By Colton Dale

THE NINE MILE REDESIGN is a grant-funded public improvement project that will bring multiple new amenities to Nine Mile Road.

The first phase of the project is the one happening this Summer, in partnership with the City of Ferndale. It will cover the area on Nine Mile Road from McClain Drive to the eastern border of Oak Park, and will extend into Ferndale, thus connecting Oak Park and Ferndale via bike route. The subsequent two phases hope to continue the redesign of Nine Mile Road westward, all the way to the City’s border with Southfield. This project is expected to transform and revitalize the Nine Mile Road Corridor, and spark a new beginning for Oak Park.

The project is aimed at creating a new sense of place on the Corridor, increasing non-motorized transportation usage, and spurring business growth for the benefit of residents of all ages. By the time the project wraps up, new features on Nine Mile Road will include:

  • Road Diet – A decrease in motor vehicle traffic lanes.
  • Bike Lanes – Dedicated lanes for cyclists to utilize for travel.
  • Streetscape – Improved pavement and landscaping along the corridor.
  • Back-In Angle Parking – A new parking concept that is safer for all and easy to use.
  • Pocket Parks – Miniature public parks at the intersections of Nine Mile Road and Sherman Street and Seneca Street.

The process for the Nine Mile Redesign began in 2015 with a grant from the Project For Public Spaces and the Center For New Urbanism. After a week-long study analyzing traffic patterns and collaborative charrettes with the public over three days to gain community input, a report was created called the Nine Mile Redesign. The public input and professional consulting helped the City determine that there was a need and desire for the features listed above. Throughout the entire process, there have been a number of opportunities for the public to get involved in the planning and implementation of the Nine Mile Redesign. Such public outreach activities include:

  • Three community input meetings specifically on the Nine Mile Redesign (Summer 2015)
  • Three town halls regarding the City’s Master Plan (November 2015 – February 2016)
  • Door-to-door conversations with residents (March 2017)
  • Three community input meetings for the Sherman Pop-Up Park (Spring 2017)
  • A post-Sherman Summer Pop-Up Park Survey (August 2017)
  • Complete Streets Open House (May 2018)
  • Pre-Construction Open House (May 2019)
  • Social Media
  • City website and magazine


As more communities desire “complete streets” and more livable spaces, they look for opportunities to better integrate pedestrian and bicycle facilities along their corridors. After getting input from the community, the City conducted a traffic study to determine the feasibility of such facilities. We learned from the traffic study that the volume of traffic on Nine Mile Road does not justify a five-lane road and eliminating some of the lanes would not decrease the level of service. The road diet on Nine Mile will reduce the amount of motor vehicle lanes from five or four (depending on the specific area) down to three.

A road diet will not only create more room for cyclists and pedestrians, it also will create a safer road for everyone to travel on. Did you know that a road diet can decrease car accidents anywhere from 19 to 47 percent?

Further, the road diet will help boost local economic activity. For local businesses, a road diet can improve economic vitality by changing the corridor from a place that people “drive-through” to one that they “driveto.” Replacing automobile lanes with on-street parking, walking areas, and bicycle lanes will make the corridor a more attractive place for consumers.


With the implementation of the road diet, more room for commercial parking will become available along Nine Mile Road. Instead of putting in old-fashioned parallel parking, the City has decided to implement back-in angle parking.

Back-in angle parking uses the same process and motions as parallel parking but is much safer and allows for the creation of more parking spaces.

With a clearer line of sight and easier maneuverability than typical on-street parking, back-in angle parking provides motorists with a better vision of bicyclists, pedestrians, cars, and trucks as they exit their parking space and enter moving traffic. Back-in angle parking also eliminates the risk that is present in parallel parking situations of a motorist opening their car door into the path of a bicyclist. It allows safer access to trunk space and makes it easier for passengers to enter and exit the vehicle safely.


Bike lanes are a very important part of the Nine Mile Redesign as the City works towards accommodating all types of travel. Having a designated safe area for cyclists to travel via bike lanes causes significantly less accidents and injuries for everyone on the road. Creating an environment that cyclists feel safe in will also promote physical fitness and environmental sustainability. Further, experts say that the addition of bike lanes can help stimulate the local economy by increasing sales for local businesses.


Pocket parks are a great way to spruce up an area immediately adjacent to local businesses that otherwise would be underutilized. The two pocket parks that are considered a part of the Nine Mile Redesign plan are positioned at Sherman Street and Seneca Street.

