News

By Sarah E. Teller

VERY RECENTLY, THERE WERE FOUR NEARLY LIFE-SIZED STATUES OF GIRAFFES standing in the last of Ferndale’s large green spaces adjacent to the controversial Pinecrest Holdings mixed housing development that’s been underway for quite some time.

Nearby, a sign read: “Giraffes are the first to flee danger. A developer wants to clearcut the woods, dig up the soil/contamination will spread over our homes and FHS students. Save our last green space!” Not long after being placed, however, the statues and the sign were removed by local law enforcement.

According to the artist and sculptor responsible for the message (who wishes to remain anonymous), “Giraffes are the first critters to flee an area when there’s severe strife. It goes back to a native, mythological belief that because of their long necks, giraffes can see trouble before it happens. They can see into the future and know when something’s coming.”

He said he wanted to make a statement about eliminating the city’s last green space, especially because he considers himself a “friend to the environment” and uses only natural materials in his art.

“There were four giraffes altogether – a mom, dad, and two kids. Police cut down the sign. The little ones are gone. The mom and dad have been knocked down. All in all, I have about four months of work in it and $350, including 37 yards of fabric, some jute cord, 200 feet of chicken wire, and spray paint. As a nature lover, this green space is important to me. There are old trees there that will be cut down. The developer said they’re going to save as many trees a possible, but what does that mean? Before you know it, they’ll just say they couldn’t save anything.”

URBAN PLANNING MASTER’S DEGREE CANDIDATE, Leah Deasy, provided some additional insight into the status of the development project. “Process-wise, I believe the City has received application materials from the developer, Pinecrest Holdings LLC, seeking site plan approval for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) on the two parcels south of the high school on Pinecrest. The last word from City staff was that these materials are in the process of being reviewed. They have not yet been made public.” She added, “Pending completion of the application and staff review, the PUD formal application could come before the Planning Commission for a vote on December 5 or 19. Before a vote, the Planning Commission will take public comment on the project. If approved by the Planning Commission, the PUD moves on to City Council for approval.”

Jordan Twardy, Director of Community and Economic Development for the City of Ferndale, confirmed, “The project team is currently responding to feedback from their last appearance at the Planning Commission in July 2018 as well as the recent community meeting in October 2018. Critical next steps include a more detailed site plan and a development agreement. If those pieces are completed by the developers and submitted to the City, they could appear before the Planning Commission.”

NOT ALL RESIDENTS ARE PLEASED, HOWEVER. “I would say that there has been a lot of concern from residents on the environmental conditions of the site,” said Deasy. “Residents are very concerned, thoughtful and deliberate. We want to know exactly what risks we are facing from contaminants at the site currently and what risks we could be exposed to by disrupting it. What I’ve observed so far is that residents still have so many unanswered questions that they don’t feel anyone has enough information yet to responsibly make a decision of this magnitude.”

She continued, “The community also feels hurt by the misdeeds of past landowners at this site – Ethyl Corporation using the forest as a dumping ground for trash and chemicals and the needless destruction of Ferndale’s only Albert Kahn-designed house, circa 2012. It is a hard pill to swallow to think that no one can be held responsible for past actions at this site and that we have little choice but to consent to more destruction for its future.”

The local artist added, “The developer is not being specific about the plans. This is another big problem I have with this. They’re not being honest with us or the City, and the City says it’s private property so they can do anything they want.”

A group of concerned individuals, who’ve coined themselves the Southwest Neighborhood Association, has formed in order to discuss the issues at hand. “There was a meeting with the City. The City is not interested in a parcel of land, and Pinecrest Holdings LLC doesn’t own the land, they only have an option to buy. Just come out and be honest with us – no ifs, ands or buts.”

Deasy explained, “There is clear consensus from residents, however, that any development should be concentrated on the south portion of the site and that the forest area towards the mid-north end of the site should be preserved for the benefit of the community. We desire to see dense, walkable, mixed-use development on the 8 Mile frontage of the property, at the corner of 8 Mile and Pinecrest, and for the 15 acres of forest to remain intact. We’d like the nature that has made this site its home to stay and want the process of bio-remediation that has already started onsite to continue. We think if the developer would think more ‘innovatively’ about the relationship between current and future land use onsite and the value of the ecosystem services already in existence there, we could have something really special.”

Twardy addressed this concern. “The project, if approved as a PUD, will require the preservation of a significant number of old growth trees as well as the provision of north-south and east-west pathways for public use throughout the site,” he said. “In response to public feedback, the developers will also be looking at ways to increase the size and accessibility of open green space and wooded areas. Additionally, space is being set aside –currently proposed for the eastern portion of the site – for a defined public space, which, if the project is approved, would be designed with public input.”

