Dec 2019/Jan 2020

By Sara E. Teller

VITRINE GALLERY & GIFTS OPENED IN DECEMBER 2017. The Berkley location was perfect because it included both a studio and retail space, according to owner Susan Rogal.

“We jumped on it,” she said. “Later, I would understand more fully the incredible sense of community in Berkley. I have been in retail for almost 40 years, and it’s rare to find men shoppers, couples shopping together, just happy shoppers. Every hour of every day there are lovely people in here.”

The name of the store is a French word meaning “a glass display case filled with treasures,” she explained, and it was inspired by a shabby chic antique hutch Rogal found with a glass front. This would also be incorporated into Vitrine’s logo.

In the retail space, shoppers can explore a multitude of treasures, including clothing, accessories, housewares, food, and other goodies made by artists and artisans. Vitrine also features garden accessories, handcrafted baskets, and a spa area with many handmade soaps and bath bombs. SERV, Ten Thousand Villages, and many others are on display, with products also available for purchase online.

ROGAL SAID, “THE STORE IS FOR LOCAL ARTISTS, artisans, potters, jewelers, and crafters. We feature many local artists and foods, soap artists, pens, and many other products each month. We have Wee Bee Jammin’ jams and Sanders Chocolates. The shop has also become the flagship store for Kari Hughes’ Buy the Change line. We have an art show once a month, and we also curate the art through the Berkley Public Library, which offers even more exposure.”

She added, “It’s really a trip around the world, and we bring in new stuff once a month. Our vegan handbag line has quite a following. We searched the world for a wonderful collection with phenomenal prices. Many people buy more than one!”

To add to the eclectic and one-of-a-kind ambiance, there is a door at the back that annexes to Holy Cannoli’s Bakery which fills Vitrine with incredible bakery smells and allows guests to experience both businesses at once. The studio also serves as Rogal’s workspace for her other endeavor, Artwear Detroit, a company that transfers local artwork onto items available at Vitrine and elsewhere. The company’s mission is to support regional artists and their contribution to Detroit’s legacy.

ROGAL BELIEVES IN A “DO GOOD, FEEL GOOD” mantra and remembers as a child her mother sponsoring children in developing countries through World Vision.

“She would always have their pictures on the wall and would refer to them as her other children,” she remembered fondly. “Now that she’s passed, I wanted to do something for her – offer a memorial gift – and I also wanted to do something extra to show how much we care. This became a very personal journey.”

She added, “We decided to have some of our profits go towards sponsoring six kids in Haiti, all from the same village. And, eventually the goal is to support ten. Doing it this way, we can extend our resources to the entire area, supporting healthcare, clean water, safety and education. It goes towards the whole community.”

Through Vitrine and Artwear Detroit, Rogal is truly able to exemplify her personal mission of giving back. “It’s my hope that as the world gets smaller with resources like the Internet we’ll all begin to realize we can make a difference.”

By Sara E. Teller

LEGAL RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA IS COMING TO FERNDALE’S progressive and welcoming community. One business emerging to serve the new market is LIV. The company was founded in 2017 with its headquarters positioned downtown. The Ferndale location’s grand opening was held on September 16, 2019.

“We held a weeklong celebration to commemorate our arrival to the great city of Ferndale,” said Sara Ramos, LIV’s Human Resource Director. “Our mission here at LIV is to provide the city and its neighbors with state tested medicine in a clean, friendly, and safe environment, while delivering a very high-level of customer service.”

Ramos said the company chose Ferndale because “the founders of LIV have deep roots in Ferndale, that stretch over the last 20 years.” She added, “We love the city of Ferndale for many reasons, but one thing that sticks out is its culture. This city has a unique, open-minded, and progressive personality which makes you feel welcome no matter what walk of life you come from. I think we fit well into the culture of wellness and bettering yourself. We love talking to people and being able to help them in ways that increase their quality of life.”

