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By Mary Meldrum

MANY OF US ARE ANIMAL LOVERS, INCLUDING MYSELF. With so many potential threats in our homes these days, it’s important to know how to keep our pets safe, and to examine our home from the “noselevel” view.

Let’s start with foods that are dangerous. There are many, but here is a somewhat comprehensive list of the worst and also most common:

  • Chocolate and cocoa
  • Onions and onion powder
  • Granulated garlic, garlic powder
  • Grapes, raisins, and currants
  • Coffee (grounds, coffee beans)
  • Caffeine (black tea, yerba mate, soft drinks)
  • Yeast dough
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Green potatoes and green tomatoes
  • Avocado pits
  • Seeds and pits of cherries, apples, apricots
  • Xylitol – an artificial sweetener found in chewing gum, candy and breath fresheners, and toothpaste

What about air pollution? Recent reports suggest that indoor air may be even more polluted than the air outside.

Many cleaning products are potentially toxic. Your companion’s nose is constantly close to the floor. Normal grooming behavior includes licking paws that may come in contact with those products’ residue. Natural alternatives are readily available, and simple homemade products with inexpensive ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and borax clean as well as most commercial products. Consider replacing chemically-based air fresheners, detergents, fabric softeners, disinfectants, furniture polish, glass cleaners, insecticides, and scouring powders with natural alternatives.

Plug-in air fresheners and potpourris are quite popular. However, some odors that humans find agreeable are actually annoying to cats. Citrus and pine are both highly irritating and even poisonous if overdone. Constant bombardment with these scents is unfair to your pet; not to mention the potentially toxic chemicals they contain. Choosing more natural cleaning products and air fresheners will go a long way in limiting the toxins your companion has to deal with on a daily basis.

Medications are another source of toxic poison for your pets. Pills dropped on the floor immediately transform into cat toys! Poison control centers get thousands of calls every year about pets that have consumed painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants, dietary supplements, and other items. Be sure to keep medications and vitamins safely stored. Be especially careful with pet vitamins and medications, since they are often flavored and smell enticing.

If your dog or cat accidentally ingests human medication or supplements, contact your veterinarian or poison control center right away. Many human medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, are highly toxic to animals, even in small doses.

PLANTS ARE ANOTHER POTENTIAL SOURCE OF POISON. While providing beauty and fresh air to our indoor spaces, pets may consider them toys or snacks. Learn which plants are potentially toxic and keep them out of reach. Some toxic houseplants include:

  • Amaryllis
  • Azalea
  • Caladium (Elephant’s Ears)
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Creeping Charlie
  • Dracaena
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Ivy (Araliaceae)
  • Lily (Easter lilies, daylilies, Tiger lilies and Stargazer lilies)
  • Mistletoe
  • Philodendron
  • Pothos
  • Schefflera
  • Yew tree

A good general rule is that all plants grown from a bulb are toxic. Keep pets away from bulbs and bulb plants.

Insecticides and rodenticides must be used very carefully and judiciously in and around a household with pets. Baits or traps must be located in areas totally inaccessible to your companion. Bug sprays and baits should be used with extreme caution, and the treated area should be completely off-limits to your pet for several days. Read product labels carefully for toxicity information. Cats, and some dogs (especially terriers), love to hunt and eat bugs and rodents, so be sure they cannot come into contact with bugs or mice that have been poisoned.

MOTHBALLS ARE VERY TOXIC TO DOGS AND CATS (AND PEOPLE FOR THAT MATTER). Cats love to jump in open drawers or storage boxes, so use cedar paper or other moth deterrents instead.

Flea control products – even those designed to use on and around animals – can be toxic to our companions over time. There are natural alternatives that work as well or better than conventional chemical pesticide-based products.

