover, either emotionally or financially. In any case, they are facing this misfortune, and we would like to enable a second chance for Lana, giving her time to find a way to support her family.

THE FERNDALE RAT PATROL was formed late in the Summer of 2017 by Ferndale resident Laura Mikulski and associates after a City of Ferndale meeting about our rat problem. Citizens were left distraught over the City’s inability to deal with Ferndale’s growing rat problem. Due to legalities, costs, manpower, etc., the only option the Council could offer was to continue down their present path of action –hiring exterminators.

These concerned citizens met again shortly after, the City was not involved, and the Ferndale Rat Patrol was born. Their aim is simple: Rid our city of rats through the power of community.

The FRP differs vastly from conventional pest control services. The FRP does not use poison. Instead, there is a focus on community support, education and outreach involved: Neighbors talking to neighbors, and neighbors collaborating with each other.

The FRP is unique in that they are a community-based, volunteer organization. All members chose to be involved in the FRP, whether actively or passively. They share knowledge, ideas, methods and sometimes even equipment. The FRP’s operations affect the city of Ferndale in a variety of ways. Laura Mikulski chatted with Ferndale Friends about the Ferndale Rat Patrol.

FF: When and how did FRP come into existence?
Laura Mikulski: The FRP came into being after the Wilson Park Neighbor-hood Group, on the East side of Ferndale, approached the City looking for a rat control solution. The City set up a sort of townhall meeting, bringing in our code enforcement and a pest control company to explain how to control rats. Our code enforcement officer explained that proper rat control begins with keeping a clean yard and adhering to ordinance. Most in attendance already understood this, and personally kept their yards clean. Almost everyone knew someone in their neighborhood with a yard that contributed to the rat issue, but none were sure how to address it besides reporting to code enforcement-a sticky subject at best, since it can ruin relationships with neighbors if word gets out that you reported them.
The pest control company in attendance offered one solution: poison. This infuriated residents who had pets poisoned by dead rats, as well as those who had owl populations diminish due to poisoning. When it became clear that the city wouldn’t take an active hand in ridding the city of the rats currently in town, a group lingered behind to discuss solutions and community organization.

FF: What is the aim of the FRP? How does FRP differ from other pest control services?
The group is intended for those ready to take action to reduce the rat problem in the city, and to dispel the taboo of discussing the significant rat issues the city is facing. We intend to use methods that are not detrimental to the overall health of the environment (minimizing, if not eliminating the use of poisons). This group is intended for those that are ready to take action and learn, not to blame, complain and wait for others to do something. We are not a pest control service – we’re a grassroots organization of citizens and neighbors who perform outreach to educate on what drives the rat population, help eliminate rat habitat, and empower homeowners to remove rats effectively and manage their property to eliminate the rat population.

FF: What makes FRP unique? How does FRP affect the city of Ferndale?
The Ferndale Rat Patrol is unique in that it’s a collaborative effort to control the rat population in the city without relying on pest control companies or code enforcement. This is a citizen-empowering-citizen movement to depopulate and control rats, where we seek to help each other rather than place blame or look for others to fix the problem. It affects Ferndale in a huge way: Less poisons are being used, less rats are running rampant.

FF: What is the future of FRP? What are your goals?
Our goal is to safely reduce the rat population, always. Ideally, there would be none. They’re non-native, wildly destructive, and pathogenic. Additionally, conventional means of depopulating rats increase risk of secondary poisoning and death to pets and predators, something we’re staunchly against, and through education have reduced. It truly takes massive community involve-ment to make this happen on such a wide scale, and our group is growing daily. It’s become less and less taboo to discuss incidences of rat and meth-ods of extermination, which makes it easier to share knowledge and help without the embarrassment or stigma of having rats. People are waking up to the idea that this isn’t just a problem for a few people. It’s a city-wide issue that can only be resolved through coordinated effort.