MINOU CAREY JONES, THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE BLACK CAUCUS FOUNDATION OF MICHIGAN, who is also involved with the Southeast Oakland Coalition, part of the Michigan Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities, said that Ferndale has to be careful to invite in the right businesses. Jones said, “Ferndale, specifically, has thrived off of good businesses and good business practices. It has been known for being a very liberal community and [the City] needs to be careful, in choosing to allow recreational marijuana, that business owners understand Ferndale’s expectations, and follow regulations and laws.”

She added that a potential concern could be increased traffic for the sole purpose of buying product. Jones said, “Any time you are increasing access to a product, then you are going to undoubtedly have more people coming to the community. Do you want people from bordering communities coming into your community to purchase marijuana? Does current law enforcement have the capacity to enforce the additional people that come into the community?”

Justin Lyons, Ferndale’s Planning Manager, said the City responded to voters and established guidelines for allowing these companies into the area. “In response to the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act (MRTMA), approved by Michigan voters with Proposal 1 on November 6, 2018, the City of Ferndale amended ordinances related to marijuana establishments,” he said. “The community voted to approve Proposal 1 by a large margin and the City Council directed staff to amend the ordinances to allow access to recreational marijuana. The ordinance permits three marijuana retailer licenses. A marijuana retailer shall not be allowed within 500 feet of an educational institution, nursery school, or childcare center, or another marijuana retailer facility, provisioning center or medical marijuana facility.”

Ramos said, “Ferndale has welcomed us with open arms. We’re so grateful for all the love everyone has shown us during our grand opening and every day since. We really feel appreciated and proud to be providing the city with something that has the potential to change so many people’s lives for the better.”

LIV is committed to benefiting the community in positive ways, too. “We make sure to take the time to answer questions for residents that have concerns about the industry and need clarification,” Ramos said, adding, “LIV takes pride in being involved with the local community. We have only been open about nine weeks and are proud to say we have already made an impact. We donated 40 skateboards to underprivileged skaters during the skatepark grand opening. LIV is supplying 200 local families in need of a Thanksgiving meal and have an ongoing coat drive for a local foundation.”

JONES’ BIGGEST CONCERN IS ENSURING THAT RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA stays out of the hands of minors, and emphasizes that retailers are not the suppliers. She said, “The Coalition works very hard to educate voters on the potential impact [of legal recreational marijuana] through lessons learned in Colorado. It’s here now. The Coalition and people who work to protect the health of youths in general are tasked with ensuring it stays out of the hands of minors. Parents and those who use marijuana should be locking it up. For the most part, underaged use of alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and prescription drugs – the primary source does not come from retailers.”

Jones added, “Generally, retailers and businesses in Ferndale are very much in compliance with laws. Primary access points are older adults, siblings, and strangers. We can’t solely pin blame or look to target efforts to reduce substance abuse to dispensaries and retailers. Look at all access points and determine the community’s role in educating retailers, parents, schools and other stakeholders.”

Some products are potentially more attractive to kids than others, Jones said, explaining, “I’m particularly worried about the packaging and labeling of edibles. They’re not as harmful as alcohol, but there are regulations for alcohol labeling,” and she believes recreational marijuana should follow the same guidelines. “Edibles look like gummy bears, brownies, cookies, and fruit loops,” Jones warned. “Similar to alcohol, prescription drugs and other legal substances, lawmakers, parents, and teachers all need to make sure we’re protecting our youth.”

VAPING IS ALREADY “A HUGE ISSUE,” she added. “One-in-three youth vape marijuana concentrate, which burns at a different heating point than nicotine. A vaping device is not made for marijuana, and we have devices blowing up and causing personal injury. Increased awareness around the dangers and potential consequences is needed.”

When asked if more dispensaries and retailers were on the way in, Lyons responded, “The City permitted three medical marijuana provisioning centers licenses in Summer 2019 and those three facilities are now open. The City opened the applications for marijuana retailer establishments on November 2, 2019, and applications will be reviewed by City Council after March 1, 2020.”

For more information, visit the City of Ferndale’s website,

By Andrea Grimaldi

FOR OVER 30 YEARS THE HAZEL PARK HOLIDAY BASKETS PROGRAM has provided local families and senior citizens with meals, gifts, and winter gear, while also providing students with a hands-on charitable experience. From fundraising to donation gathering and sorting, the Holiday Baskets program is a community-wide effort only growing better with each passing year.

