Culture

Story By Marv Meldrum
Photo By Bernie Laframboise

ORIGINALLY FROM MONROE, MICHIGAN AND A 23-YEAR VETERAN OF THE POLICE FORCE, FERNDALE’S NEW CHIEF OF POLICE, VINCENT PALAZZOLO, HAS A LONG RESUME THAT BEGINS WITH AN ENLISTMENT
IN THE ARMY. More recently, after two years as a captain on the Ferndale police force, he was tagged as the interim Chief of Police in May of 2018, and is now installed as the permanent Chief of Police.

Palazzolo served in the U.S. Military for 11 years, deployed to Iraq with the Michigan Army National Guard as an infantry soldier. His stellar resume includes serving on the Oakland County Crime Suppression Task Force, Team Commander of the Southeast Oakland SWAT, and Team Commander of the Oakland County Mobile Field Force.

Currently, he is a member of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and Veterans of Foreign Wars. An advocate for veterans, Palazzolo is involved with the reintegration programs through physical fitness and veteran suicide prevention.

Palazzolo has a robust and sincere focus on community engagement and two years ago initialed the Department’s community engagement approach. He observes and follows six pillars of community policing laid out in the President’s task force on 21st Century Policing.

The Chief recalls when the housing bubble popped in 2008- 2009 and the Ferndale police force went from 54 officers down to 39. Half of those officers who were cut were bought out and half retired, but the Department still found ii necessary lo lay off five officers.

“In 2010, we lost the number two commander; the person who did the day-to-day nuts and bolts,” Palazzolo says. “So, the chief was doing all the work for two people. Personnel for the Department is 98 percent of their budget. As a department we were doing the minimum to survive; there was no extra training in that time frame because that takes money. Any training that wasn’t mandated by the state wasn’t done.”

“EVERYONE CALLS THE POLICE FOR EVERY PROBLEM,” Palazzolo explains. ”We have had to adapt to the full spectrum of the issues that come our way. We are training officers lo do a very tough job. Expectations are higher on public officials and police especially. Police are very visible today.”

“Now that I was made full-time chief, three positions need to be filled so we can start doing big projects. I need a captain. I have two lieutenants applying for that. A sergeant will be promoted to be a platoon commander. Then I’ve got to promote an officer to sergeant. Then we will have lo recruit to fill that officer’s position. The rest of 2018, we will just be trying lo get up lo full staffing!”

Fully staffed, the force is 41 strong, including the chief. They have six or seven civilians filling records and holding administrative positions. And don’t forget the crossing guards.

The City of Ferndale presents a large number of festivals and public events, such as the art fairs and the Dream Cruise. They pay for officer staffing, so there will be an extra four-to-five officers just assigned to those events. Holidays are quiet, but summer gets busy as downtown now has 23-plus liquor licenses. Three additional officers work Friday and Saturdays to maintain the bar district.

If you want lo know the inner workings of the Ferndale Police Department, residents can join the four-week long Citizen’s Police Academy each October. You learn how the Department works, and officers set up a situation and walk you through an actual mock homicide scene.

After the Academy, Chief Palazzolo wants to start the Chiefs Round Table with the graduates. People who have a little knowledge can help mold the future. They can meet every month or so and brief graduates on events and talk about policy.

PALAZZOLO HAS FIXED HIS ATTENTION on operating his Department efficiently, safely, ethically and morally, and dictated by laws and policies that were put in place for officers to follow.

There will always be random acts of violence. The Chiefs answer to that is, “The idea is to create an omnipresence.”

While they can’t anticipate or prevent everything, active patrolling helps to deter crime. But with the creation of the Internet, through stolen identities people can sit in their horn e and remotely do the crimes they used to do on the streets.

“Crime stats are down because it’s easier and safer for the criminal to do remote crime. Most of the crime we see is crime of opportunity, like breaking into cars, but they only really look for the open doors.”

“We need our public to have confidence in our Police Department and believe that we are ope.rating legally, morally and ethically.”