THE ANONYMOUS ARTIST SAID, “There’s a large herd of deer there, coyotes, and it’s home to owls and a couple of species of bats that are endangered. It’s a beautiful place. It really is. It’s been astounding, and it will be heart-wrenching to have it all paved. The City is trying to get revenue generation and tax money, I get it. But it will also cost us money, in additional police and fire resources. And, imagine if you clear-cut everything. Then, it’s August and hasn’t rained in a month to a month and a half. The contamination will scatter, and we’ll all be breathing it and brushing it off our furniture. The students will all breathe it in.”

Addressing clean-up concerns, Twardy said, “The project will be required to, prior to any construction, clean up all contamination in accordance with applicable state and federal environmental standards. The entire site will be required to be cleaned up prior to any development activity. The applicable standards for cleanup also have provisions for ensuring the continued safety of all adjacent and nearby properties. The result would be a situation that is safer and cleaner for the property and surrounding neighborhoods than currently exists today.”

He added, “Additionally, separate from the developer’s efforts, the City has approved funding of up to $20,000 to perform an environmental concerns inventory for the site. We are in the process of also seeing if grant funds can be used to pay for the study. Our goal is to have the study completed in time for the project’s return to the Planning Commission or, at the latest, by the time the project goes forward to City Council for final approval, which would only occur if the Planning Commission were to approve it.”

As far as her personal thoughts regarding the development, Deasy, too, is concerned about the wildlife. “Myself, I often think about the deer. I’m partial to deer and having them intermingled within our city suburbs thrills me. I think that’s something really special to Michigan and Metro Detroit – that we have so many deer and that they are welcome and enjoyed alongside our neighborhoods in places like Troy, Rochester Hills and Farmington Hills,” she said. “A lot of the people focus on the trees on this site – and they are huge and amazing, but they also provide a habitat for deer and this is the only place I know of in Ferndale where deer live. When we remove the last deer habitat in the city, we are unequivocally stating that wildlife is not welcome in Ferndale. I also think the destruction of this forest will have a negative impact on our air quality, heat index and storm water retention that we do not fully understand.”

She added that the communal power of local residents shouldn’t be discounted or ignored. “Regardless of the outcome of this specific site development, neighbors have bonded together to build community. We’ve met and become familiar with people on our blocks and across our corner of the city and Royal Oak Township. We’ve organized a neighborhood association that we intend to formalize by seeking guidance from more established organizations and to continue working to make our awesome community even better. We are working together to harness our communal power and we have lots of ideas.”

Story By Rebecca Hammond  Photo By Dwight Cendrowski

ONE DOESN’T USUALLY EXPECT A FEELING of mild intimidation associated with the task of interviewing two renowned peaceniks.

Sometimes, however, you can find yourself anticipating a conversation with a real sense of awe.

THAT’S HOW I FELT LAST WEEK, walking over to visit local Peace Action members, Helen Weber and Frank O’Donnell. An article on Helen and Frank’s work could have been done at any time, given their dedication. But they happen to have just won a Lifetime Achievement Award, as “Peacebuilders,” presented by Peace Action of Michigan.

Helen currently runs Peace Action’s board and Frank is treasurer, but each has spent time in various roles. Michigan’s office, in the Pioneer Building on West 9 Mile in downtown Ferndale, is an affiliate of the national organization, which Helen also once co-chaired. She visited Washington several times a year and weighed in on issues in conference calls. Frank told me that the national organization “started in 64. Right after the first Nevada (atomic) test, Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein realized that something extraordinary had happened, and they formed the group.

“In the ‘80s, here in Michigan, there was a group called the Nuclear Freeze. Nuclear Freeze and Peace Action combined and then became Peace Action.”

Helen and Frank have been involved for so many decades, they were unsure of the exact year they got started. Frank thought it was “probably in the mid-to-late 1980s. We have a good friend, Deborah Williamson. She was very active with Nuclear Freeze and she saw that the merger [with Peace Action] wasn’t really going that well, so she invited us to a two-day workshop at Schoolcraft Community College and that’s where we met the whole group. Debbie was also on the school board with me.”

Helen added that this was when they got to know Doug and Pat Lent, the namesakes of the Peacebuilder Celebration where the lifetime achievement award was presented. Like many of us who join a group, Helen and Frank were just members at first, leaders later. Helen said, “I guess we were just interested in peace.”

One commitment led to another.

Frank: “We got involved with a group in Detroit that was part of the national opposition to the Vietnam war. We just had some friends who introduced us to all of that.