Hazards in your garage are also common. Many of us store a variety of chemicals and yard products in the garage. One of the most dangerous of these is anti-freeze. Antifreeze tastes sweet and is attractive to pets, but is highly toxic even in small amounts. If you keep yard and garden products in the garage, be sure they are up high on the shelves, in closed cabinets or in plastic bins with lids. Bins are also good for keeping fumes from fertilizers and other products contained. Paints, paint thinners, glues, and solvents stored in the garage should be kept away from pets as well. Don’t allow pets into areas where you are working. Clean up any spills immediately to ensure a dog or cat does not step in paint or solvent — many solvents will chemically burn the skin and paws, and paints will surely be licked off and ingested.

LOCAL PET RESCUES ARE AN OBVIOUS SOURCE FOR FURTHER INFORMATION about pet safety in the home. Sheri Snover of Berkley operates Second Chances Animal Resources, which works with other shelters and animal rescue organizations to help with the care and adoption of their animals.

One of their most popular projects is their harness exchange. Snover says, “Unfortunately, from time to time, we still see and hear people talk about using a choke, prong or shock collar. Some just need education on more humane methods to train and walk their dogs.” Second Chance provides to veterinary clinics and other organizations free Freedom-No Pull harnesses in exchange for their choke, prong, and/or shock collar, along with the education on their use.

https://www.secondchancesanimalrescue.org/

Photo ©2021 by Bennie White

IN RECOGNITION OF THE UNPRECEDENTED TIMES and the immense loss so many have experienced, the City of Oak Park will create a space that allows for reflection on the pandemic and remembrance of those who lost their lives to COVID-19.

We recognize each individual has their own story on how COVID-19 impacted them and that each story has affected our community. Some of the greatest impacts have been felt by those who lost a loved one to COVID-19. To ensure victims of the virus are properly remembered, the City will be installing a thoughtful and permanent memorial. We invite Oak Park residents to share their input on what an appropriate COVID-19 Memorial may be, where it should be installed and, most importantly, to provide information on Oak Park residents who fell victim to the virus. The City will, on an ongoing basis take the information of those lost to COVID-19 to ensure their memory is preserved.

Information can be provided by utilizing the QR code on this page (photo); and pictures of Oak Park residents who died from COVID-19 can be sent to Communications Director Courtney Flynn at cflynn@oakparkmi.gov. We thank you for your valued input and are humbled at the opportunity to provide a space for our community to honor and remember their loved ones.

Photo ©2021 by Bennie White

THE CITY OF OAK PARK HAS FIVE MOGO STATIONS and the numbers show that our community knows how to ride!

In 2020, Oak Park had the highest usage of any community in the surrounding area, with 1,667 trips taken. We hope our residents continue to utilize this service offered through the City’s partnership with MoGo.

For those looking to get on a MoGo bike and ride, the Oak Park stations are located at:

• West 11 Mile Rd. & Tyler St.

• Lincoln St. & Greenfield Rd.

• Coolidge Hwy. & Lincoln St.

• Oak Park Blvd. & Parklawn St.

• West Nine Mile Rd. & Manistee St.

To stay up-to-date on MoGo News, visit their website at mogodetroit.org or follow them on social media (@MoGoDetroit).

By Kerry Lark
Photos ©2021 by David McNair

A Community-Based Business Serving Oak Park for Over 30 Years

IT WAS A TYPICALLY GREY AND CHILLY NOVEMBER MORNING as I pulled into a parking lot on 9 Mile in Oak Park. I was coming to interview Dawn and Sam Barash; the owners of Wirelessunow, Inc, a local cell phone provider.

Dawn welcomed me with a sincere smile, a bottle of water and a plate of tasty food. Talk about a great first impression! She led me to their office where I met her husband Sam. I sat down and listened as they proudly shared their personal and business journey here in America.

Sam Barash emigrated here from Iraq in 1974 at 14-years-old with little more than the clothes on his back. He is a typical, hard-working immigrant, the type who made this country great. Sam believes that by combining hard work and determination anyone can succeed in America. He enrolled at Oak Park High School, determined to participate and remain active in his new community.

IN 1993, THIS DETERMINATION BECAME PARAMOUNT when they decided to become entrepreneurs selling pagers and beepers. Remember pagers and beepers? If you’re under 25, don’t bother answering that question! By 1995 there were over 60 million pagers in use worldwide.