Chief Palazzolo wants lo let everyone know who they are, and he wants to build relationships with the public. “You don’t have to go on a retreat with someone to build a relationship. Just talking to high school students or chatting with someone on the phone is a connection. We are husbands, wives, and family members, just like anyone.”

By Ingrid Sjostrand

PRISON POPULATION IN AMERICA KEEPS RISING BECAUSE OF EARLIER FAILED PROGRAMS, SUCH AS THE ‘WAR ON DRUGS,’ AND THE CURRENT, ’MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.’ The U.S.A. simply warehouses people without any real rehabilitation. These people become part of a cycle of incarceration and punishment, usually returning to society very angry, and with even better criminal skills,” musician Tino Gross says.

Gross is working to change the stigma that prisoners cannot be rehabilitated by providing them with new skills through a 501c3 program called Jail Guitar Doors (JGD). The nationwide program run by Michigan rock icon Wayne Kramer provides prisoners with musical instruments and instruction in songwriting and playing to reduce prison violence and reoffending. JGD is in over 120 U.S. prisons, and just expanded to the Ryan ReEntry Facility in Detroit the summer of 2018.

“JGD is a program that reaches out and rehabilitates convicts through music, helping them to work on themselves and return to society as contributors, instead of dangerous ex-cons,” Gross explains. “The social aspects of playing guitar and singing give the inmates a pathway to self-improvement, and prevents future violence.”

As a musician, Gross has seen how music can tap into people’s emotions and touch on topics that might not otherwise be discussed or explored. Through JGD, he teaches guitar to inmates and helps them explore songwriting. They meet once a week for a ten-week period.

“We focus on their life experiences, presenting song topics like freedom, anger, and forgiveness; The process never fails to produce incredible lyrics which are then put to music,” he says.

“GUITAR-PLAYING CAN TAKE A WHILE TO LEARN, SO WE START SIMPLE, with blues and gospel material so that everyone can join in. The first day I went in to teach at the Detroit prison, I was moved by how hard these guys worked in their orange jumpsuits. In a few hours we were all laughing and singing together, and these are some tough guys!”

This reaffirmed to Gross that this program was worthwhile and meaningful. “Music has a power that is mystical, defies science, it really does work,” he says.

Jail Guitar Doors would never have started without the power of music. It all began in 1977 when The Clash wrote a song by the same name about an imprisoned fellow musician – none other than Wayne Kramer — who helped bring JGD to the US. Musician Billy Bragg launched JGD in the UK in 2007, and collaborated with with Kramer to bring the program to the United States in 2009.

Kramer, a Metro-Detroit native, has been building the program across the country for over ten years and funding it through benefit concerts, TV appearances, CDs and even concerts within the prison system. He and Bragg have even received brand-new guitars donated for JGD from manufacturers like Fender.

Gross got involved through his friendship with Kramer, and he urges people to donate or, if they have an interest in music, to volunteer. Those interested can learn more at jailguitardoors.org.

“The purpose of this program is to lend a helping hand to your brothers and sisters that have made bad choices, but are salvageable as productive human-beings. We are all in this life together,” he says.

By Sara E. Teller

Jill Warren and her husband, Rev. Robert Schoenhals, arrived at First United Methodist Church (at the corner of Leroy and Woodward) early the Sunday before Labor Day, and were met with a very unwelcome surprise.

As they approached the church’s main entrance, the couple noticed a derogatory flyer taped to the door. It featured an image of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones with a Star of David taped over his mouth as if to silence him. On either side were crude and offensive caricatures of Jewish men.

“My husband and I arrived at about 8:30 in the morning and noticed the flyer taped to the door. It contained hate speech, completely anti-Semitic, aggressive, just horrible,” Warren said. “My stomach just clenched up, and I had a gut feeling to walk the parameter of the church. Sure enough, I found one on each of the entrances.”

She immediately notified Ferndale police, as Rev. Schoenhals proceeded with his morning routine before members of the congregation arrived. “I took charge, so my husband could get ready, and they said they’d send an officer before my Sunday school class,” Warren explained. “We learned there had been other incidents. Flyers were also posted at Arts Beats and Eats and in downtown Detroit.”