An example of a pocket park is the temporary Sherman Pop-Up Park that the City installed in July of 2017. This new park involved closing off the street at the intersection of Sherman Street and Nine Mile Road to the alley.

The project was driven by the wants of nearby residents and businesses, which ended up benefiting the community more than anyone had imagined. It created a new vibrancy in the neighborhood, gave residents a new place for leisure, and spurred business activity. In tracking visitors to the pop-up park, the City was able to track an average of 900 people per week that visited the park and logged into the free Wi-Fi that was provided for them.

When all is said and done, the Nine Mile Redesign and all the fun amenities to come with it will transform the Corridor!

By Ingrid Sjostrand

OAK PARK IS ON THE RISE! Property values are skyrocketing in the city and throughout Oakland County; with Oak Park seeing an almost 16 percent increase in property values for 2019, according to the County’s Equalization Division.

Why such a big bump? Robert Wittenberg, State Representative for Oak Park – who also happens to be an Oak Park resident – says it’s an accumulation of several components that make the city an attractive place to live.

“There are three essential factors contributing to rising property values: the quality of our local schools, new employment opportunities, and our proximity to shopping, entertainment and recreational centers in other communities and being developed in Oak Park,” he says. “Oak Park is showing the rest of the state how to drive the economy forward by focusing on these critical factors.”

Area realtors Jim Shaffer, of Jim Shaffer and Associates Realty, and Kevin DeVergilio, of REAL Team Real Estate, offer more insight into why Oak Park is inspiring a housing boom, including the increasing appeal of surrounding communities.

“SUPPLY AND DEMAND – A SWELL OF FIRST TIME HOME BUYERS are choosing the Woodward Corridor because of our centralized downtown neighborhoods,” Shaffer says. “As communities like Ferndale and Royal Oak have become costprohibitive, buyers are discovering communities like Oak Park and Hazel Park.”

DeVergilio adds, “Oak Park is an appealing place to buyers for many reasons. A few features that stand out are the central location within the Metro area as well as the continued efforts from our City with improvements and a ton of first-time buyers being priced out of surrounding areas finding beautiful comparable homes in a great community, and simply, the thriving city of Detroit with more job opportunities and relocation allowing population to rise and desirability of the location to increase.”

For residents looking to sell, Shaffer says now is the perfect time.

“Sellers can expect to sell for top-dollar, often at and above asking price due to multiple offers and bidding wars,” he explains. “Most of our Oak Park listings are garnering multiple offers due to demand and our approach to marketing properties.”

This might make buyers nervous, but Shaffer says it’s a great time for them too. With the City’s low taxes, housing rates are still cheaper than nearby popular neighborhoods.

“First time buyers can purchase a three-bedroom here for under $175,000 which cannot be found in surrounding communities,” he says. “And Oak Park leaders have a clear vision for the city’s future, a welcoming community with diverse housing stock.”

“For buyers – they are purchasing in one of the fastest-growing markets where they see a great community and investment!” DeVergilio adds.

THE PROPERTY VALUE INCREASE IS ALSO AFFECTING RESIDENTS not interested in buying or selling by creating a strong community and bringing in more money for the City to continue to improve.

“In my tenure representing Oak Park, I have seen tremendous growth in the city. Even before my time in the House, I could already see the blossoming revitalization of Oak Park when I moved in to the community in 2012. These changes have made a positive impact on Oak Park residents and our city’s economy,” Rep. Wittenberg says. “The thriving economy has allowed the city to provide better services to its residents, leading to an overall increase in quality of life.”

While the increase sounds too good to be true, Wittenberg is aware of the potential adverse side effects of increased property values and is hoping he can help prevent them.

“One of the negative effects might be a lack of diversity in housing options. As property values rise, low-income families and seniors in particular might have trouble finding options that fit their needs,” he says. “That’s why I’m fighting to ensure fair housing laws govern our city and state, so that no Oak Park resident is priced out of their home.”

OVERALL, THE POPULARITY OF OAK PARK HOUSING should only help improve the city and add to the uniqueness and diversity of its culture.

“I love how diverse Oak Park is. As one of the most diverse cities in Oakland County and our state, Oak Park is home to countless cultures, community organizations, and cuisines that all coexist and uplift one another,” Wittenberg says. “”I am lucky to enjoy the good food, great friends, and familial atmosphere of Oak Park, and to represent this great city in the legislature.”

