News

By Ingrid Sjostrand

THE HAZEL PARK CREATIVE ARTS ORGANIZATION IS DETERMINED to give students access to quality art education and they have made impressive strides in the little over four years they’ve been in operation.

Since late 2014, the 501c3 has raised over $25,000 for supplies and equipment for K-12 students in Hazel Park schools. This includes replacing the high school’s pottery kiln in 2016 and their auditorium’s lighting console in February 2018 – just in time for the annual school play.

President Mike Vanderveer says the group was inspired to create Hazel Park Creative Arts after realizing there was a booster group raising money for the high school band, but the other arts programs were lacking funding.

“We want the school arts programs to continue at their highest possible level, especially with the current financial state of schools in general, and particularly the Hazel Park district,” Vanderveer says. “That’s why we took on projects like replacing the 30-year-old pottery kiln in the high school. We firmly believed at the time that had we not done so there might not be a ceramics program in the school in the future. We’re still of the same opinion to-day, not only in ceramics, but in many of the art programs within the district.”

Vanderveer leads the volunteer board of four members, which includes Vice President Bethany Holland, Secretary Lisa Chrouch-Johnson and Treasurer Robbie Webb. All money raised by the group comes from their extensive fundraising efforts. This includes an annual dinner in the fall and a spring night out event.

THE 2018 FALL DINNER WAS HELD on Friday, October 5th at the Hazel Park Junior High and is the biggest fundraising event for HP Creative Arts. The event featured a silent auction, basket raffles, a 50/50 drawing and a barbeque dinner. Sponsors for the event included Go Comedy! Improv Theater, The Henry Ford, Arthur Murray Royal Oak, The Fifth Wall Society Escape Room and more.

While their focus is in the Hazel Park district, the nonprofit hopes their efforts impact all through metro Detroit.

“It benefits not just Hazel Park students, really it’s all the kids. We want them all to grow up to be healthy, happy and successful. I strongly feel that the arts are important to that and I’ve seen it first hand,” Vice President Holland says. “Additionally, many Ferndale residents have students in Hazel Park schools.”

“With luck, our efforts to encourage a love of the arts in the school district may inspire a young budding artist to contribute to the arts in the community as well,” Vanderveer adds.

HAZEL PARK CREATIVE ARTS is currently working with the school district to determine their next major funding project and in the meantime is focusing on their community engagement efforts and gaining some long-term sponsors.

“If there is anyone out there that would like to regularly donate, we are tax deductible. There might be individuals, businesses or church groups – any group –that want to support us and are welcomed,” Treasurer Webb says. “There is a need and that money would be used in helping kids.”

For more information on donating, getting involved or attending a board meeting with Hazel Park Creative Arts, visit their web site at hpcreativearts.org.

By Jill Lorie Hurst

WHEN I WALKED INTO INCUBIZIO (a shared office space on Burdette Street) to get an update on the Chamber of Commerce’s upcoming events, I was surprised to “meet” Chamber Board Chair Dale Vigliarolo, someone I’ve known from various events over the past few years. You never know who you know in Ferndale! We joined Director of Operations Kimberly Spencer in the building’s glossy white conference room to talk about “The Best of the Best” gala on November 7th, which is the annual celebration of and for the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce members.

Most towns have a Chamber of Commerce. I wonder if many of us think about them or know what they do. The Ferndale Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1936, is a non-profit that provides ways for business owners to collaborate and connect with other community leaders. And guess what? You can join up. Yes, you. Residents can become members of the “guardian of the business community.”

Spencer and Vigliarolo both take their roles very seriously. Vigliarolo, a Ferndale resident and owner of Lake Pointe Construction, was involved with the Royal Oak Chamber for several years, then brought his experience and knowledge to his hometown. Kimberly Spencer has held her job for a little over a year. She comes to us from Chicago. Her background is in project management and operations. She left Chicago to get involved in nonprofit work and was recruited by Michigan Works to head up the Ferndale Chamber. Spencer loves the collaborative spirit she sees here.