However, they realized that cell phones would soon grow to replace pagers and beepers, so they quickly pivoted and expanded, also offering service, accessories and repair. Their son and daughter came on board to lend a helping hand managing the growing family business. They were so successful that by 2006 they were a Metro PCS Master Dealer.

In 2013, T Mobile bought Metro PCS, so they are now an authorized dealer for Metro by T Mobile. They are proud of the fact that as an essential business they remained open during the Covid pandemic, providing important service while protecting their customers.

DAWN AND SAM OFFER EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE on a wide range of products and services. Over the years they’ve seen it all, and able to help you when other companies have turned you away. Products include all types of smart devices and accessories, data transfer from old devices to new devices, educating customers on avoiding cyber attacks and scams, and assisting clients navigating the myriad of features available on new products.

Sam and Dawn believe strongly that their personal values carry over to their company, including:

• 100 percent honest customer service.

• Family-oriented.

• Dedicated to the Oak Park community.

• Always working hard for you!

The old saying that, “the only constant in life is change” has never been truer, especially in the rapidly-evolving technology and communications industry. So, if you are looking for great local wireless company, stop by and see Dawn and Sam at Wirelessunow. They will treat you like family and they have the experience and expertise to help you. Who knows, you may even get a plate of tasty food!

Wirelessunow Inc., 8980 West 9 Mile Rd, Oak Park MI 48237

(248) 582-2222 | wirelessunow@gmail.com

By Ryan R. Ennis

A Family-Friendly Business

NO MATTER HOW HANDY PROPERTY OWNERS MAY BE, plumbing problems will arise that require the skills of a professional.

Ready to tackle the challenges is Plumbing Techs of Michigan, a company owned and run by Scott Baxter. His Oak Park shop, located at 12700 Capital Street, services most of the Tri-County area. More recently, he has expanded his enterprise with the opening of a Wixom branch.

At Plumbing Techs, Baxter oversees daily operations, provides service estimates, and coordinates his employees’ scheduling and training. On lighter days, his staff begin their mornings driving to locations where water heaters, sump pumps, and garbage disposals need to be installed. On other occasions, their destinations put their high-level of expertise to use as they set about laying drains, water pipes, and gas lines for new construction and remodeling projects.

Baxter takes pride in being a second-generation tradesman. Following in his father’s footsteps, he began as a plumber’s apprentice until he received his journeyman license in 1982; two years later, he received his master plumber license. Following in Baxter’s footsteps, his son Shawn joined him in the trade four years ago and received his journeyman license last year.

IN 1996, BAXTER STARTED HIS COMPANY with only a used truck and his personal tools, determined to build a name for himself as a plumber with customer satisfaction as his top priority. Although his days are now kept busy managing staff and inventory, he remains committed to his original vision. A Madison Heights customer, John H., offers this testimony about Plumbing Techs: “You could not get a better end result for the money spent. I would recommend this company to anyone requiring major or minor repairs.”

As part of maintaining customer satisfaction, Baxter and his staff adhere to certain precautionary measures. During the onboarding process, Plumbing Techs employees participate in safety and MIOSHA (Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration) training. Whether arriving at a site to give an estimate or provide a service, they wear masks, booties, and gloves to protect themselves, their customers, and their customers’ properties.

Additional protective steps include the laying of tarps and other coverings to prevent damage to floors, appliances, and furniture. When the jobs involve excavation, Baxter contacts Miss Dig 811, a free utility safety notification service, whose markings of underground utility lines help Baxter and his plumber avoid potential dangers.

During a recent project, Baxter utilized safety checklists as his plumbers replaced a water piping system for a 16-unit condominium building dating back to the ’60s. The complicated task involved swapping out old large diameter mainline piping for a new supply system inside the property’s wall cavities.

What made the undertaking even more tricky was that the residents continued occupying their homes while the work was being done. Although they had to deal with some noise and inconvenience under the renovation, they couldn’t have been happier about the results: “The owners had not seen water pressure this good in many years,” says Baxter.