By Kimberly Marrone, Director

THE CITIES OF OAK PARK, HUNTINGTON WOODS, AND BERKLEY RECENTLY EMBARKED on a joint planning effort to study improvements to the Eleven Mile Road and Coolidge Highway corridors. The main objectives were to study three elements that may be implemented uniformly through the corridors toward creating a cohesive flow between the three communities: Green Infrastructure, Lane Modifications, and Non-Motorized access and connectivity.

The communities applied to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) multi- community planning grant in 2018 and were thrilled to receive funding to conduct this study. The communities hired Spalding DeDecker in the Fall of 2018 through a request-for-proposal process and currently are finalizing the final report.

The project began with a traffic analysis, completed by the Transportation Improvement Association (TIA) and then analyzed by Spalding DeDecker. An important aspect of all projects in a community is gathering public comment to ascertain opinions and priorities of residents and business owners. Public- engagement workshops were held within each municipality to obtain input on these potential improvements. At these meetings several concepts were presented. The majority of participants were in favor of many of the design ideas presented in the workshop and the interactive map helped to determine the need for improved crosswalks between communities. Below is a brief list of the findings:


Any opportunity to redirect or slow storm water from entering the sewer system helps alleviate the surge or peak flow which causes the pipe network to flood. Green infrastructure initiatives involve slowing down or redirecting water infiltration and these concepts were well-received by attendees at the workshops.


This evaluation considered different operation or uses of the existing roadway pavement, such as narrowing lanes, eliminating lanes (road diet), adding or removing on-street parking lanes, reduc- ing the pavement footprint (long term), or using paved areas for other purposes, such as bike lanes or gathering spaces. With the exception of Coolidge Highway between Nine Mile Road to Ten Mile Road (I-696), a road diet is feasible in both corridors.

A road diet reduces the number of through lanes to allow other uses within the public right of way which may offer numerous benefits including:

  • Traffic calming, reducing vehicle weaving.
  • Reducing number of lanes a pedestrian has to cross.
  • Adding a center left-turn lane (CLTL) to reduce head-on crashes and rear-end crashes.
  • Adding bicycle lanes to provide a dedicated space for users and increase motorists’ awareness.
  • Improved emergency response services.


Each community has its own unique planning document that addresses pedestrian or bike routes. This multi-community planning effort sought to improve connectivity between the communities. During the public engagement workshops, participants were asked to map specifically where they cross each corridor, and whether they cross on foot or on bike. With an understanding of those preferred crossing locations, enhancements are recommended where they can serve the most users.

The most popular locations to cross Eleven Mile Road include:

  • Tyler Street/Buckingham Avenue
  • Coolidge Highway
  • Mortenson Boulevard/Scotia Avenue
  • Stanford Road/Meadowcrest Boulevard

The most popular locations to cross Coolidge Highway include:

  • Oak Park Boulevard
  • Eleven Mile Road
  • Catalpa Drive
  • Lincoln Street/Drive
  • Harvard Road
  • Twelve Mile Road

Spalding DeDecker has presented recommenda- tions for each different road segment after carefully analyzing all the data and public input. Each community will continue to analyze these corridors and identify potential funding sources to adopt some or all of these recommendations. The final study will be made available on each community’s website.


By Colton Dale

THIS SPRING, THE CITY OF OAK PARK ANNOUNCED that it is moving forward with a concept to maintain and beautify the fencing on the overpass bridge on Coolidge Highway over I-696. The bridge fencing currently is old, mundane, and slightly dilapidated, like most overpass bridges in Michigan. This provides a less-than-stellar image on behalf of Oak Park to the thousands of motorists passing under this bridge every day.

Soon, though, that fencing will become the latest public infrastructure improvement in the City, helping Oak Park with branding, beautification, and its image. When completed, this overpass bridge will be similar to the one in Auburn Hills on University Drive over I-75, if you can picture it.

The project previously faced a funding hurdle, as construction costs continue to rise at a record pace due to labor shortages and federal steel tariffs. These issues caused City officials to take a second look at the plans. They were starting to wonder if it would be worth it to move forward with this project at all. Luckily, though, at the City Council Meeting on March 18, the project overcame its obstacles as City Council voted to fully fund the project and award a bid for construction to Z Contractors Inc. of Shelby Township.