“The business owners are very involved. They attend each other’s events.” She also mentions Ferndale’s diversity and acceptance. “You don’t have to fit in, but you do.” Joining the Chamber has business and personal benefits. “People become better speakers, less shy. The communication changes you.”

Vigliarolo talks about the time and energy it takes to do justice to the job. No complaints. “I love being a part of our city. We’re in a good place and we’re going to keep building.” Regarding Chamber membership? New folks are welcome, veterans are valued. It’s all about the mix. Spencer – “We’re looking for a good representation of Ferndale so we can make good decisions for Ferndale.”

Put “The Best of The Best” (November 7th) on your calendar, to be held at Boogie Fever. Tickets are available through the Chamber web site. While you’re there, check out the calendar: “Coffee Connections,” “The Lunch Club,” “After Fives.” I love the ribbon cuttings. There was something wonderful about seeing James Tailoring, Ferndale Family Pharmacy and 3 Winks proudly become a part of the family. Find an event that appeals to you. There’s something for everyone. This is Ferndale.

www.ferndaleareachamber.com | 248-542-2160

By: Ingrid Sjostrand

AS COMPOSTING BECOMES A MORE POPULAR AND NECESSARY TOPIC, FALL IS THE PERFECT TIME OF YEAR TO SEE NATURE GIVE THE BEST EXAMPLE OF THE PROCESS.

“Composting is earth’s natural way of recycling organic materials into soil. It is happening 24-7,” Tim Campbell of Midtown Composting explains. “If you go in the woods in the fall, the leaves drop, they compost over winter and spring, and in the summer vegetation grows. The leaves that were dropping, nature turned that back into soil, it’s a cycle that repeats forever.”

A good reason to start considering composting your own waste is that Midtown Composting is expanding to more homes and businesses in Ferndale and Royal Oak. Started in Detroit’s West Village in September 2017 as a part of an EcoWorks Youth Energy Squad Project, a year later Midtown Composting is now working with 45 businesses and 60 residences.

“The Youth Energy Squad takes Detroit youth through projects related to community, some related to sustainability,” Campbell, a member of the project, says. Once the summer program ended, there was still an interest in the community but no one to manage it so Campbell took on the task.

“It started with five restaurants in West Village, and now we are across this whole city of Detroit and southern Oakland County,” he says. “It’s grown like a wildfire and is still growing. We just added another driver and another vehicle.”

SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS COMPOSTING?“ Instead of hauling something away as trash, such as fruit and vegetables, eggshells and coffee grounds – composting uses nature’s process to turn it back into soil so it can be grown into more food, and the cycle continues.”

Midtown has helped one restaurant completely eliminate dumpster services, and created a composting culture in the Detroit neighborhoods of the West Village and Corktown. They’ve added coffee grounds and brewery waste to their pickup, as well. Campbell says other cities, like Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and New York, have been composting for years, and Detroit is missing out.

“Our goal is to create a culture of zero waste by managing waste in a sustainable, responsible way that here in Detroit we are so behind in,” he says.

“It’s to help facilitate the growth of urban farmers, sourcing up locally grown produce, helping businesses save money in waste disposal. Our main goal is to provide the service that is missing. A lot of people want to compost but there is no one there to do it, so we are here to do that.”

They have relationships with urban farms in Detroit and Pontiac, where they deliver the composted materials, and are experimenting with produce delivery from the farms to local residences, similar to programs like Shipt that big box stores are doing.

“People can actually order fresh, organic, Detroit-grown produce, and have it delivered to their front door during compost pickups,” Campbell says. “It keeps the money closer to home, supports the community, less wear and tear on the roads, less fuel. The average piece of food travels 1500 miles from where it’s produced to where it’s eaten.”

WHILE THEY CONTINUE TO MOVE FORWARD on plans for the future, Midtown Composting has experienced some challenges in their first year – like the side effects of composting including smell and bugs. Campbell isn’t concerned and considers these typical of the growing pains of any new business and solvable through education.