We met the great Morris Gleicher (a former president of the Michigan ACLU); his daughter Elizabeth was just reelected to the Michigan Appeals Court. It was just the person-to-person contacts over the years.”

HELEN TOLD ME THAT A GOAL OF PEACE ACTION is to “always try to involve more of our members and reach out to more people around the state who can be involved. If it turned out there was a good nucleus in some other part of the state, they could be an affiliate. To the extent that someone was interested, we could work with them to set up their own chapter.” Frank added, “There are three centers outside of Detroit where we have a lot of members: Kalamazoo, East Lansing, and Traverse City.”

Peace Action is now attempting to engage more of the younger generation. Here’s one way. “At this dinner they announced a new scholarship, The Frank O’Donnell and Helen Weber Young Adults for Nuclear Abolition Scholarship, for either a student or a teacher with the goal of assisting this communication, how to work together with the younger generation.” Helen added, “We need to help that happen. The fund has been established and donations have been made, and that’s going to enable us to do more with a new group.” A committee is forming to work out the details of the application and award process. A Detroit tradition called The Buck Dinner, started decades ago by a group of civil rights attorneys, will provide some of the funding.

Helen and Frank are fond of several of Peace Action’s ongoing projects, including the Monday-afternoon gatherings at Woodward and 9 Mile (15 years and counting) and the 2,000+ plus members of their statewide-and-beyond mailing list, who receive the quarterly newsletter. But there are some disappointments, a major one being the Iraq war. Peace Action of Michigan sent buses to large protests in New York and Washington, but “it was sad that we weren’t able to be more effective in slowing it down or stopping it,” Frank said.

Helen said she was always interested in peace, and Frank remembers being taken at age seven by his dad to picket with the UAW at the Dodge plant in Hamtramck. He mused that now at age 87 he and Helen are still involved with issues in Hamtramck, one being a mural for the Bangladeshi community there, who Frank called “marvelous, lovely, and dedicated.” These are words that could not apply more to Frank and Helen themselves.

Were they surprised to receive this year’s award? Helen said, “Yes. I think this was the sixteenth year our mission group has done this and sometimes there might be three or four people. It was kind of unusual that it was just two people, but we’re a package.”

They are indeed, one that greatly benefits our community. Well done, Helen and Frank.

Story By Maggie Boyle

THE MOVIE THEATRE SHOOTING IN AURORA, THE SHOOTING AT THE ORLANDO NIGHT CLUB, and other high-profile school shootings like Sandy Hook and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have all increased public awareness of dangerous situations in public places.

Programs to educate the public about violent intruders are becoming more common. Ferndale Police Department (FPD) has begun active intruder training for the public and for Ferndale businesses. In late September, Sergeants Dan Kuzdal and Janessa Danielson gave a presentation for the general public, held at the Ferndale Public Library.

“We want to inform businesses and organizations to prepare,” said Sgt. Kuzdal, an 11-year veteran with FPD and a member of the SWAT team. “We rely on the public to be prepared as much as possible.”

Recently, the Credit Union One Staff in Ferndale was scheduled for active intruder training, according to Sgt. Baron Brown, FPD Community Engagement and Public Information Officer.

Dangerous situations do not always involve shootings. In September 2018, a teen was stabbed to death at Warren Fitzgerald High School. Sgt. Danielson, who uses the term “Active Intruder Training” rather than “Active Shooter Training,” points out, “It’s not just a gun all the time.” Sgt. Danielson has been with FPD for 14 years, and serves as the school resource officer. She has conducted mock drills on active shooter and other dangerous situations. Sgt. Danielson noted, “Homicide is a leading cause of workplace death for women.”

Although most research has focused on school violence events, the lessons learned from school violence translates to surviving violence in other workplaces. Law enforcement response in these situations has evolved over the years. For example, the trend is moving away from assembling SWAT teams in favor of solo entry by a police officer.

Another evolving area includes changes to the traditional “lockdown” response to a violent intruder. Traditionally, people were instructed to hide under desks or chairs. There are problems with that approach. “When you are lying under a chair or desk, you are an easy target,” Sgt. Danielson said.

Three problems have been identified with the passive approach in a traditional “lockdown”, Sgt. Danielson said. “What if you can’t get to the locked location? What if the intruder has keys? What if the intruder is already inside with you?”

Modified approaches to the traditional lockdown include options like jumping out windows, if possible, and barricading doors to slow down an intruder. If the intruder does gain entry to your immediate area, throwing things and running away from the intruder is also possible. Sgt. Danielson advises not to run in a straight line away from an intruder. Rather, use a zig-zag path to confuse the intruder. Also, know where your best exit is at all times. Sgt. Danielson points out, “Remember, like on an airplane, the closest exit may be behind you.”