Last year we did a “clean sweep” by performing outreach, and asking those who saw dead rats, evidence of rat, or killed rats personally to report in through a survey tool. In one month, September 2016, we tracked 437 rat kills, 257 which were snap traps that we recommended. We saw a major reduction in population that’s held strong through early 2017, and just rose again in September of this year. We’ve been tracking since about mid-month August, and have well over 200 rat kills accounted for through smart trapping through-out the city. We also created a flyer that we distribute when performing outreach so that neighbors can spread the word and we can reach those who might not be home with tips on how to eradicate rats in their neighborhood.

Laura Mikulski be presenting on rats, and rat prevention and elimination at the Ferndale Garden Club meeting on December 14. The FRP is also trying to organize a get-together fundraiser (since this is all funded personally). Anyone interested should tune into our Facebook group for details: ( login required).

By Maggie Boleyn

PSSSST…FERNDALE ISN’T JUST A HIP HAVEN FOR YOUNG PEOPLE. Ferndale’s more senior citizens are a very active, and very involved part of the city as well.

Jeannie Davis, president of the Ferndale Senior Group, says the group provides a “new outlet for socialization.” She adds that board members strive to “work very hard to make the senior experience more enjoyable.”

Davis, who also writes the seniors column for Ferndale Friends, said her goal is “to make the group more visible.” She adds that Ferndale Seniors are an active group within the community, participating in events like selling T-shirts for the Woodward Dream Cruise, leading pub crawls, manning a rib tent and helping with other local happenings. “We are visible and viable,” she said. “We aren’t just playing bingo, and sitting and knitting.”

Indeed, the Ferndale Senior Group is also embracing technology to help seniors connect with each other and with the community at large. “I love texting the Mayor,” Davis said. The Ferndale Seniors Group also has a Facebook presence, where Davis wrote: “Ferndale Senior Group is a social group comprised of people who are 55-years and over. Being a Ferndale resident is not a requisite.”

The Ferndale Senior Group meets twice a month on the second and fourth Wednesdays at 11:00 A.M., at the Kulick Center on Livernois. “These meetings aren’t just gabfests,” Davis promises. “It’s always a learning experience.” Recent guest speakers included a visitor from the Ferndale Historical Museum and the group also hosts a candidate forum, where attendees can meet, greet and ask questions of candidates running for office.

Elected officials also visit the Ferndale’s Senior Group although, as Davis hastens to clarify, “We are not a political group.” The visits are merely to provide information to attendees. Politicians and candidates do well to court senior voters. According to, at any time, more than half of registered voters over the age of 60 can be relied upon to cast a ballot in elections. In presidential voting years, 70 per cent of registered seniors will cast a vote, in person or by absentee ballot.

Davis notes that a mayoral town hall is also another feature of the Senior Group. She said that plans are in the works for Mayor Dave Coulter to hold a town hall meeting at the Kulick Center on October 11. “Anyone can come,” Davis added.

The Ferndale Senior Group also offers short day trips to nearby places such as the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Zoo, Cranbrook, and the River Walk on the Detroit River in Downtown Detroit. “We’re constantly looking for different things,” Davis says. “We want to give them something more to talk about than daytime TV and aches and pains,” she adds. The group offers a wide variety of inexpensive things for people to do.

The Senior Group allows anyone to attend meetings; however, persons who become members receive discounted rates for events and activities, Davis says.

Money Magazine pointed out that “The best places to age well have lots of jobs, good public transportation and active communities.” Davis, who retired from running her own business as a real estate appraiser, considers Ferndale as a “senior-friendly” city. “Ferndale is a very walk-able community,” she said. “Also, we love the ‘businesses on Nine’, especially Western Market.” Davis says. She adds that Ferndale’s Metro Detroit location means there are plenty of opportunities for visiting cultural venues and volunteering.

Davis, who has lived in Ferndale since 1960s, concludes that Ferndale seems “genuinely fond of seniors.