“When you implant composting in a place where it’s a foreign concept, people don’t know what it is,” he says. “There has to be an educational component –what this is and why there is a need for it.”

“What we need is for the whole community to help expand the culture. We need to educate each other, tell your friends, tell your neighbors,” he says. “We’re saying this is a problem – for the earth, for our community, for society – and this is a practical solution to address it. If you’re not interested at least you’re aware. We can’t ask for anything more.”

If you are interested in composting at your home or business, email midtowncomposting@gmail.com. For $12 per month, they’ll deliver a resealable bin and compostable bag to your home and schedule regular pickups.

By David Ryals

THIS MONTH MARKS THE SIXTH ANNIVERSARY OF JUST 4 KICKS: a Ferndale Elementary School fundraiser benefiting the Ferndale Elementary Camp Scholarship Fund. The event is an adult-only talent show where parents perform for parents at the Loving Touch to raise money.

Amy Tarrant is the lead person for the fundraiser, and recently spoke to Ferndale Friends about the up-coming event. “Just 4 Kicks started in 2012. My sister Tess lives in Huntington Woods, and her kids go to Berkley Schools. The elementary school parents at the time came up with this idea for a fundraiser for their school, but it only lasted a few years. Tess reminded me that Ferndale has so many amazing musicians and talent and that I should start this at our school. So eventually I did. The parents love this event and look forward to it. We always have a fun and entertaining show.”

The program has a made a positive impact since it started, and has helped kids get out in nature and experience camaraderie. “Just 4 Kicks is a fundraiser for Ferndale Elementary Schools outdoor education. All the money raised goes toward camp scholarships. If you need money for your kid to go to camp, you just say so. No questions asked, your kid will go to camp. Not to discount or undermine any of our other wonderful fundraisers we do – I think a lot of parents would agree that this is the one event not to miss. It is way better than selling wrapping paper or waiting outside a grocery store asking people for money.”

To make it more enticing for adults to participate in the event, it’s held at the Loving Touch every year in downtown Ferndale. “No kids are allowed! It is a time where you can meet other parents from our school family, network and really enjoy yourself. Even our teachers and principals show up and are often on stage. It’s so very different than getting to know someone at a PTA meeting and way more fun.”

Amy knows the importance of extracurricular activities for children and emphasizes using nature as a tool for learning. “Outdoor education is very important to Ferndale parents and educators. Using the outdoors as a classroom can really help a child bloom in ways he or she never had before. All kids K-5 have the opportunity to participate.”

The Loving Touch
Doors 7:00 PM
Show 8:00 PM
After party with DJ Royal-T |$15 at the door

By Sara E. Teller

HAZEL PARK’S CITY COUNCIL consists of members Alissa Sullivan, Andy LeCureaux, and Beth Holland. Mayor Michael Webb also represents the City, along with Mayor Pro Tem Amy Aubry.

Alissa Sullivan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andy LeCureaux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beth Holland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chief of Police, Bucholz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mayor Michael Webb

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amy Aubry

 

 

 

 

 

 

“In my opinion, the Hazel Park City Council is a bit of a checks-and-balances system,” explained Council member Alissa Sullivan. “We’re tasked with looking at current deficiencies, and finding and suggesting creative and effective solutions while being fiscally responsible. We oversee budgets, permits for new businesses, and find creative solutions for issues that our residents face. We also seek out volunteer opportunities, education opportunities and resources for our residents.”

Mayor Webb has served on the Hazel Park City Council since 2001. Prior to that service, he was a planning commissioner for several terms. He is also a visible presence in Hazel Park as the owner of Taylor Auto Maintenance, located on John R Rd. “I’m still a technician. My wife works the front desk, and my son-in-law is in the back. I’ll call my two daughters in here if we need them!”

Webb is a long-time Hazel Park resident. “I married my wife at 19, and we bought a house here. I had gone to school to be an auto technician, and got into politics by volunteering in the community,” he said. “I began coaching little league soccer and baseball.”