Each year, families and citizens in need can apply for a free gift basket at any Hazel Park school, the Library, City Hall, or the Fire and Police Stations. All applications returned by December 2nd are considered. The only requirements are Hazel Park residency and financial hardship. Pick-up confirmations and reminders are e-mailed, and the day of distribution is a private event with a small number of volunteers for a discreet delivery. Basket pickup takes place at Webb Elementary (2100 Woodward Heights Blvd. in Ferndale) on December 14. In the past, the committee aimed for nearly 400 baskets each year. However, the past two years saw a decrease in applications down to 250-275 baskets – still an impressive feat, but hopefully a sign of less families in need.

Each family and household receives one basket, which contains a variety of canned goods, cereal, and other nonperishable foods, a $25 Kroger gift card, and a holiday ham (packed separately). This is enough for a filling holiday meal with extras to pack the pantry. Hats, gloves, scarves, and socks are also included, as well as board games and books for each child in every family. The baskets are created specifically with each family in mind based on the applications.

ALL DONATIONS ARE WELCOMED AND ENCOURAGED. Donated canned goods go far for this project. Newly purchased books, toys, board games, and winter gear are also needed. Monetary contributions help ensure every specific item is available for every basket, and bulks up the reserve fund for next year. Donations can be dropped off at any Hazel Park school or at the Ford Administration Building at 1620 E. Elza Avenue in Hazel Park until December 12th.

Hazel Park students are encouraged to donate or hold canned food drives and fundraising events. The students also help with organizing the donations, giving them hands-on experience with giving back to their community. Local businesses have played an integral role through the years with generous donations and financial contributions.

Volunteers will gather on December 13 at Webb Elementary from 8:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. to package the baskets. The volunteers include students, school staff both current and retired, residents and legislators. The day has a social feel with old friends and colleagues catching up and working together toward an amazing goal.

DR. AMY KRUPPE, HAZEL PARK SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT and member of the Holiday Baskets committee, describes the process as nothing short of inspiring. “We are really lucky to have this amazing group putting this together. Hazel Park is a wonderful city to live and work in, with so many people opening their hearts.”

Donations can be dropped off at all Hazel Park schools, as well as the Ford Administration building. Volunteers are welcome to join on the packing day, December 13. All questions or volunteer/donation inquiries can be answered on the Holiday Basket hotline at (248) 658-5210.

AS FOUNDER, OWNER, AND MEDICAL DIRECTOR, Dr. Paul Benson sets the tone for the Be Well Medical Center. The practice reflects the philosophy that Dr. Benson has developed over the course of 40 years dedicated to his profession and his patients.

Family Practice

As a family medicine practice, Be Well Medical Center provides primary medical care for people of all ages, treating many common conditions from diabetes to high blood pressure, while also maintaining relationships with other health care providers and facilities for people who need more specialized care.

Dr. Benson refers to his practice as “your neighbor-hood medical center with a heart,” because he is committed to the principle that while ideal patient care requires keeping up with the latest relevant advances in medical knowledge, treatments, and technology, it also requires never losing sight of the human side of medicine. A family practitioner especially – who often maintains lifelong relationships with patients, in some cases across multiple generations in a family – needs to manifest virtues including patience, being a good listener, and compassion in order to provide the best care.

Be Well Medical Center offers evening hours four days a week, as well as some Saturday hours for patients’ convenience. Their staff of health care providers and support staff are all highly capable and have been trained by Dr. Benson to reflect his practice’s philosophy.

Helping people live healthier lifestyles, and preventing health problems rather than waiting for them to arise before addressing them, requires good communication between doctor and patient. To facilitate this, Dr. Benson contends, a family practice must create an atmosphere of honesty and trust, where people feel comfortable speaking frankly, asking and answering questions, providing information, admitting concerns and fears, etc., even when it comes to personal and potentially sensitive aspects of their life and health.

Sexual Health

If there is something that sets Dr. Benson and Be Well Medical Center apart from many other family practices, it is his conviction—informed by decades of experience—that sexual health is an under appreciated and underemphasized aspect of health care.