Ferndale Public Schools (FPS) has taken steps to reduce the possibility of school violence. Currently, there are 102 surveillance cameras located in Ferndale High School alone. Sgt. Kuzdal adds that every (FPS) classroom is equipped with a “Jacob Kit.” These trauma kits are available for use, should severe casualties occur. The kits are named for Jacob Hall, a six-year-old who died after massive blood loss during a school shooting.

To learn more about additional active intruder training sessions for Ferndale businesses, call the Ferndale Police Department at (248) 541-3650, press 5, and ask to speak to the Community Engagement Officer.

“We love to hear from the community,” Sgt. Brown said. “We’re an open book.

TIPS FOR DEALING WITH A WORKPLACE SHOOTING:
Run, if a safe path is available.
Try to escape or evacuate even if others insist on staying.
Encourage others to leave with you, but do not let the indecision of others slow down your effort to escape.
Once you are out of the line of fire, try to prevent others from walking into the danger zone and call 9-1-1.
If you cannot get out safely, find a place to hide.
When hiding, turn out lights, remember to lock doors, and silence your ringer and vibration mode on your cell phone.
As a last resort, working together or alone, act with aggression, use improvised weapons, and fight.

Source: Michigan State Police Department

By: Jeff Milo, Circulation Specialist

IT WILL BE SNOWING SOON ENOUGH, making travel and any casual errands less appealing. But if you’re a Ferndale Library cardholder, you can still use plenty of the library’s resources from home. Visit ferndalepubliclibrary.org, and find the icon for “Online Resources” down the right side of the page. You can access links to these resources with a mobile device, but the majority of them are not apps. Otherwise, anyone can use these resources here at the library on our public computers. We’ll highlight some resources in this month’s column:

ONLINE RESOURCES:
Consumer Reports Database: You’ll get full access to product articles, reviews and ratings on cars, appliances, and more, in addition to our print magazine subscription.

Cypress Resume: This online resume builder provides templates and helps you develop/update job descriptions.

RBdigital Magazines: With this mobile app, you can access full-color digital magazines anytime, any-where. Use your phone, iPad, or computer. Includes new and back-listed titles. There are no holds, check-out periods, or limits.

Mango Languages: This is an on-line language learning tool for FADL cardholders to learn more than 70 languages, including English for non-English speakers. Use your computer, or the downloadable app for your iPhone or Android.

AtoZ World Travel: This is a comprehensive travel resource that covers more than 200 cities worldwide, providing information about points of interest, security, transportation, food and recipes, culture, language, and more.

AtoZ Maps Online: You can access modern and historical maps from around the world that you can down-load and print.

Overdrive Download Destination: Download ebooks, audiobooks and movies. You can have six checked out at once. But downloadable files are limited, so anticipate having to place holds for the most popular titles or authors.

Hoopla:  Use your computer or down-load the app (hoopladigital.com) and register your Ferndale Library card to get streamable/downloadable ac-cess to movies, music, TV shows, audiobooks, eBooks, and comics. There are no holds, but you are limited to five checkouts per month.

WI-FI HOTSPOTS: We also still offer our Ferndale Library cardholders the chance to establish a wireless connection to the Internet inside your home, workspace, or even when you’re out on vacation, with our loanable Wi-Fi Hotspots. 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, light-weight, and very intuitive to set up.

KIDS CORNER: Parents of little ones are encouraged to participate in our “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” challenge. Babies, toddlers and small children are eligible right up until the day they start kindergarten. For every 100 books, kids will receive a prize from librarians in the Kids Corner, where they’ll also be adding a leaf to our Reading Tree.

Look out for our Harry Potter Escape Room for kids Friday, Saturday and Sunday 12/28-12/30: Ages 10+ are invited; eight participants will have half an hour to solve a few different puzzles in order to escape the room.

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 Mary MedrumB

MANY PEOPLE KNOW ANDY DIDOROSI AS THE PERSON WHO FOUNDED THE DETROIT BUS COMPANY, AFTER THE M-1 LIGHT RAIL PROJECT WAS PRONOUNCED DEAD IN 2012. About six months later, the Detroit Bus Company was borne out of a collection of used buses, a lot of spare parts and tinkering.

The Detroit Bus Company is available for tours, rentals, and people can purchase rides for school children and youth programs.

Although he has sparked quite a few small businesses, the Detroit Bus Company was Andy’s first well­ known entrepreneurial venture in Detroit. He has conceived of many dozens since, and executed several of those concepts.