He added, “Hazel Park is a friendly city with a good base of culturally diverse people. The continuity of the community is the most important thing. We need to reach out to our neighbors and work with each other to achieve a unified goal of living together. If we don’t teach kids how to grow together and work together, society could be hurting. We need to look beyond the present, and focus on our children and the future.”

He said there have been some changes since he took office. “We’ve gotten some new investments, and there are new prospective buildings and, hopefully, new jobs coming. There have been road improvements and some redevelopment work. Over the years, Hazel Park has seen many new businesses come in, retail and restaurants. The 8 Mile and Dequindre area has really turned around.”

He credits the change to the centralized location of the city, which has drawn millennials to the area. “Millennials are moving into the area and starting families, because we’re ten minutes from downtown Detroit, and they can easily commute east or west, even north, to work. There’s colleges all around to further their education.”

SULLIVAN SAYS THE ONGOING COLLABORATION between the Mayor, City Council members and staff, as well as the public safety department heads, allows for Hazel Park to effectively implement proposed community improvements. “City Council has a great freedom in the ideas we can present, and then the City’s staff lets us know how we can achieve these goals together,” she explained. “I think each Council member brings their own set of experiences and skills to the ideas.”

“While I am newly elected, my experience has been that the city and department heads are very helpful,” she said. “I’ve seen issues that I felt needed to be addressed; for instance, the newly-applied-for Hope-Not-Handcuffs program.”

Hope-Not-Handcuffs is a program that seeks to get addicts into treatment centers rather than having them arrested and incarcerated. Addicts choose to turn themselves in at participating police departments or submit a form on the Families Against Narcotics web site. From there, a desk officer at the station will call for a program volunteer who will sit with the individual and help them get into a program. The idea is to help addicts long-term, thus curtailing the nation’s addiction epidemic, rather than simply working to get those who abuse drugs off the streets for a limited period of time.

“I researched the benefits of this for our city and residents. I spoke with another local municipality and the director of the program there. They have had great success with this in their department. And then I presented the information I had to the City Manager, City Attorney, and the Chief of Police,” Sullivan said. “I got the ‘ball rolling,’ as they say, and let the department heads know this is a program that is available at no cost to the city or residents and has been successful and well-received in other communities as well.”

“From there, Hope-Not-Handcuffs gained support from other community members, and Chief of Police, Bucholz, recently announced that Hazel Park applied for participation and expects the application to be accepted within the next three to six months.”

SULLIVAN SAID THE MAIN PRIORITY OF THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL truly is to provide for Hazel Park residents and make it a better place. Sullivan is happy to be involved at a time when Hazel Park is finally moving out of a budget deficit and can adequately focus on instituting new programs and services that will benefit everyone in the area.

“Our overall goal is to provide the best practices and services that we can for our residents. It’s great to be a part of this turning point – getting past survival mode and moving into enrichment and growth for our city. It’s exciting to see what we can achieve,” Sullivan explained.

As far as other projects in the works, Sullivan said, “We are currently working on the approval process for the medical marijuana licensing here in the city. Additionally, as a member of the Hazel Park Arts Council – the vice president – and co-chair of the Hazel Park Art Fair committee, my personal goals are to bring art in all its forms to my neighbors and neighborhoods.”

There are a few arts-related events scheduled to return or be rolled out for the first time very soon. “We’re currently in the planning stages of the 7th annual Hazel Park Art Fair,” (#hazelparkartfair) she said. The ArtOber Art Walk will return in October, and the Arts Council also partners with the Hazel Park Growers & Makers Market, hosting an arts and crafts booth.

Sullivan is hoping to implement an animal-focused initiative as well. “I’m also personally working on a low to no-cost TNR (trap, neuter, return) initiative with an ordinance that I hope other cities will be able to duplicate easily for their communities,” she explained. Trap-neuter-return is a program in which free-roaming cats are temporarily captured, spayed or neutered, and returned to the location in which they are found. If the location is unsafe or otherwise deemed unfit, the cat may be relocated. Some are taken to farm houses or placed in animal shelters or foster care for eventual adoption into homes as companion animals. This program has been used to keep the stray cat population to a minimum, while offering a better life to those that are rescued.