Responding officers told her that taping the flyer to the door could be protected by free speech, and thus, may not necessarily constitute a crime. However, the Department would open an investigation to see if they could identify the perpetrator and bring charges for destruction of property or trespassing.

WARREN AND REV. SCHOENHALS SPREAD THE WORD to the congregation hat day, and Warren posted the following to social media, “Friends and neighbors – these [flyers] were taped to our church doors this morning. Be aware that hate groups do exist locally. #LoveIsBigger — at First United Methodist Church of Ferndale, MI.”

She said, “My husband informed the leadership team. We share a space with another congregation and he shared it with their leadership team. I shared it during Sunday school. We informed everyone internally first, then reached out to local pastors. We didn’t hear back, so we assumed they hadn’t noticed anything.”

Warren added, “The terrible thing is that we were right in the midst of a meet-your-neighbor event we had planned to host in Ferndale. The event is all about socializing and understanding different cultures. We had to push it back.”

CURRENTLY, THE POLICE HAVE A VIDEO of a Caucasian man in khakis, a white polo and a black hat with sunglasses posting the flyers outside the church. They are asking for help in identifying the man.

“That’s all we know at this point,” said Warren. “There was no property damage, but what this is, really, is a desecration of a sacred place of peace and safety.”

The couple have been with First United Methodist in Ferndale for five years. The church was established in 1922 and will soon be celebrating its century anniversary. Rev. Schoenhals has been in ministry since 1975 and is set to retire in five years.

“We love Ferndale – just love living here,” Warren said. “It’s progressive politically, diverse, and is small enough to enact policies and practices that get implemented. Ferndale is very community minded and there’s good leadership. We have yard signs stating, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and ‘Love is Love.’ These show our values. On top of that, we’re a sanctuary congregation, so I think that could be why we were targeted.”

Warren speaks fondly of fellow church members, sharing the reaction of one member in particular to the incident. “After learning what had happened, this person said, ‘This is horrible, this is hate. Pray for that person.”

By Malissa Martin

WITH CHRISTMAS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, it’s heartbreaking to know that not every child will be a part of the celebration. However, for the past three years Fern-dale Youth Assistance (FYA, located inside Ferndale High School) has been changing that with their Annual Adopt-a-family Christmas program. Caseworker Tasha Hanson and office manager Melinda Hicks coordinate the program, which already has five families in need this year.

“Families come to us. They’re struggling financially. They can’t even get food on the table for the day, let alone think about Christmas,” Hanson said. So FYA pitches in to help by connecting them with volunteers who have agreed to “adopt” a family for the Holiday season. Once families are selected, the children fill out a wish list form provided by the FYA. Only kids receive wish lists; however, sometimes Hicks and Hanson will also purchase a small, thoughtful gift for the parents.

When a family agrees to adopt a family in need, they are given the wish list to use as a guide. “We ask if they need a jacket, boots, gloves. We want to make sure they’re dressed for winter, and then they give us their wish list and sizes. We usually get all of them socks and underwear.” Hicks said.

Hicks enlists local families and individuals to adopt families in need for Christmas. Groups can also volunteer. A local running group has adopted a family every year since the program began. The Police Department, the Courts, and City Hall have also adopted a family.

To help purchase items for the program, the FYA has included a budget of $4,000 to use for Christmas, and as an emergency fund. Last year the program provided Christmas for 38 kids and Hicks is expecting 45-to-50 kids this year.

THE CHRISTMAS PROGRAM IS JUST ONE OF THE MANY WAYS the FYA is striving to serve youth and their families. The FYA has two facets: The casework side and also the community organizational side. Hicks is the go-to person for all the planning and programming at FYA. The Oakland County Circuit Court funds Hanson’s salary as the caseworker. The school district provides the FYA space and also provides some funding as well. Finally, Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge provide monetary donations, as well as the community members.

Having their office located inside the high school makes it easier for Hicks to connect with the youth. “Community members – usually the school district, social workers, principals, assistant principals – make referrals of kids that are struggling. Then I meet with them on a short-term case basis and get them to where they need to be for counseling or groups or whatever they need. So, short-term casework services for kids who are struggling with things like death, dying, bullying, anxiety (and) depression,” Hanson said.