WHILE SOME MAJOR PLUMBING PROBLEMS SPRING UP UNEXPECTEDLY, others can be prevented with annual maintenance. To schedule the flushing of your hot water tank, the cleaning of your sewer lines, or other yearly procedures, call Plumbing Techs at 248-548-7488 or visit plumbingtechs.com. The website contains more information about the company’s extensive menu of services, including a listing of frequently asked questions for regular and prospective clients to peruse.

“We are a proud company,” says Baxter. “We give our customers fair pricing, timely scheduling, excellent workmanship, and a two-year guarantee on labor.”

 

By Ryan R. Ennis
Photos ©2021 by David McNair

IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME: ON A CHILLY NIGHT, HURRYING TO A DESTINATION, a driver hits an unexpected pothole on a poorly lit road. Suddenly, a loud pop is heard, followed by the hissing of a deflating tire. Within moments, a warning light appears on the dashboard. The distressed driver scowls and abruptly pulls off onto the shoulder.

In Metro Detroit, a man who can turn a distraught motorist’s grimace into a smile is Mohamed Majhed, owner of BMI Road Service. His dispatchers are on call 24-hours and seven-days per-week “to get you off the road and home safely,” he assures his customers. Some of BMI’s services include tire changes, air delivery, jump starts, assistance with lock outs, as well as local and out-of-state-towing. Working with AAA and other insurance companies, BMI offers unlimited towing coverage.

MAJHED HAS MANY YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN THE FIELD. Unsure about which path to pursue in college, he took a job at a Southfield auto repair and gas station 11 years ago because he has “always loved automobiles.” At the Southfield shop, he ran the gas station and helped with towing, believing he was “making a difference in people’s lives by providing an ambulance for cars.”

After five years at the station, he felt confident enough to strike out by himself, and found a suitable location for his own business at 13380 Capital Street in Oak Park.

In the beginning, it was just Majhed responding to stranded motorists’ calls with his own van. After a year, he expanded by offering towing services. Before long, he amassed a fleet of nine tow trucks and a staff of 12 employees.

In doing so, his job responsibilities have increased. In addition to handling daily operations at the shop, he heads out on the road when duty calls. Despite the long hours, he is “happy to be an important helper in the community.”

HIS ADVICE TO MOTORISTS, to keep them from becoming stranded, is to “not use their cell phones while driving.” He estimates that 70 percent of the problems drivers incur while operating their vehicles are from cell phone use. “When drivers are on their phones,” he says, “they (often) don’t pay attention to the gas level is in their tank, the curves ahead in the road, and naturally the potholes and debris in their paths that could damage their tires and undercarriage.”

To avoid potential accidents, some insurance agents recommend storing your phone in the glove box or another compartment, out of sight, when you are behind the wheel.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Majhed and his employees follow strict safety protocols. Wearing masks, he and his staff strive to keep a safe degree of distance between them and their patrons during their inter-actions. All BMI Road Service employees also frequently sanitize their hands and do not enter other vehicles unless necessary. Additional guidelines are that only one tower is assigned to a specific truck, and that the truck’s interior is frequently disinfected throughout the worker’s shift.

Like other towing companies, BMI Road Service has adopted another procedure to protect its staff and you: If your vehicle must be towed, you will not be able to ride in the cab with the driver. You will need to make your own arrangements to be taken home or to the repair shop.

“All my employees are well-trusted family members,” says Majhed. “When they arrive on the scene to assist you, expect to be treated with a high level of care and respect.”

To contact BMI Road Service, call 313-460-3222. Cash, check, and all major credit cards are accepted.

By Sara E. Teller

Serving the Public for More Than 70 Years

PUBLIC SERVICE CREDIT UNION (PSCU), formerly known as the Wayne County Employees Credit Union, opened for business in the Detroit Metropolitan Area more than 70 years ago. Branch offices can be found all across Southeast Michigan and the company is headquartered in Romulus.

“We have 140 dedicated employees who feel an obligation to provide the best financial services available to our near 35,000 members,” said Nadine Hohnke, Digital Member Experience Manager for PSCU’s Oak Park branch. “Our mission is to help our members reach their financial goals.”