Sullivan said she has a long history of volunteerism, and her background lends well to her current position. “I personally come from a grassroots volunteer background and draw my experience from that. So, new ideas and getting them accomplished with little to no budget are things I pride myself on being successful at.”

SHE BRIEFLY MENTIONED THE CLOSING OF THE FAMOUS HAZEL PARK RACEWAY and the city’s future plans for the site. “As you know, just recently, the city lost a landmark with the closing of the Hazel Park race track. This, however, has opened up the opportunity for land development by a great construction partner here in the city, which will allow for new business. Also, because of the new construction, there will be an increase in the tax base for that property. The possibility of more local jobs is great for our residents and the local economy as well.”

Sullivan encourages Hazel Park residents to get involved in current and upcoming projects, or just share their input on newly instituted projects and ideas. The Mayor and Council continually take into consideration new ideas from local community members.

Sullivan said, “Attend council meetings and speak at them, volunteer, or email in your ideas. Organize a fundraiser for your favorite local non-profit. Participate in community activities and events. The Friends of the Hazel Park Library have great free kids events – and some for parents and adults, too. We have great community partners who host car shows, barbecues, and other events throughout the year. Sign up for the Hazel Park City email to stay informed.”

She added the best thing to do is to attend meetings, “ask questions and let us know what you need to be successful. We’ll see if we can help you accomplished that.”

For more information on Hazel Park’s City Council or Mayor or any of the Council’s current programs, please visit www.hazelpark.org or call 248.546.7000.

By Sara E. Teller

FEW PEOPLE COME AS QUALIFIED FOR THEIR POSITION as Hazel Park City Manager Edward Klobucher. Prior to becoming city manager, he served as Hazel Park’s acting city manager, assistant city manager, acting city clerk and special projects coordinator. A lifelong resident of Hazel Park, he was appointed city manager in
February of 2002 in the middle of a serious municipal budget crisis. Klobucher credits the City Council and cooperative employee bargaining units for his ability to present a balanced budget for the following fiscal year.

When asked about the economic outlook for the city, Klobucher shares that Hazel Park has enjoyed resurgence in the past few years with the addition of dining and entertainment venues such as Joe Bar/Frame and Mable Gray. Existing businesses have been renovated, like Kozy Lounge; and other mainstays in the city, like House of Shamrocks and Loui’s Pizza are thriving. From a dining, entertainment, and night-on-the-town perspective, Hazel Park is doing quite well, and continuing to field inquiries from people interested in bringing new venues to the city.

The biggest economic development news this year is the closing of the Hazel Park Raceway. The most visible and an iconic landmark, for many years it was the most important business in the city. In the 1950s, the race track provided nearly 50 percent of the City’s general fund revenues. The importance of the raceway cannot be overstated. The revenue it provided was down to 25 percent in 1980s. Unfortunately, with the proliferation of casino gambling in the state of Michigan, the popularity of horse racing declined in the 2000s and accelerated dramatically until the track closed earlier this year. By that time, it provided fewer than two percent of the City’s general fund revenue.

Ashley Capital is the organization which developed the Tri-County Commerce Center in part of the raceway property. They also recently purchased the remaining raceway property, and plan two more industrial developments by Spring 2019.

Hazel Park cut the ribbon on the Tri-County Commerce Center last year. Since it opened, it has attracted an Amazon fulfillment center, Bridgewater Auto Interiors, LG Electronics, and it is also where they will be building the battery for the new, fully-electric Chevy Volt. That will bring about 200 jobs to the region. Hazel Park has been very successful with the first Ashley Capital development.

AS OF THIS WRITING, KLOBUCHER SHARED THAT THE CITY IS IN THE PROCESS of licensing establishments who will grow, process, test, transport and provide medical marijuana to Michigan residents. They are currently in the review-and-selection process for the multiple license applications. There will be a study session and lots of committee involvement. Although Klobucher is unable to provide an exact number, there are multiple licenses for each of the four business categories, depending upon the category and type of license. Council, by resolution, may expand or shrink the number of licenses being considered. Currently they are looking at four of every classification, but that number is not final.