Being able to provide kids with toys on Christmas is a blessing, and it’s also Hanson and Hicks’ favorite part of the job. They’ve both lived in Ferndale for years, Hicks all of her life. Providing services for youth is their way of giving back and continuing the tradition of making Ferndale a great place to live.

To adopt a family this Christmas, contact Hicks at (248) 586-8700 or email melinda.hicks@ferndaleschools.org.

By Sarah E. Teller

FOR MORE THAN 100 YEARS NOW, THE CHURCH AT 1841 PINECREST DRIVE has been serving Ferndale’s spiritual needs, originally as the First Baptist Church and now the Renaissance Vineyard Church. There has certainly been a lot of change over that time.

In 1915, a Highland Park parish branched out to the Ferndale area looking to reach a new population of believers, according to RVC founding pastor Jim Poole. For the next twelve years, the church expanded and began meeting in several different locations across town. “The pastor at the time was also the Superintendent of Ferndale Schools,” Poole said. “They met for a while all along the 9 Mile corridor.”

In 1927, the current location was built, and First Baptist Church officially took root in the community. Pool explained, “Like lots of groups over the years, it has experienced ups and downs. There was growth in the area post World War II. So, the church expanded in the 1950s. Then people moved away, or the nature of their religious engagement changed some. It entered decline and was looking at the possibility of closing the doors.”

INSTEAD, HOWEVER, IN 2011, First Baptist Church merged with Royal Oak Vineyard Church, a parish that was started in 2001 by Poole, his wife, and another partner. Poole moved his congregation over and the name changed to Renaissance Vineyard Church.

“Many of our members were already living in Ferndale,” Poole said. “We drafted a proposal for the plan we had so both congregations could vote, and the majority were in favor.”

By merging the two into one, immediately there were more helping hands for many of the services the church offered to residents. “We have a heart for this city and its community, for serving others and fostering relationships.” Poole said.

Of course, there were some roadblocks along the way. “In the beginning, we were running around 100 miles-per-hour to figure out the details and how to keep up,” he added. “It was pretty challenging. But the way I look at it, we could have nit-picked the process to death or we could just trust the plan. We had enough clarity to move through it.”

NOW, THERE ARE MANY MEMBERS who have been there for decades, and equally as many newcomers. Poole explained, “There is a pretty steady group who have been here anywhere from 20 to 50 years, but there were also a lot of new, young families. Our nursery is exploding.” He added, “Attendance-wise, there are about 100 adults and children and there are roughly 200 people who self-identify this as being their home church.”

At the 100-year celebration, Renaissance requested words of encouragement and blessings from Ferndale Schools, the Chamber of Commerce, and the City of Ferndale, as well as its community network groups and those who have oversight responsibilities. “They submitted letters and videos,” Poole said. “The Mayor tagged us in a Facebook post.”

They also had four members share their testimonies. “Janet (Carpenter) has been here 65 years. Her mom was the church secretary. She talked about her rich legacy of service work at the church, with the highlight being a mission trip I took her on to Ethiopia. It was great hearing her feedback and how she’s looking forward to the next chapter. Bob (Latta) has held almost every position at the church, except pastor. He started coming here when he was eight, and remembers as a 10-year-old boy, shoveling coal with his father after Saturday night’s dinner for service the following morning. He’s 88 now.”

Carpenter said, “I always felt like the church was my second family. I had my real family, and this was my spiritual family. I’ve gotten a lot of moral and spiritual support both within the church and outside of the church – it’s been a strong crutch.”

CARPENTER FEELS MERGING THE TWO CONGREGATIONS WAS A GREAT MOVE, saying, “We’ve been a mission-minded church from day one, and because of the similarities of the mission outreach, it was a good marriage.” Of the Ethiopia trip, she said, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity, and I was skeptical at first, then finally said I would do it. I’ve never regretted it. It was the best experience.”

Of the celebration service, Poole continued, “There were also two other testimonies from newer, younger members who have been blessed and impacted by the church. The rest of the service was a more celebratory version of the normal service.”