These days you can catch Andy on social media hunting down electric “bird” scooters. His adventures with this technology and the citizens of Detroit led to some interesting revelations. The scooter businesses were not really addressing the population in Detroit that needed the scooters the most. So, he decided to obtain, assemble, charge and deliver at least 100 scooters with helmets lo neighborhood kids in Detroit at no cost to them. You can help. Go to his web site, www.playfreebird.com to find out how lo help with this project.

ANDY’S NEWEST VENTURE IS CALLED POOL. THE NAME DESCRIBES THE SHARING OF RESOURCES, CAPITAL, AND PHYSICAL REAL ESTA TE SPACES FOR THE BENEFIT OF EVERYONE INVOLVED. The particulars of the project can be found at www.hopinthepool.com. He will be launching an experiment in real community development where anybody in Michigan can invest small amounts of money and receive a real return back on their investment throughout the year. When you buy into a project, you own a real share in a house or building and gel your portion of the rent. If they ever decide lo sell the house as a group, investors/shareholders receive a portion of the sale. It’s true wealth-building.

Pool is a project where investors gel actual equity in the real estate project that they choose. Investors own shares in a house the way you would own shares in a company. Each piece of real estate is a different project with different shareholders, based on their interest in the project.

It’s a simple concept that is growing. Traditionally, if you want to invest in real estate, you need lo have the ability to buy a whole house. If you are lucky enough lo have a rich friend or family willing to invest with you, that’s great. Real estate is one of those things that people use to build generational wealth.

For most of us, the realization of wealth through property ownership is impossible or a long shot at best. So, if we can band together and make the projects work in the long term, everyone can benefit. This is radical wealth building. Pool is a way for anyone lo participate in the real estate market; it is a structural system that can result in large return.

This investment is in your own backyard. You can see the house and meet the renters. Unlike a REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust), which is a fund that investors put money into and hope that the fund manager chooses profitable properties, investors in Pool have full control over the direction of the funds they contribute and can choose the real estate in which they want to participate. As part of a REIT, you might own part of a strip mall in Vegas or a coffee shop in Lexington, Kentucky. Pool invests locally only, and you know intimately what your portfolio holdings are. Individuals in Pool only invest in distinct projects.

The first house was purchased by Didorosi and will be renovated by him. This iteration of the process will help him organize the entire enterprise.

‘We haven’t formally launched it yet because we are wailing for approval from the state,” explains Didorosi. They can’t share in financial arrangements or promise any kind of a return because of the rules of security law.

Pool believes investors should be able to see where every dollar goes, so Andy has taken care of that. Investors will get a dashboard where they can see every dollar in and out of the organization.

‘We’re proud of what we’re building and aren’t shy about showing off.”

DIDOROSI CAME UP WITH THE IDEA OF POOL WHEN LOOKING AT PROPERTIES that he was interested in buying. He tried to get buildings and ii was difficult. If you don’t have enough money or a bank or investors to help you secure the property, you have no access to the incredible wealth-building opportunity that is right in your own back yard.

Didorosi believes that the reason this hasn’t been accomplished by anyone up lo this point is because people might be afraid of running up against securities law, which is daunting. He is hoping he can reduce some of that friction and level the playing field so everyone can participate.

The dream is to be able to invest in commercial property and the businesses within it. The businesses within those commercial properties might also have the chance lo become partial owners in that project. As partial owners, they can help make decisions about the property and capture some of the value created, instead of just getting booted out when the owners decide to sell.

There is a lot of interest in the small amount of information that Didorosi has been able to share so far. ‘We are very strictly not soliciting or asking people lo invest yet. I personally know someone who has gotten in trouble with those laws, and it cost him $30,000.”

“I would love to see a large number of people invest into the real estate in their own communities directly. I think that will have a huge number of ripple effects. If people are the investors in the properties around them, ii will ensure that the businesses will thrive.”

He has a point. Investment in one’s own neighborhood is an investment in the outcome of those properties. There is elevation of human capital and social capital that follows in the wake of renovated property and infrastructure that is cared for and maintained. Public parks, schools, recreation centers, businesses, and cultural centers all prosper under the care of local ownership; good neighborhoods attracts good neighbors.

“We are in a crisis of ownership right now.”

Hong Kong owns a lot of property in Detroit. Large investment groups that don’t have any footprint in the city own much of the city.

“Local ownership will change the fabric of the city forever. We, as the people, have to be the next billionaire at the table. We have to make this a choice. We are a system of capitalism, which means that those with the capital get to make all the decisions. Until we assemble capital into an efficient structure that can go out and do the work, we’re not going to have any power in our own communities.”

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.