Every customer who walks through the door can be sure their own unique needs are heard and met. In fact, members are considered part of the team. Hohnke said, “As a member of the PSCU family, everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Every one of our members is also part owner of the Credit Union, which means that whatever benefits the Union also benefits members.”

While PSCU seems to have a more personalized feel than larger banking facilities, it’s still able to offer a broad range of financial services from checking and savings accounts, CDs, online and mobile banking options, vehicle loans, mortgages, and more.

“We also provide a wide array of commercial banking services for our business members,” Hohnke said. “Best of all, our products and services are offered at better rates [than at traditional banks] because we are a not-for-profit cooperative that does not have to create income for stockholders.”

Some of the more specialized services PSCU Oak Park extends to its members include Savvy Money, which provides free credit monitoring and daily updates without impacting credit score, as well Round Up, which allows customers to round up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and deposit the extra pocket money into a special savings account. First-time auto buyers also have an opportunity to purchase a vehicle without having a credit history. “This is a great service to the younger buyers,” Hohnke said.

PSCU OAK PARK IS INVOLVED IN A VARIETY OF LOCAL ACTIVITIES and fundraising opportunities throughout the year. The Pink Fund, Eleanor’s Walk for HOPE, and Relay for Life are just a few of the charitable events in which PSCU has participated.

“Every year a group of PSCU employees go out to spread some holiday cheer in our neighboring cities, including the City of Oak Park,” Hohnke added. “In the past, we have gone to stores and paid for a shopper’s items at checkout, purchased meals for strangers, surprised people by filling their gas tanks at the pump as well as extended many other random acts of kindness.”

Of course, the pandemic has put a damper on some of the community involvement over the past couple of years, but PSCU Oak Park has developed alternative strategies for continuing to give back.

“This past holiday season was a little different due to the pandemic,” Hohnke explained. “We decided to do PSCU 12-Days of Tipping. Employees were encouraged to order carryout at local eateries. PSCU gave our employees $200 to tip [for their service].”

THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS HAVE ALSO PROMPTED PSCU to make a few changes to allow for members to have better access to online services. “To meet the needs of customers during these uncertain times, PSCU redesigned its mobile app, online banking portal, and websites so customers can do even more online,” Hohnke said.

She believes PSCU Oak Park is more than just one of the branch locations, saying, “It’s where the community, local businesses, and organizations can come together to receive genuine support. Through lending, financing, investing, and community development, PSCU is here to grow and sustain the wonderful community of Oak Park.”

For more information on membership options, products or services, call 734-641-8400 or visit www.PSCUnow.com

13401 W 9 Mile Rd, Oak Park MI 48237

By Kevin Alan Lamb

WHILE MUCH OF THE WORLD IS BETTER FAMILIAR with the comforts of working from home after 2020, I would similarly wager there is a greater appreciation for quiet, distraction-free, office space.

Founded in 2018 to be just that, Ben Long says PatchWork Collective was opened as a result of a lack of small office space in Ferndale, particularly for solo entrepreneurs and start-ups.

“The goal was to have something unique, and different from the large coworking sites like WeWork,” Long says.

Located at 22007 Woodward Ave., PatchWork Collective invites you to work the way you want, offering safe and adaptable office space with private offices, conference rooms, and special event/presentation space when permitted.

“Networking groups, weddings/wedding showers, birthdays, ballroom/ tango dance events, social events, book signings, animal adoption events, retirement parties, painting classes, and art auctions” are all examples of the events held in the space thus far.

PatchWork Collective is open to its members 24/7, and otherwise by appointment only.

“Ferndale has always been very inclusive and welcoming, and has a nice community and neighborly feel. PatchWork has a diverse member population. PatchWork has been well-received by the community with several members and occasional users being Ferndale residents and/or Ferndale business workers. Additionally, PatchWork won the Ferndale New Project of the Year in 2019 at the Mayor’s Business Council Award Ceremony,” Long says.