Renaissance offered a free lunch. “The luncheon consisted of all home-cooked meals with an international fair. People lingered to look at our photo books and old and new memorabilia. What stood out was that they stayed for hours, just hanging out, and you got a sense that they were mixing and meeting new people.”

Renaissance Vineyard Church is involved in numerous community outreach programs, but Poole said it’s the church’s presence in the community and how this resonates with others that truly matters.

“We want to exist for the community, for others – not just serving others and ourselves. This program is part of it but it’s more about presence and the way we go about doing these things,” he said.

As far as future plans, Poole added, “I am looking forward to the future while leaning on the legacy of the past. We’re looking to continue to find ways to serve more faithfully and we’ll be doing some fundraising for facility repairs and expanding our ministry and missions.”

By: Sara E. Teller

PLANS ARE BEING FINALIZED FOR FERNDALE’S NEW SKATEPARK, which the City is hoping to roll out in the Spring. Ferndale’s City Council, Department of Parks and Recreation, and Department of Public Works have been busy working out the logistics and soliciting feedback from area residents. So far, they’ve secured help from Detroit’s architectural firm Hamilton Anderson, the Community Skatepark Advisory Committee, and the Tony Hawk Foundation, and a few changes have been made along the way.

“At this time, the location of the skatepark has not been confirmed. Previous plans of a pre-fabricated skatepark was set within Wilson Park. Based on the community feedback we received, we are now building a concrete skatepark,” said LeReina Wheeler, Parks and Recreation Director. “At the Parks and Recreation Department, we have been doing our due diligence, investigating and researching all potential viable locations for the skatepark. Data to assist with selecting the best location is being collected from skatepark designers, architectural personnel, skatepark professionals, City departments, and resident surveys.”

A design meeting was held on August 29th at B. Nektar Meadery, 1511 Jarvis, Ferndale. “There were attendees from both the skateboarding and non-skateboarding community [there],” said Wheeler.

“With the support of our architectural firm Hamilton Anderson, we presented examples of community skateparks within our region and asked for feedback on what elements were desirable, and which elements would not work in our community. The discussion and feedback provided an overview of what we would like to include in our Request for Proposal for a skatepark designer.”

Attendees were able to have a little hands-on fun at the meeting’s conclusion. “At the end of the meeting Brad Dahlhofer of B. Nektar extended an invitation to the participants to check out and skate his mini-ramp. Several skateboarders took the opportunity to show off on the mini-pipe,” Wheeler said. She confirmed the parties are still searching for a contractor to take on the design of the project.

“We are currently developing the RFP (Request For Proposal) for design-build. It should be published by late October or early November,” she said, adding, “With the support of Hamilton Anderson, we have been working on gathering preliminary information on what elements our community members want incorporated in the skatepark. Concept designs will be developed after we hire a skatepark design firm and confirm the final location of the skatepark. Additional community design meetings will be held to assist with the development of the final concept design.”

A separate meeting was hosted by the Parks and Recreation Department on September 5th, as well. The Department presented information to the Ferndale PARC Board regarding the viability of potential site locations. The meeting was open to the public and resulted in the recommendation of the top three potential site locations, ranked in order of most preferred: 1) Wilson Park, 2) Martin Rd Park, and 3) Geary Park.

“The recommendation was unanimously supported by the PARC Board,” Wheeler said. “Once the skatepark designer is hired, the Parks and Recreation Department will get input from the designer and make a final skatepark location recommendation to City Council for approval.”

She added, “The City is excited to bring this new amenity to our residents. We want our skatepark to be one of a kind and cater to all levels and abilities. Our residents have waited long enough and deserve the best when it comes to new amenities in our parks.”

More information on skatepark grants available from the Tony Hawk Foundation can be found at www.tonyhawkfoundation.org. Information regarding Ferndale’s new skatepark project, upcoming meetings, and project status can be found on the City of Ferndale’s website, www.cityofferndale.org.

I NEED A FAVOR FROM ALL THE SENIORS IN FERNDALE. It’s not big, but, it is important.