As defined by the World Health Organization, “Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality; not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual Dr. Benson refers to his practice as “your health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, [and] the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.”

A family doctor, Dr. Benson contends, must not regard addressing the sexual health of his or her patients as optional or as of minor importance. Not when we live in a time when—just to mention a few relevant and concerning points—there are more than 110 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in this country, the lifetime risk of contracting HIV for African American men who have sex with men is approximately 50%, the long-declining rates of gonorrhea and syphilis have in recent years reversed direction and risen, approximately half of all new STIs each year occur among people 24 years of age and younger, and studies show that people tend to drastically underestimate their likelihood of contracting HIV.

Addressing sexual health with one’s patients has multiple components: sexual history discussions, sex education, and STI testing. Dr. Benson maintains that if you are the physician responsible for providing a person’s primary medical care, taking your patient’s sexual history should be as much a routine part of your job as taking their blood pressure or asking about their allergies. A sexual history should be taken on a new patient’s initial visit, whenever the patient receives a routine preventive exam, and whenever there are indications of an STI.

A discussion of sexual health should include educating the patient with current information regarding HIV and other STIs and their prevention, including addressing appropriate condom use with any sexually active patient. Individuals deemed at risk for STIs should be encouraged to get tested regularly, every 3 to 6 months depending on the degree and nature of the risk.

Sexual health is a matter close to Dr. Benson’s heart. He has been on the forefront in the battle against HIV since before the terms “HIV” and “AIDS” even existed. He has seen far too many lives damaged and lives lost as a result of inadequate communication, education, and understanding of risk concerning sexual matters. In addition to being board certified in Family Medicine, he is accredited as an HIV Specialist by the American Academy of HIV Medicine.

Dr. Benson has published extensively in medical journals, has been the principal investigator for many therapeutic drug trials in the HIV field, and is a national speaker on many health-related issues. He has served as President of the St. John Oakland Physicians Organization, as well as of the local Berkley Rotary Club. Dr. Benson’s pledge to the community is that Be Well Medical Center will always be open and welcoming to those of all races, genders, ages, orientations, etc. All people who walk in the door are respected, valued, and accepted as deserving of individualized care.

By Andrea Grimaldi

ONE OF THE MANY WAYS THE HAZEL PARK SCHOOL DISTRICT supports its families and neighbors is by teaming up with the Gleaners Community Food Bank for the School Mobile Food Pantry.

Since 2016, Hazel Park Schools and Gleaners have worked together to gather fresh and canned food to give to over 100 families each month. The importance of keeping students healthy and fed cannot be understated, as Superintendent Dr. Amy Kruppe explains; “We know that facilitating the nourishment of our youth and their families does positively impact their learning capacity.”

The program aims to supplement up to 125 families with one or two full grocery bags of food. On delivery day, families in need arrive at the Hazel Park School District Ford Administration Building at 1620 E Elza and line up in their cars in the parking lot and down East Elza Street. A volunteer brings a form to the vehicle for the family to fill out, followed by the bag of food. Parents and guardians can also register for reminders on the MIStar Parent Portal. The distribution is first-come-first-serve and, due to the limited supplies, families are encouraged to arrive early.

EACH FAMILY RECEIVES A BAG CONTAINING 20 TO 30 POUNDS WITH A VARIETY of fresh fruits, vegetables, and dry goods, a gallon of milk, frozen meat, and/or eggs. Families with six or more members receive two bags. Any leftover food is saved for the food pantry available to students in the Hazel Park school district. Lisa Chrouch-Johnson, HP Schools Community Representative, encourages all students and families in need to reach out. This is not limited to food: She is available to help with other needs like paying bills, eyeglasses and medical and counseling referrals. She can be reached at (248) 6585209, or

Volunteers are always welcome. The students at Advantage Alternative High School make up a large part of the Mobile Food Pantry volunteers, but everyone is encouraged to help out. Contact Lisa Chrouch-Johnson to find out about volunteer opportunities. December’s distribution day is on the 20th at 9:30 A.M. at the School District Ford Administration Building. Food and financial donations can be given directly to the Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan. They can be contacted at 866-GLEANER or

By Mary Meldrum

THE ROYAL OAK FIRST UNITED METHODIST SACK LUNCH PROGRAM is designed specifically to feed the homeless. I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Mark Thatcher, one of the Executive Directors of this 25-year-old program.