The Mayor’s Business Council gave out five awards to local businesses and business people who truly represented the heart of Ferndale. Mayor Coulter introduced former PatchWork CEO, Lisa Schmidt, and told everyone how the PatchWork Collective was an idea born right here in Ferndale. He talked about how Lisa and her co-founder Long had worked with the Build Institute in Ferndale to create their business plan and develop the company from concept to concrete. He shared how PatchWork is a great space for small business owners, remote workers, and entrepreneurs to work together.

A RECENT ROLLOUT AT THE COLLECTIVE IS THEIR TABLETOP MARKETPLACE, which is a way for vendors who might usually be at festivals like Pride, or those merchants with side gigs making products like candles, to sell their products.

“We currently feature homemade candles from Ferndale’s own Solas Candles, a local artist’s production, Waxing Cara (homemade goods using natural ingredients from bees), and products from Bedazzled Ballroom Dress Rental. The marketplace is open Saturday and Sunday from 2:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M., or by appointment. We’re always looking for additional vendors, so contact us if anyone is interested in learning more.”

Long hopes that once vaccines are fully rolled out and we are in the clear, they can get back to being a co-working, incubator space.

To inquire about renting space or about services offered, visit PatchWorkCollective.net or email info@patchworkcollective.net.

By Jessica J. Shaw

AS SPRING MAKES ITS APPEARANCE, warmer weather calls us to explore the green spaces of Metro Detroit. Thanks to local conservation efforts, the surrounding area is replete with several parks for those seeking good ol’ Vitamin N.

ONE INCREASINGLY POPULAR JAPANESE MODALITY in outdoor enjoyment is Shinrin-yoku, also known as “forest bathing.” As defined by the Association of Forest and Nature Therapy, forest bathing entails leaving digital devices behind and walking slowly through the forest, observing nature in its constant state-of-change.

Come join Ferndale Friends on paths near and far to enjoy the calming benefits of spending time in nature.

Stage Nature Area
6685 Coolidge Highway, Troy MI 48098

Start your walk by grabbing a map at the Nature Center. You’ll set out to experience 1.5 miles of trails in a park known for its ample wildlife such as deer and turkey. The wooded trails and boardwalks wind through upland forest, meadows, wetlands, and a cattail marsh playing a backdrop to the Rouge River. Go for the peace and quiet. Stay for the activities such as maple-tapping scheduled through the Nature Center.

Heritage Park
24916 Farmington Road, Farmington Hills MI 48836

Step onto the winding trails at Heritage Park and experience why “Let nature be your teacher” is the motto of the park. With four and a half miles of looping trails for hiking and nature study, curious hikers will find the park’s gems, including the Scout Trail where a small rumble of water cascades over rocks and the River Trail. Sweeping vistas can be enjoyed from benches throughout the park overlooking meadows and birdwatching spots.

Douglas Evans Nature Preserve
31845 Evergreen Rd, Beverly Hills MI 48025

Take a walk on the wild side at Douglas Evans. Ungroomed, rustic trails greet hikers who navigate the winding paths and invite the adventurous at heart to follow openings in the bushes to locate the riverside trail system. Sit-spots, like large fallen logs along the riverbank, make for places to pause to absorb the surroundings. Park on Evergreen Road and cross the bridge to enter this petite and untamed natural space. Be forewarned, there are no restrooms.

Red Oaks Nature Center
30300 Hales Street, Madison Heights MI 48071

You’ll find a pleasant surprise tucked across the street from Meijer on 13 Mile Road where you can steal away from the hustle and bustle at this 37-acre park. Here, trails are alive with birdsong while towering trees sway in the breeze overhead. Stop by the vernal pond in the spring and summer months to observe the dynamic changes it undergoes as the seasons progress.

Tenhave Woods Nature Trail
Lexington Blvd & Marais Avenue, Royal Oak MI 48073

Forest-bathers will appreciate this vibrant natural environment as a treat for the senses nestled away from the cityscape. This fenced-in nature area affords walkways winding through 22 acres in the Quickstad Park next to Royal Oak High School’s Raven Stadium. The park touts oak, beech, hickory and maple trees which are said to have stood since the early 1800s. Come Spring, several types of wildflowers, including trilliums dot the forest floor. Dragonfly Pond is a nice place to pause and is also a gathering spot for wildlife, like turtles and frogs.