Why do I need this favor? I’m hearing that seniors feel a little left out with respect to the cultural and educational aspects of Ferndale, and that you want to learn things, be entertained, and socialize with your peers.

You’ve said that you don’t want to do the bars or in general hang out with young, noisy people consuming adult drinks. I get it, I don’t either anymore. We need to get more information from you, as to what you want, what time of the day, and where.

I understand that you want classes geared to seniors. But what subject matter? Do you want a series? Or maybe just one-time lectures? Do you want to learn something and, if so, what? Nutrition, scam-prevention, knitting, drawing, health, art appreciation, history of Detroit?

The reason for this pathway of thinking is that our senior group is not growing. Together with the apparent needs of seniors not in our group, this makes me wonder if we could do more to answer the needs of those who aren’t members.

After all, we are all in the same boat. We all have already lived full lives. Now is the time to have a little fun.

Learn a new skill, learn how to know what a painting is telling us, find out about the streets of Detroit from the past. The possibilities are endless.

Some of these things you can get now at the Kulick Center, and by attending senior meetings. We have a knitting group with a capable teacher. At our meetings, we routinely have speakers from the DIA, Detroit Historical, scam experts, nutrition experts. We also have fun stuff like card parties, tea parties, pot luck lunches. We travel to cider mills, unique restaurants, museums, shopping trips, even the Detroit River walk!

All that said, a person has to know about these things to take advantage of them. I was astounded to talk to a man yesterday who had no idea that the senior group even existed. This leads to the question of where do you folks get your information on what is happening in Ferndale? We publicize on Facebook, as well as with flyers at the Center. Clearly, this isn’t enough if people are unaware of it.

Our Senior Group meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month at 11:00 A.M. at the Kulick Center. Ask at the front desk for a copy of the newsletter, and you can read about our upcoming events.

SO, HERE IS THE FAVOR: Please call me. My number is at the end of this column. Tell me how you get information on happenings. Tell me what classes or lectures you would at-tend. Tell me if it’s day or night classes or lectures. We can’t help if we don’t know.

Or just attend a meeting to see what we are all about. We promise we won’t grab you and sell you into slavery. At least not at the first meeting.

Call me.
Jeannie Davis, 248 541 5888

By Ingrid Sjostrand

DECIDING TO BEGIN A CAREER AS AN ARTIST CAN BE A DAUNTING TASK and it can be even harder to know where to start, especially as a young person or someone not afforded the opportunities of arts programs in school.

Knowing things like how to get your work into art fairs and exhibits and how to make money off your art are essential to success in the art world, which is why Vickie Elmer and her three co-founders created the Mint Artists Guild, a 501c3 nonprofit group dedicated to helping metro Detroit young artists succeed.

Established in early 2015, Mint has two main programs aimed at artists ages 14 to 21. The first, “Learn and Earn,” is a mentorship program for students already making art, who receive coaching from Mint and the opportunity to participate in two or more art shows including Ferndale’s Funky Art Fair. There is no cost to students to apply or participate in the program.

“It’s for youth that are pretty self-directed and want to create a body of work,” Elmer says. “They make their work at home and in school and we provide workshops, some mentoring and coaching and give an opportunity to sell their work.”

The second initiative Mint runs is the “Summer Arts Program” where students are paid to work approximately 20 hours a week at Mint’s Palmer Park studio creating art to be sold to clients, donated to nonprofits and used at art fairs. The main medium for the Summer Arts Program is painting and all artists create a self-portrait as one of their first projects. They have expanded into mosaics and linoleum cut prints and hope to grow their mediums more in the future.

Both programs require the young artists to apply and provide a portfolio of their work. The Summer Arts Program also requires an interview.

“We treat it like they are young professionals and if you’re a young professional artist you have to submit your work, you have to put in a statement about yourself – tell people why you would be good to be a part of it,” Elmer says.

ONE OF THE BIGGEST PROJECTS THE SUMMER ARTS PROGRAM WORKS ON is the Paint Detroit Generosity Initiative, where the youth choose a nonprofit, create a concept and image based on its mission and donate the art to the nonprofit. There will be an exhibit displaying this year’s works at the Boll Family YMCA through the end of October.