THE ORIGINS OF THIS PROJECT BEGAN in September 2017 and stemmed from a necessity to fix parts of the bridge’s fencing that had become broken and potentially dangerous. It then grew into a desire by City officials to take this opportunity as one to brand and beautify the City via the improvement of public infrastructure. Throughout the unfolding of this concept, it became lumped in with other public infrastructure improvement projects the City has undertaken lately, such as the repainting of the water tower on Eleven Mile Road and the Nine Mile Redesign. The City prides itself on its proactive efforts to improve and modernize the infrastructure we see and use every day.

“Branding is important for our community in terms of attracting new residents and businesses. Taking advantage of this opportunity to create a distinct impression by marketing ourselves to the thousands of motorists who use I-696 every day to commute through Oak Park is a good business move,” said City Manager Erik Tungate. “Cities that take on these kinds of quality of life improvements are cities that are typically thriving. It is no longer enough to rest on our laurels. We have to seize every chance we can to establish ourselves as a unique place to live and work.”

The project will cost approximately $628,000, with the vast majority being funded by the City’s Major Streets Fund. The project is broken down into two phases. The first phase is the fabrication of the metal design, which is expected to take about two months. Shortly thereafter, the second phase will begin, which is the construction phase to affix the fabricated metal design onto the overpass bridge, expected to begin mid-summer.

MOTORISTS CAN EXPECT MINOR LANE CLOSURES DURING THE WORK to affix the metal fabrication to the bridge, potentially on both Coolidge Highway and I-696. All lane closures will be communicated out by the City.

“Now, when travelers pass under Coolidge on I-696, what they see is barren-looking cyclone fencing. Soon this entryway to the City of Oak Park will look inviting with an attractive new fencing design and lights,” said Mayor Marian McClellan.

“Just as realtors stress the importance of curb appeal when selling a house because of the importance of a good first impression, the City will be making a great first impression on passers-by, visitors, and potential residents.”

If all goes as planned, the project is anticipated to wrap up in the Fall.

Note: Due to some confusion, it is important to note that this is an entirely separate overpass bridge than the one with Victoria Park on it that the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will be replacing in 2024 due to leaks. ■

By Ingrid Sjostrand

DRUG AND ALCOHOL AWARENESS AND PREVENTION IS ONE of the most important conversations parents can have with their children – it’s also essential to building safe, strong communities. The cities of Oak Park, Huntington Woods and Berkley see the importance of this and have been working together for the past 22 years with the goal of spreading substance abuse prevention in youth.

In 1997, Ohio Senator Rob Portman and former Michigan Representative Sandy Levin developed the idea of coalitions to address substance abuse. Former Berkley Schools Superintendent Dr. Tresa Zumsteg created a 33-member panel to create the local initiative that today is the Tri-Community Coalition (TCC).

“All these people coming together having the similar desire to keep drugs and alcohol out of the hands of our youth, illegal drugs out of the community and alcohol to be properly and responsibly used by adults,” Executive Director Judy Rubin says, “That was the initial idea and they challenged the communities to come together and bring their sectors together.”

A 501C3 CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION, TCC is led by President Diane Duncan, an executive board and Rubin. They focus their efforts on three specific pillars: Youth, parents and the community at large. The youth program, Young Optimistic and United (Y.O.U.), has groups in both Berkley and Oak Park high schools that meet weekly with student members to build education around healthy choices. Parent Now! is an adult-focused group that regularly hosts speakers and information sessions about current trends and topics parents should be aware of.

“We’ve had Parent Now! events on topics ranging from social media and sexting, to depression and suicide. We’ll have a Drugs 101 seminar in September that will focus on vaping,” Rubin says. “We keep the community abreast of trends and vaping is definitely a trend.”

Several community-focused events are also produced throughout the year, including a Health and Wellness Fair in May in collaboration with each city’s recreation center and a fundraiser golf outing at Rackham Golf Course in Huntington Woods. The Tri-Communities Coalition Golf Classic held its 21st annual event on June 21, 2018, offering a 50/50 raffle, silent auction, breakfast and prizes to participants.

“We’ve made it a very fun event, we’re very lucky because we have great sponsors,” Rubin says. “We have a hole where you shoot a golf ball out of a cannon and it goes 300 yards and another where you aim to shoot the golf ball into a blow-up dinosaur’s mouth. It’s for serious golfers that like our mission, but it’s also really fun. We always like to incorporate entertaining elements into the event.”

Another major event for TCC is their Leadership Breakfast, held in November, that highlights a member of the community with a “Power of One” award and features a keynote speaker who has shown exceptional leadership. The 2018 event’s speaker was former Michigan U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade, and Robi Mitra was honored with the “Power of One” award.