Thatcher said the program started 25 years ago as a very small and occasional project where church staff simply began offering local homeless people their own bagged lunches. After a few years they moved the lunch-making program into the church.

As their efforts grew, they began receiving donations of all sorts, and eventually began making and serving hot soup in the winter months. This grew into an entirely hot meal served Monday through Friday at the church.

Even while renovations to the church were underway the past four years, volunteers began distributing full hot meals every day of the week. Homeless patrons were fed on the steps, and then in the newly renovated fellowship hall.

CURRENTLY, APPROXIMATELY 40 VOLUNTEERS provide the free lunch for up to 65 homeless people
every day, which consists of a sandwich, chips, drink, cookies and applesauce or soup. Every Friday there is a hot chicken meal.

This legacy program has deep roots and has grown from a small seed of a grand gesture of church members surrendering their lunches to the homeless into 10,000 bagged lunches plus 10,000 hot meals every year. The ROFUM Church Sack Lunch Program has scaled up with the increased need for this type of mission work in the area.

As a mission-centric organization, they have a need for more volunteers. If you have an interest in helping out, please note that at least half of the current volunteers do not attend church services. Thatcher and his wife, Catherine Thatcher organize the Sack Lunch Program, but Mark wanted me to know that the church also has a food pantry, and clothes are donated, as well. What do they need? Food, clothing, volunteers, money and help.

The Royal Oak First United Methodist Church is located at 320 7th Street in downtown Royal Oak. You can reach out to Karen at the Royal Oak First United Methodist Church at 248-541-4100.

By David Ryals

MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK”, says Pastor Jim Pool of Renaissance Vineyard Church in Ferndale. The church volunteers have been helping people in Ferndale, Berkley, Clawson and other communities for over two decades.

Jim was in the Army for a short time before becoming a pastor. “For every infantryman on the front lines, there were seven heroic women and men making what that soldier did possible. You might say the Renaissance Vineyard Church is a little like that. Our church is filled with heroic women and men and kids caring for people on the frontlines in need, serving and supporting the great business, educational and civic leaders we have in our community.”

“Each Thanksgiving we distribute 60 Thanksgiving feasts to local families in need. Most of these families are already participants in our pantry program. We provide a turkey and two large boxes filled with all the food for a happy holiday feast. We partner with 5th grade students from the Ferndale Upper Elementary to help us pack the boxes.”

“We do a smaller drive at Christmas time. Our food pantry helps support our Warming Center, a weeklong overnight shelter for our homeless neighbors in need. We host about 100 women and men in our building for the week, providing dinner, hospitality and friendship, access to our clothing closet, a safe place to sleep, and breakfast in the morning. The Warming Center this year operates from the evening of Sunday, Dec. 29 to Sunday, Jan. 5. We will happily receive food donations of all sorts for this, financial gifts to help offset the cost, and we welcome community members to serve alongside as volunteers.”

The food pantry has been part of Renaissance VC since it’s foundation. It began at First Baptist Church of Ferndale more than a decade ago, so that now the pantry is just over 20 years old.

“Two of the early volunteers were Judy McRobb and Shirley Wade, who tirelessly built the program. The food pantry team is now led by Doug Gillespie, who is passionate about helping people in need, and has helped strengthen the work. In a typical month, the food pantry serves more than 80 families and over 150 individuals. In addition to Gleaners, we receive food from Forgotten Harvest, and private donations from community members like you, the reader!”

The pantry distributes food twice each month, typically the late afternoons of the first and third Mondays. They have other opportunities to serve during the week. If you would like to receive food, call 248-545-4664. The food pantry and clothing closet are open to anyone. No one is required to pay, pray or work to receive food or clothing.

“Finally, on behalf of Doug Gillespie and the whole pantry team, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to everyone who has supported us and served alongside us with food, laughter, hard work and volunteer hours throughout the years. It is truly a community effort.”