“Part of my vision is to help the young artists launch their careers, but we want to be doing cool and generous things in the community too,” Elmer says. “It’s about finding how you put the two together.”

Some ways that Mint is working to do this is through building public art installations, adding corporate clients and hosting more events. On November 3rd, they will host the Mint Masterpieces Gala at the home of art collectors Linda and David Whitaker. Tickets start at $100 and pieces will be sold and auctioned from a variety of well-respected national and local artists, as well as a few pieces from Mint artists and alumni. Proceeds will help provide supplies and funding for Mint Artists Guild.

In the three years since its founding, Mint has seen a lot of success from its artists and alumni. They’ve mentored 525 young artists, donated over 30 pieces to Paint Detroit with Generosity nonprofits, and their artists have raised over $7000 from their work.

ONE MAJOR SUCCESS STORY is jewelry artist Trinity Brown, who joined the Learn and Earn program two years ago at age 13. She has now created the Curved Teen Art Show – an all-day exhibit featuring the work of 25 young artists –and is on the board of directors for Mint.

“She is super entrepreneurial – like, I can’t believe how entrepreneurial,” Elmer says.

“This is a girl who’s not even 16 yet, can’t even drive yet, and meanwhile she still makes her jewelry and has put on her own art show.”

Other smaller successes include watching a student’s confidence grow through exploring art and seeing artists finding their true passion.

“I love the idea that in ten years we are going to have so many more success stories and so many more self-portraits,” Elmer says.

The Mint Artists Guild functions mainly through the help of volunteers. Currently they have 45 volunteers who help at workshops, art openings, and art fairs. Those interested can apply through volunteermatch.org.

By Sara Teller

MEGH HOLLOWELL IS LIVING PROOF THAT SUCCESS IS BORN OUT OF STRUGGLE. In April of this year, she received a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree with a concentration in Nonprofit Management. “I’ve been working in the nonprofit sector for over ten years and had been trying to climb the ladder,” she says of her decision to go to graduate school, although a job title far from defines her. While proud of her achievement, she adds, “I don’t worry so much anymore about climbing the professional ladder. I go at my own pace and hope that I evoke change along the way.” After all, it’s the fact that she’s persevered through life’s ebbs and flows that really matters.

In looking back on her life, Hollowell recalls, “I dropped out of high school my junior year to work full time. I had left my dysfunctional relationship with my mother and started a journey I called, ‘Who am I without my mother?’ I moved around a lot – playing music, writing poetry, womanizing, and living in complete manic highs and lows.”

She eventually decided to enroll at a local community college. “It wasn’t until an instructor told me I should apply to undergrad that I ever felt I would get an education,” she says. “I applied to the one college she recommended and finished my undergrad in two years, receiving a BA in Journalism and English.”

But she didn’t stop there. “I decided to go to grad school in 2009 after I did some campaign work in Arizona,” she explains. “Working towards my MPA degree meant that I could accomplish something. That I could fit in a normal world; a box. I had been living life so hard outside of the box I just wanted to fit in.”

And, she did it at her own pace. “After nine years in-and-out of school, I’ve come to realize that I received my education through my experiences, not a textbook or lectures,” Hollowell says. “I’m grateful I was able to start and finish something.”

HOLLOWELL EXPERIENCED FOUR TRAUMATIC LOSSES in less than two years while struggling to complete her degree – the passing of her grandfather, nana, and mom, and her beloved dog. She said, “Graduating with my MPA degree was very much for my grandpa, my nana, and my mom. I felt I needed to honor them by taking the last few steps towards completion.”

She was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013 shortly after her first marriage had just ended. “I remember feeling like I had failed at life. I couldn’t function – at work or at home. I was stuck inside myself. And I just wanted it to end,” she says. Now, she adds, “Medication has helped manage my psychosis and mood disorder. But I’m still in survival mode. I’m learning how I can be in the now and move from surviving to thriving.”

Hollowell’s mom took her own life. “As I sorted through her things, it became clear to me how hard she tried to live. To love and be loved. She wanted to find the joy of living. I fight for my own life every day. I fight it in honor of my mom, because I know she lived for me,” she says.