IN 2007, TCC APPLIED FOR AND RECEIVED the “Drug Free Communities” federal grant providing them with funding to develop and implement substance abuse prevention programming in their communities. Recipients are limited to a total of ten years for this grant funding, so when the funding expired in 2017 the Tri-Community Coalition shifted their efforts to incorporate conversations outside substance abuse that might also benefit the community.

“It was great for the community, but all good things come to an end and you can’t reapply once you’ve been given those ten years,” Rubin says. “We decided to broaden our horizons and expand to include mental health and awareness for the community since that could help us get other federal funding dollars and widen our mission statement.

“We are now in our second year of post-DFC and post- grant funding and we’re still here!” She adds, “Still kicking and still trying to bring events, programs and education to the three cities of Berkley, Oak Park and Huntington Woods about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and keep them abreast of what’s trending.”

For more information about the Tri-Community Coalition, visit

By Jenn Goeddeke

STATE REPRESENTATIVE ROBER WITTENBERG has an outstanding passion for helping others and is an effective advocate and resource for approximately 95,000 people. In his words, “I like to be socially-conscious and fiscally-responsible at the same time.”

I recently met with Rep. Wittenberg at a local coffee shop to discuss his past and present political activities, along with his future plans. He is currently serving his third and final term as representative for Michigan’s 27th House District. This broad area includes Berkley, Oak Park, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge and Royal Oak Township.

Wittenberg certainly has a high regard for Oak Park. His grandparents moved here in 1967 and stayed until 2008. Since then, the home remained in Wittenberg’s family up until 2017 when it was sold. Wittenberg also attended Oak Park Middle School and is good friends with both the Mayor and City Manager. He mentioned with pride his “active and engaged” neighborhood block club, which is totally structured and holds monthly meetings, plus it hosts an annual Summer BBQ. He describes it as a “wonderful community.” And, even though it is the largest city in the District, it is more like a small town in terms of its residents. “I would love to keep serving this community!” he added with a smile.

WITTENBERG GREW UP IN MICHIGAN’S 27TH DISTRICT and was drawn to politics from an early age. While attending Berkley High School, then later at Indiana University, Wittenberg was continuously involved in various student councils and associations. He also volunteered his time for the campaigns of Mayor McClellan (Oak Park), Mayor Coulter (Ferndale) and also several city council races. By the time he got to the point of going into politics as his full- time career, many of his friends and family were saying, “What took you so long?”

 The issues of greatest focus in his political agenda include environmental issues (clean water and reducing chemical and other pollutants), equal wages for all, greater gun control and higher educational standards and funding. A further motivation behind his efforts is what he calls: ‘Universal Fairness.’ As he explained, “I see that people often get treated differently based on how they look or who they love, and so on. That’s just so wrong!”

He added, “People might have an issue, for example with their utility company, but then they get lost in the shuffle of trying to solve the problem. Typically, we can make one call and take care of it for them. I wish individuals could always get their concerns taken care of right away, but it often doesn’t happen like that. So my job is to advocate and point them in the best direction.”

REGARDING HIS THIRD TERM, WITTENBERG IS ENTHUSIASTIC. “I am loving it! I have good experience and I know how the system works. I have come to know my colleagues pretty well. With Gretchen Whitmer as the new governor, there is a big improvement overall. The Republican representatives come to us Democrats now, and we have to work closer together.”

By all accounts, Wittenberg has been a popular state representative. What has been the secret to his success (aside from his obvious desire to serve the people)?

“As a Democrat from a progressive area, I try to find the common ground ‘across the aisle,” meaning with the more right-leaning members. Maybe in part due to this, I had more bills passed into law than any other Democrat in my class.” Additionally, Wittenberg is a very ‘approachable’ elected official, with a large part of his time spent out in the community. For example, he particularly enjoys reading to students, and so far this term he has read to over 1800 students from four different school districts. “I want to continue on that path!” he added.

HAVING SERVED SIX YEARS, WITTENBERG IS TERM-LIMITED and will no longer be able to serve in his current position after the upcoming 2020 election. Therefore, he is making the most of his time now, while considering future opportunities to serve in Oakland County. Wittenberg mentioned that the terms of office for State Representatives are the most restrictive in the country. Wittenberg pointed out, “This is such a relationship-building business.  You have to get to know your fellow legislators! I consider [term limits] a failed experiment.”