Maybury State Park
20145 Beck Road, Northville MI 48167

Prepare for the grandest of adventures at this crown jewel of natural beauty. Start by locating the park map on signposts which distinguish walking trails from those meant for bikers and horseback riders. Meander under the canopy of trees through dense forest and rolling hills that give away to open meadows and the small lake. Paved walking trails are also available at this nearly thousand-acre park.

By Sherry A. Wells

“WE TAKE A LOT FOR GRANTED HERE IN FERNDALE.” Rev. Schoenhals observed. “There’s a cocoon of acceptance.”

Rev. Schoenhals has been ahead of his denomination in his public statements for LGBTQ persons, but the Church “is coming along and it will get there,” he believes. His stands made for a short stay at one church.

As a Methodist, he is not part of “a nice, comfortable religion.” There is anger, violence, material greed and selfishness to be overcome. The next generation is important to him.

In Ferndale, he was the first pastor of First United Methodist Church to have a large banner on church property declaring Black Lives Matter, made several years ago. Church members and members of the general public signed it. Last year it was placed on the fence. And stolen. A supportive person from the public (not a church member), paid to replace it.

He credits his wife, Jill Allison Warren, with the idea for the next banner: Love is Bigger, which came after the deadly racist confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. Church members and hundreds of the public signed that one, too. Lesson learned: It was installed very high up.

Every sentence about activism begins with “we.”

The day after Charlottesville, the church hosted a rally of support. “We had about 400 people in the church that day and another 100 out on the sidewalk.”

“We invite Green Energy, such as during the Green Cruise and bike rides. We have a solar array.”

Activism includes being a sanctuary church for immigration.

“One family was about to move in,” the Reverend said, “but got their papers the day before!”

THE CHURCH RENTS SPACE FOR SEVERAL ORGANIZATIONS’ MEETINGS, including the Indivisible Fighting 9. That group asked permission to place 1000 stuffed and other toys on stakes on the lawn, an art installation to represent the thousands of children separated from their parents. “We gave them our blessing.”

A recent sermon was titled “We Need Heroes.” Rev. Schoenhals described the relationship between the prophet Elijah and Elisha, as hero-to-trainee. The Reverend so pictured the scene that I felt as though I were walking behind the two, listening to every word. Elisha looked up to Elijah’s strong stands against the earthly powers, the political ones.

The Reverend has been accused of being too political but, he insists, and this lesson shows, he is simply being biblical.

It was thrice-weekly exposures to the Bible in his youth that led him into further studies and to the ministry. He enjoyed the in-depth Bible appreciation courses in the Liberal Arts program at an evangelical college in Indiana. A Biblical Literature major taught critical thinking and analysis. Greek and Church History and biblical languages and interpretation inspired him.

ASSIGNMENTS BY THE DENOMINATION have included seven years as a campus minister at the University of Michigan; an urban mission in Indianapolis with a small, diverse congregation housed in a gigantic, historic building; a brief stint on the West Coast; and eight years as pastor of a rural church in Armada, Michigan in the early years. Here at Ferndale First the congregation is also remarkably diverse, with about 40 percent Black members: African-American, several from Jamaica, with Ghana represented as well. He will be retiring in 2022, so Ferndale will be his last, although he will help celebrate this church’s 100th anniversary.

One advantage of the pandemic is that one may secretly attend a service via Zoom. With the link on the church FaceBook page, you’ll see Rev. Schoenhals sitting on the steps up to the chancel for Children’s Time. He looks like a grandpa. When he spoke about his grandson, his face lit up with great delight. I asked his wife if, when there are children with him on those steps, he is much more animated than on Zoom. My suspicions were confirmed with a “You got it right!”

 

www.ferndalefirstumc.org
www.facebook.com/FirstUnitedMethodistChurchFerndale