Hollowell has since remarried, and calls Naomi “the love of my life,” adding, “She has been my greatest support system these last three years.” The couple lives in Hazel Park, although Hollowell has strong ties to Ferndale, she explains, “I lived and worked in downtown Ferndale for many years previously and loved being part of the LGBTQ community.”

She works for a nonprofit as a development associate, where she loves serving underrepresented communities. “It’s really important to me to serve communities that helped shape who I try to be. A kind, compassionate, truthful person,” she says.

Of how she views life, Hollowell says, “I do see beauty in the world. Sometimes unbearable, unspeakable beauty. Looking from the outside in, it might be natural to assume that the difficult things I’ve experienced would blind me to what’s amazing in my life. That is simply not the case.”

By Sara E. Teller

THE MISSION OF HAZEL PARK’S COMMUNITY COALITION is “to reduce youth substance abuse and support a healthy environment … in Hazel Park.” The team is dedicated to “reducing the abuse of illegal drugs, alcohol, and pills among not only our teen population but our community as a whole.”

In order to carry out this mission, the group works under the State-funded umbrella organization, Alliance Coalitions for Healthy Communities, and hosts a variety of campaigns, rainings, and after-school events, while publishing a wealth of literature designed to spread awareness.

“My hope is to create an impact, and start a wave that will wash over the entire Hazel Park community,” said Jared Gajos, the group’s Executive Director. “The Coalition was first thought of in October 2016 and was set in stone in March 2017. So we’ve really only been around for a little more than a year and already we’re seeing some positive effects.”

THE COMMUNITY COALITION initially sent out an assessment to determine what the biggest substance abuse issues are in Hazel Park. The group surveyed high schoolers and community members, and determined the primary focus need-ed to be on marijuana and alcohol. From there, the Coalition encouraged individuals to come forward and offer ideas for curtailing these issues. At the same time, they began to offer information not only geared toward the issue itself, but ancillary sub-stance abuse issues as well.

“We wanted to put out information on all of the effects. For instance, let’s say you have kids, under-go back surgery, and are given a bottle of Vicodin. You take a few and put the rest up in your cup-board. Are you checking that they’re all still there? Counting the pills? Who’s to say your loved ones aren’t selling them? If you see a student with a plastic bottle filled with clear liquid, do you assume it’s water? Don’t take things for granted. Open up lines of communication.”

There was some hesitation from the community to come forward at first. “In the beginning, students weren’t sure if they should get involved,” Gajos explained. “But we kept pushing the fact that we’re not a police force. We’re here to offer information, a helping hand. Eventually, more and more parents and students felt comfortable getting involved.”

The organization has been able to offer a variety of fun events. “Recently, we decided to begin hosting an alternative spring break, winter break, and mid-winter break,” Gajos said. “We partnered with Hazel Park’s ice arena and offered dollar-skate days. This got people out of the house and offered them an affordable activity.”

Gajos, who graduated from Hazel Park High School in 2013, now has an office inside the school, making him easily accessible to students hoping to open up about their concerns. He attended Michigan State University, graduating in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and minors in French and international peace and justice.

“When I graduated, I got an offer to interview for the Coalition position and decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did,” he said. “I’m not a licensed counselor but I can offer information and resources to those interested.” He is also employed at the City offices, assisting with social media and outreach, and promotes Community Coalition events through the city pages.

IN THE COMING MONTHS, the organization is hoping to address the issue of vaping as well,garnering support from local and statewide govern-mental offices. This is a topic that will continue to be on the table in coming meetings. “We meet up with all of the groups in the area once a month to talk about what’s working and what’s not and offer recommendations. It’s all about starting a dialogue and helping the community in any way we can.”

Volunteers hoping to get involved in Hazel Park’s Community Coalition events can email Gajos at jared.gajos@hazelparkschools.org. “As specific as the organization’s goals are, be open to the possibility that this may be something you should get involved with. Whether you’re struggling with ad-diction, in recovery, have a family member in recovery, or have never been exposed to this but are curious about it, check us out. Start a conversation and help break down barriers.”