I asked Wittenberg about his future plans. He replied that some changeover will be taking place soon, with L. Brooks Patterson not running for another term as Oakland County Executive. This will inevitably cause a shuffle. Wittenberg says he will not be running for county executive, but he is interested in the county treasurer position. (County positions are four- year terms with no term limits).

 Conversations regarding those possible positions have already started whereas campaigning will begin towards the end of this year. Wittenberg explained that Andy Meisner has been County Treasurer but will most likely be running for the county executive position. Wittenberg admires Meisner and wants to follow in his footsteps, “This would be a big jump in my constituency, from about 95,000 people to around 1.3 million. But I want whatever position that will allow me to stay involved.”

Robert Wittenberg can be reached by mail: PO Box 33014, Lansing, MI. 48909; by phone: 517.373.0478, or by email: Check out his website:

By Andrea Grieg

THIS TIME LAST YEAR, SCOUT PARK (in Central Hazel Park) was the site of a community tree-planting day. No one realized then that the trees were just the first of new things to grow out of the park.

Since then, Hazel Park has been selected for an incredibly generous grant from the Sutar-Sutaruk-Meyer Foundation, which donated $350,000 to the City of Hazel Park to help grow our Recreation Department. One of the ambitious projects planned is a brand-new, state-of-the-art playground. Scout Park was chosen to build the playground because of its central location, nestled within residential areas and adjacent to the junior high school.

The Director of the Parks & Recreation Department is Sareen Papakhain. She started working for the City as an unpaid intern while getting her master’s degree in urban planning at Wayne State University. Her senior thesis was planned around Hazel Park’s Recreation Department specifically, and her thesis is currently a key element in the City’s Master Plan.

“This is an incredible and exciting opportunity, and no one deserves it more than the residents of Hazel Park,” Papakhain says. “Hazel Park is growing, and the families of this city will reap the benefit of the community growth.” Before the grant from the Sutar-Sutaruk-Meyer Foundation, the Parks Department was almost dissolved due to lack of funding. Now Scout Park’s revamp is just the first of many long-term goals the City is starting to catch up on.

The Foundation picked Leather & Associates to help with the playground’s design. Leather & Associates is a custom playground design firm known for drawing from community input for their designs. On March 5 of this year, also known as Design Day, designer Jim Houghton visited with Hazel Park’s elementary school students and parents to ask what was included in their dream playground. The responses included a zipline, a maze, musical instruments, rock climbing, swings of all sizes, slides, and snake tubes. However, one of the most highly requested elements from the students was accessibility and making sure the playground had options for children of all capabilities to play on. Because of this, a wheelchair accessible merry-go-round was included in the design, along with swings and other ideas.

Houghton took all the ideas from that morning and spent five hours designing the perfect playground. His design sketches were revealed that evening at the Junior High. The design was very well-received and can be seen on the Parks & Recreation Department’s web site.

Now that the design has been revealed, the Parks & Recreation Department is rallying for volunteers to make the playground a reality. Papakhain strongly encourages all residents to get involved: from filling out the Master Plan’s surveys online to attending community meetings, to volunteering for the new Scout Park playground assembly. The building will take place the week of June 10 through the 15 (see ad on the next page). Residents are encouraged to sign up for a shift, help raise funds, or provide necessities and tools. Food sponsors and financial sponsorship in exchange for advertising are also welcomed. Contact the Department at (248) 547-5535 or

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By Sara E. Teller

IT’S FUN AND REWARDING to work on our home and garden projects. It’s also an opportunity to remember those who have no digs of their own, and are struggling just to find a safe place for their family to live. While working on DIGS 2019, we learned about a local organization, Bethany Christian Services, helping to resettle refugees from around the world.

Bethany Christian Services is a global nonprofit organization that brings families together and keeps families together. Programs include adoption, foster care and pregnancy counseling. Bethany also provides counseling to families, assists refugees and immigrants with resettling in the United States, and partners with several international countries to help keep families, near and far, together. Bethany is founded on Christian values and beliefs and they work to protect, empower, and strengthen families.

“Strengthening families for the well-being of children is our top priority,” said Starr Allen-Pettway, LMSW, Branch Director, adding, “The work we do equips families to be the answer for children in need. Every child deserves love and a loving place to call home.”