The City of Hazel Park is currently in the process of updating its Master Plan. They will be completing that work after they finish the burdensome process of the medical marijuana establishments.

Hazel Park has become a magnet for entrepreneurs. Klobucher conveys that he is very lucky to work for a good City Council and to have energetic entrepreneurs who believe in and invest their time and resources into Hazel Park.

“The cool thing about the new entrepreneurs opening businesses in Hazel Park, like Chef James Rigato of Mabel Gray, is that they are very community-minded,” Klobucher says.

Also home to the only suburban community Promise Zone in Metro Detroit, the Federal government has targeted Hazel Park for support and partnered with the local leaders in Hazel Park to improve educational opportunities. Promise Zone Scholarships are available through the Local College Access Network (LCAN). Every student that graduates from Hazel Park High School is guaranteed money to attend Oakland Community College for two years. This is changing and improving the educational opportunities for Hazel Park students.

When asked about the future of his city, Klobucher sees Hazel Park thriving. The city has an opportunity to build lasting prosperity.

“We can continue to have outstanding facilities: EMS, police, roads, city services. We can have a community full of happy residents living fulfilling lives,” Klobucher says. “I want to make life better for the HP residents.”

By Sara E. Teller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Sara E. Teller

THE PROMISE ZONE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM IS A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION founded in 2010, with scholarships first being awarded to the class of 2012. It is one of ten original “Promise Zones” created through legislation signed by Governor Granholm in 2009.

More than 60 percent of jobs in Michigan and throughout the country are projected to require a post-secondary credential by 2025, yet only 15 percent of Hazel Park adults currently hold a degree or certificate. “With this in mind, the Hazel Park Promise Zone Scholarship Program was created to eliminate finances as a barrier to higher education for Hazel Park students, to increase educational attainment in the community, and to incentivize families to move into or continue residing in the school district,” said Hazel Park’s Promise Zone Executive Director Kayla Roney Smith.

“The program guarantees a tuition-free path to an associate’s degree for students who reside in the school district, which is made up of the city of Hazel Park and a portion of the city of Ferndale, and who attend Hazel Park Schools from 5th grade through graduation.”

Students who complete the application process are eligible to get full tuition and fees paid for at Oakland Community College (OCC). The scholarship covers 62 credits within four years following high school. Students must reside in the school district at the time of graduation in order to qualify, and to receive the maximum scholarship they must have attended Hazel Park Schools from fifth grade (or earlier) through their graduation year.

Students who enter the District after fifth grade are also eligible for partial scholarships, and a student who chooses to attend a Michigan institution other than OCC may be able to utilize it there as well.

“​Students are encouraged to apply during their senior year of high school through a brief electronic application,” Roney Smith explains. “This application is released to students during ‘College Month,’ which is celebrated in October. In the spring, they are asked to sign a hard copy form acknowledging they understand the requirements and benefits of the program.” Students must also complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and any additional financial aid application steps required by the colleges they plan to attend. “While there is not a strict application deadline, we ask that they complete these steps prior to their last day of school in order to ensure quick processing,” she said.

THE PROGRAM IS NON-COMPETITIVE, meaning as long as students meet the requirements and
complete an application, they are eligible. The only exception is if they receive a Pell Grant larger than the amount of the Promise Zone scholarship. If that’s the case, students are able to use their scholarships during the semesters they do not receive Pell Grant funding.

The scholarship may be used at any college, university, or approved vocational program located in the state of Michigan. If students receive a federal Pell Grant that does not exceed the Promise Zone amount, the amount of the grant received is subtracted from their total Promise Zone scholarship for that semester.

While the Promise Zone was created for the purpose of providing scholarships, it has evolved to provide other programming and services, as well,” said Roney Smith. “We provide a full-time college adviser at Hazel Park High School to pro-vide individualized and group assistance to students and families to assist them through the college preparation, exploration, application and financial aid processes. This adviser also assists students in accessing other, non-Promise Zone scholarships.”

Hazel Park administrators are also constantly working to create new partnerships and bring services and re-sources designed to assist students in preparing for the colleges. Roney Smith explained, “We worked with UAW Chrysler to create a two-year skilled trades training program, which operates each afternoon during the school year and recently graduated its first cohort of Hazel Park High School as well as Hazel Park Alternative High School students. We have also worked with the School District, the City, and business partners to offer paid summer internships and professional development training to high schoolers.”

By Ingrid Sjostrand

IT MIGHT BE HARD TO BELIEVE A CITY THE SIZE OF HAZEL PARK –ONLY 2.8 SQUARE MILES – HAS 12 PARKS WITHIN ITS LIMITS. Even more surprising is that among those parks are a BMX course, dog park, two community gardens, and an art park.

These 12 parks are maintained by a small recreation department led by Sareen Papakhian, Recreation Director and assistant planner. Papakhian describes their mission as “to enrich the lives of Hazel Park residents by providing quality park and recreation facilities, green spaces, programs, and services to the community.”

Their responsibilities expand far beyond just park maintenance, including everything from managing programming for seniors and children, coordinating many of the City’s annual events and renting community center space for activities and classes.

“We oversee senior programming, a congregate meal program for seniors, we provide senior event planning and a space for seniors to congregate in the evenings,” Papakhian says. “But, most importantly, we handle senior transportation and that’s in collaboration with SMART.”

“Beyond that, we also provide recreation and youth programming for residents and non-residents. That includes a summer camp program called Kids Camp and various sports leagues – our largest activity true to Hazel Park is baseball.”

The Recreation Department oversees eight annual events, and will be adding a ninth on August 4th with their Family Fun event in collaboration with Oakland County Parks. Other events include the Daddy Daughter Dance in February and Earth Day celebration and annual Spring Clean Up with the Department of Public Works in April.

“Our largest special event we held over Memorial Day weekend, the Hazel Park Memorial Festival,” Papakhian says. “Skerbeck Family Carnival from Escanaba comes down and helps us out with that. There’s also a refreshment tent taken care of by the Hazel Park Lions Club.”

Papakhian has been director of the Recreation department since 2014. She has her master’s degree in urban planning from Wayne State University, and also acts as assistant city planner aiding in economic development and coding enforcement.

IN HER FOUR YEARS WITH THE RECREATION DEPARTMENT, Papakhian has been working tirelessly to improve the quality of Hazel Park’s green areas through new initiatives like the tree planting program. “This was our first tree planting in over a decade, in partner-ship with ReLeaf Michigan. As a pilot program they gave us double the amount of trees, and we were able to plant 20; 16 in Scout Park and four in Karam Park, in and outside the dog park,” she says. “That was a big accomplishment for me because I love trees, and we are in dire need of increasing tree canopy within the parks and the city.”

In addition to the tree planting program, the Parks and Recreation Department has been replacing and re-purposing playground and park equipment.

“Our five-year plan would be to provide new park equipment for our parks in the city. Our parks are in dire need of new equipment, and what we’ve done for a few decades has been to maintain that equipment,” Papakhian says. “My number one goal as Director is to replace equipment as best we can through fundraising, reaching out to businesses in town which I’ve been able to do during my tenure.”

These fundraising efforts have resulted in $5,000 solicited for new baseball pitching machines, a playscape sourced for Scout Park at no cost to taxpayers, a partnership with the United States Tennis Association with a $25,000 grant for new tennis courts at Hazel Park High School and another playscape installed at Karam Park through the assistance of matching grants from playground company GameTime.

“Additionally, a family that provided many generations of civic betterment to Hazel Park donated a fitness park within Green Acres Park,” Papakhian adds. “From what I know that’s the first fitness park in a public park in the region. We also have a bike pump station there and planted a tree there in memoriam to that family.”