IN SOUTHEASTERN MICHIGAN, Bethany’s foster care program provides homes for the temporary placement of children. They also place those children who become available for adoption with their forever families through the state. There is also a domestic infant adoption program, which offers familybased support for birth mothers who make the decision to make an adoption plan for their children, and a teen outreach initiative in which Bethany partners with various local agencies to provide life skills training and education for youth in the Detroit Metropolitan area.

“Bethany makes every effort to ensure that families have the skills and training necessary to support the needs of children coming into foster care,” Allen-Pettway explained.

Bethany staff members come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Most have social service and counseling backgrounds and provide either direct or indirect support for the services offered by the organization. Other members have appropriate academic degrees for the positions they occupy.

“The specialties vary depending on department, but the one thing consistent throughout our organization is the love and compassion that all Bethany staff have for people,” Allen- Pettway said, adding, “Bethany leaders have a heart to serve and dig into the hard places. As leaders, the commitment is to ensure that we remember the overlooked, the forgotten, and serve them to the best of our ability.Leaders understand that many of the systems for which we do work are broken, and it is our responsibility to be the hope for those that find themselves in sometimes very hard places.”

Bethany Christian Services is always looking for the help of volunteers.

“We are always looking for volunteers – or, in our eyes, partners – who can support the various needs of the children and families that we serve. It is always our desire to do more, and that ability becomes greater when we have more hands at the table to support the needs.”

www. •

248-414-4080 •

By Jill Lorie Hurst


“Ch-Ch-ch-ch Changes. Turn and face the strange,” wrote David Bowie. When I heard Dino’s Lounge and M-Brew were up for sale, I grabbed this assignment so I could meet Dean Bach before he left Ferndale.

He agreed to meet up at Dino’s on a gray Monday afternoon in February, a week after the opening of Belle Iron Grille, his new place in Gaylord. Bach was emotional, pragmatic and wise as he looked around Dino’s and talked about childhood on the East side of Detroit. “I grew up in the 48205.” Life in the restaurant world, a ride that started as a 15-year-old dishwasher at Eastside Charley’s.

He took a risk on Ferndale when he bought the Rialto Cafe at the corner of 9 and Woodward, opening Dino’s Lounge in 2002. “We were ahead of the curve then.”

Some thought he wouldn’t make it. He talks about the cook who quit two weeks after opening, sure the place was destined for doom. Instead, Dino’s and later M-Brew (“my independent child, it runs without me, which is what I wanted”) became part of the fabric of fabulous Ferndale.

From the start he wanted Dino’s to be “a little bit of everything. Something for everyone. The corner bar for Ferndale.” Philosophical. “Today every place is a concept. Does the town need a neighborhood gathering place anymore?”

BOTTOM LINE, HE THINKS IT’S TIME FOR DINO’S TO CHANGE. He had ideas, of course. On this day they included selling or partnering. Stepping away. “I owe it to Ferndale and myself to do something that’s right for the community.”

He looked at me. “What do you think?” Me?! I hope they keep serving the chips. He smiles. “Everybody loves a good kettle chip.”

His idea? “I take a lot of ideas from my staff. Everyone has good ideas.” He’s listened and learned from his staff, his parents, local leaders and Ferndale residents. He listens to his wife, Denise, who encouraged him to throw himself into the restaurant business he loved, full-time, back in 2008. When he turned 50, the couple started looking forward, open to change.

A 4th of July visit to Lake Otsego clicked for Denise. “This is where I want to be.” Bach, emotional, remembers the moment. Laughs. “I couldn’t believe that (city girl) Zsa Zsa wanted to move to Green Acres.”

He loves the new place, Belle Iron Grille, and he is enjoying becoming part of a new community. “It’s making me grow as a person to learn about this different culture. Talk about different viewpoints, but people are the same everywhere.” He is enjoying this new experience.

OUR TALK RETURNED TO FERNDALE AGAIN AND AGAIN. Thoughts about Ferndale’s future? He is optimistic. “Ferndale will continue to grow, but Ferndale of the future will still be Ferndale.” I liked his faith.

A few days after we spoke, I learned that Dean Bach had taken Dino’s and M-Brew off the market. Bach reached out from the beach in Aruba! “We’re definitely happy about… reinventing Dino’s and making some adjustments to M-Brew. I just felt I wasn’t quite ready to simply sell and leave.”

Dino’s Lounge is located at 22740 Woodward in Ferndale. M-Brew is at 177 Vester Ave in Ferndale. Belle Iron Grille is located at 4029 Old US 27 in Gaylord.