While the Recreation Department is doing great work with what they have, they still see the struggles of a small staff and an even smaller budget. Papakhian is the only full-time employee, working with the assistance of just a part-time office employee, sports and camp supervisors, three drivers and three building attendants. There is also a Recreation Advisory board of six members that meet bi-monthly to review and approve projects.

“We try to do what we can with what we have. The main struggle is the cost of everything – that’s our number one detriment.” Papakhian says.

“Personally, I think we’ve done a great job of being resourceful. My staff is the hardest-working part-time staff I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m proud of what we do here.”

PAPAKHIAN SEES THE WORK ETHIC OF HER STAFF reflected in the residents of Hazel Park every day, and that volunteers who help with park clean up and community gardens are just as important to the success of the Recreation Department.

“Hazel Park is a city of fighters. I don’t know any other city that has done what Hazel Park can do with what we have. I’m proud to work for a city of fighters and proud to work with the residents of Hazel Park,” She says. “Anytime a resident wants to clean a park we would support that endeavor in any way we possibly can.”

By Ingrid Sjotrand

BEAUTIFYING PUBLIC SPACES IS OFTEN THOUGHT OF as the responsibility of the government, but when citizens pitch in it can make all the difference. The Neighborhood Enrichment Committee is the perfect example of this in the things they do for the City of Hazel Park.

Founded in 2004 in collaboration with former Mayor Jan Parisi, the group takes on projects to enhance the appearance and livelihood of Hazel Park. This includes building community gardens throughout the city, hosting fundraising dinners and donating to local organizations.

“Neighborhood Enrichment is about inspiring our citizens to make their little corner of the city the best it can be. We are part of the community. We are your neighbors and friends, and all of us are doing what we can, with what we have, where we are,” their mission statement (listed on their Face-book page) says.

Probably the most well-known contribution of Neighborhood Enrichment are their many “greenification” efforts. One of their first and biggest projects was adopting Kennedy Park on Merrill St., where they updated playground equipment, in-stalled benches and built a community garden consisting of 17 plots available for residents to grow their own produce. Since 2005, the group has continued to maintain and improve the park.

They have since created a planting team, called the Flower Power Committee, which is responsible for gardening and landscaping public areas. One doesn’t have to look far in Hazel Park to see the impact they’ve made, from making over the corner of John R. and 9 Mile roads by building a display and adding flowers and trees in front of City Hall, to recently collaborating with residents of American House to fill planters outside the Hazel Park Recreation Center. One mission of the Flower Power committee is bringing the hazelnut bush – Hazel Park’s namesake – back to the city. They’ve plant-ed some in Kennedy Park and celebrate St. Filbert’s Day on August 20th. The filbert is a variation of the hazelnut, and the celebration is derived from the Roman Catholic holiday celebrated in France and England. Typically, the City puts on a memorial race on the holiday.

NEIGHBORHOOD ENRICHMENT ALSO WORKS for the betterment of residents and future leaders of Hazel Park. The group has been funding and installing the “little free libraries” seen around the city, and in June of 2017, they donated two benches with the Hoover PTA to Hoover Elementary for their “Buddy Benches” program. Buddy Benches are a safe space on the playground where more introverted students can sit if they need a friend or playmate. The project hopes to encourage empathy among students.

Neighborhood Enrichment also hosts occasional garden tours of Hazel Park neighborhoods, decorates City Hall for Halloween and Christmas and created the Curb Appeal Awards, recognizing the best-looking homes in the area. In July, they coordinated a city-wide garage sale.

All the work Neighborhood Enrichment does to better Hazel Park is supplemented by donations and fundraising. Their largest fundraising event is an annual dinner held in May with raffles and prizes. Typically a spaghetti dinner, the past two years the organization has taken advantage of May 5th falling on a weekend and held a Cinco de Mayo-themed event. The 2018 event was co-catered by Country Boy restaurant and featured a taco bar with sides and desserts.

The group is always accepting donations and looking for new members interested in beautifying and bettering Hazel Park. Meetings are scheduled to be held the first Thursday of each month at the Hazel Park Recreation Center and event details.