By Richard Robbins

RECEIVING A TRANSPLANTED ORGAN IS SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE WILL NEVER HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT. But for an increasing number of people it is a reality they must confront. I became a lung transplant patient and recipient, and I’d like to share a bit of my story and some info on transplanted organs in general.

I was diagnosed as having pulmonary hypertension, emphysema, and another process that was never identified, in September 2017. I started the extensive testing process in January 2018, then listed for a double lung transplant. I was transplanted in August 2018. I was fortunate to get a transplant as fast as I did, because of the scarcity of lungs available for transplant in general.

The whole process involved a rigorous round of numerous tests to determine whether I was a good candidate. Fortunately, I took my team’s advice and participated in a Pulmonary Rehabilitation exercise program at the Providence Heart Institute in Southfield. They kept me strong by making it possible for me to walk and exercise, despite the 15 liters of oxygen I required to do so. Just sitting in a chair required 4 to 5 liters for me to maintain an oxygen level of barely 92 percent on a good day (a normal reading is usually 95 to 100 percent).

Checking my heart pressure required the pulmonary team to perform a heart catherization. That was performed by running a heart catheter through my right wrist and into my heart. The doctor performing the procedure was quite stunned as to the level of pressure in my heart, which increased my UNOS score for transplant. They checked the other arteries running into the heart and I was cleared, since there was minimal blocking of the arteries.

OTHER TESTS INVOLVED CHECKING THE FUNCTION of my stomach which involved drinking a barium solution and being turned upside down; also, eating and swallowing various things to check that functionality as well. Checking the distance one can walk in six minutes is also a must. Their baseline was a minimum of 400 feet in six minutes, but I managed to walk closer to 1400 feet on 15 liters of oxygen. Blood tests also confirmed the suitability for transplant, and they took 43 vials of blood at the initial draw. Among these tests were drug and alcohol tests and testing of other organ functions and diseases.

I was placed on the list for transplant in May 2018, and was registered with UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing. I was assigned a score that ranked me by need and was sent home to await a match for a double lung transplant. Blood type, antibodies, and lung size are just a few factors to consider in any lung transplant. UNOS handles other organ transplants as well, such as liver, heart, and kidneys. You can find out more about their function for transplant recipients, and statistics, at

Then I was sent home to wait for a match. Things sped up a bit once my oxygen levels decreased due to the diseases I had. I was driven to the ER for treatment and admission into the hospital. The transplant team did a fine job bringing me back from that emergency and I spent a week in the hospital. It seemed as if the transplant team wanted to keep me at the hospital until lungs were found, but instead I was sent home.

LESS THAN TWO WEEKS LATER I GOT THE CALL. Lungs were found! We drove to the transplant center and I was placed in a bed, waiting for 8:30 AM for the surgery. After they wheeled me down to the surgical suite, we waited a few hours while the surgical team checked the lungs received from the donor. The last thing I remember was the doctor coming in, saying “It’s a go,” and I was put out for the next 12 hours. This entailed placing me on a heart lung machine, cutting open my chest, splitting my sternum, moving my heart, and replacing both lungs.

Waking after the surgery was over, I only remember someone leaning over me, saying “You’ve got new lungs.” Looking over to the telemetry, I found the blood oxygen reading, and was relieved to see it running at around 98 percent.

The nursing staff would be critical to my recovery, as were the physical therapy people who made sure I could function once they released me. The biggest trick was getting up out of a chair or bed using no hands. It’s not easy even without a lung transplant. I was sent home after nine days. A visiting nurse and home rehab after surgery got me back to speed quickly.

My lung transplant was the first major surgery I have ever had, besides tonsil removal. It was far easier than I expected. I worried about the pain from splitting the sternum, but it was not that bad at all. Healing takes a while of course, but that varies from person to person. Maintaining the “status quo” now requires doctor visits and swallowing a lot of anti-rejection pills. Also, wearing the face mask that people always give me the fish-eye for. (It’s for my protection folks, don’t worry.)

Getting this transplant has enabled me to resume my life with a few restrictions. I am grateful for all the community support I have had through this process, as well as for my donor for taking the time to check off the box for organ donation when filling out their driver’s license form or agreeing to do so in the hospital. Also, I am volunteering with Gift of Life Michigan to promote organ donation and possibly speak to those potentially undergoing similar procedures. Please consider organ donation when you renew your license or go to to sign up.