By Andrea Grimaldi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family Practice

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

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

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

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

Sexual Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Andrea Grimaldi

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

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

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

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

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

By Mary Meldrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By David Ryals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Sara E. Teller

SINCE ITS INCEPTION IN 1840, THE BERKLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT HAS ENJOYED REMARKABLE SUPPORT from the community, including businesses and families outside of the District. “The incredible success Berkley students experience is possible in part because of the overwhelm- ing community support provided at every level to ensure they are provided with a state-of-the-art educational experience,” explains Director of Communications, Jessica Stilger.

IN THE EARLY PART OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY MANY OF THE DISTRICT’S PRESENT-DAY BUILDINGS began to take shape. In 1921, the School Board constructed Angell Elementary School, and in 1925 Pattengill and Burton elementary schools were added. Six years later, both Burton and Pattengill were temporarily closed for financial reasons, but ended up reopening in 1941 and 1943, respectively.

In 1949, Berkley High School (BHS) opened. Shortly after, in 1951, Tyler (Avery) and Oxford Schools were added, followed by Hamilton (Rogers) in 1952. The addition of junior high schools came in 1956 with Anderson and in 1957 with Norup. Tyndall became the last elementary school to be added in 1965 and was ultimately converted to a community education facility in 1977.

In October 1994, the District was officially named the “Berkley School District,” and in the Fall of 2002 it began its mission titled, “Restructured for Success.” Avery became an early childhood center, serving children from six weeks of age through grade 2, while Norup Middle School was reconfigured to serve students in grades 3-8.

During the 2005-2006 school year, budget concerns led to an initiative titled “Downsizing by Design,” which included the sale of the Oxford property to Eli Construction, LLC for $1,080,000 and moving the central office staff from Oxford to Avery in 2006. The Oxford building was demolished during the Summer of 2007 with new homes built on the site. The plan also called for Norup to be reconfigured yet again. The remaining Avery K-2 graders moved to the Norup International School in the Fall of 2006.

In 2018, both the Tyndall and Avery early childhood centers combined into one. This new center opened in August 2018 and the Tyndall center now houses only administrative
staff. Currently, the Berkley School District includes educational opportunities for students in Berkley, Huntington Woods, and a portion of north Oak Park, and the District consists of eight schools in total:

    Oak Park | 6 weeks-5 years ANGELL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Berkley | Grades TK-5
  • ANDERSON MIDDLE SCHOOL Berkley | Grades 6-8
    Berkley | Grades 9-12

STILGER IS ALSO THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE BERKLEY EDUCATION FOUNDATION (BEF), which has been funding the #BerkleyDifference since 2000. The BEF’s purpose is to help maintain and enhance educational opportunities and programs for all Berkley Schools students.

“The BEF creates and facilitates fantastic experiences which enrich the lives and worldview for the entire school community,” Stilger said.

The foundation accomplishes these goals by supporting student scholarships for the BHS Maxfield Science Symposium, sending all 8th graders on college tours, funding teacher mini-grants for innovative ideas and experiences and providing an elementary enrichment program.

Some points of BEF pride include: Over the last four years, the Foundation has sent 1,353 students on college tours; during the 2018-19 school year over 600 students were enrolled in the free elementary enrichment program; and the BEF has reached over $100,000 in donations in recent years.


An anonymous donor gives the BEF $5,000 if Berkley Schools’ staff can match the $5,000 through donations or payroll deductions.

In November, all Berkley School District residents receive an appeal letter from the BEF outlining goals and accomplishments and asking for donations.

Each February, the Saturday before the Superbowl, the BEF hosts its Off To The Races event, which includes simulated horse racing that guests “bet” on to win prizes. A silent auction powered by mobile bidding is available as well as a big 12th race where one lucky winner takes home a vacation package.

The BEF receives donations throughout the year through this program.

There are several ways one can become a part of the Berkley School District. Residents who live within the District’s boundaries are welcome to register directly with the enrollment
office. If a family is uncertain whether their residence is within the boundaries, there is a map available online or at the enrollment office.

EACH YEAR, THE BOARD OF EDUCATION also has the opportunity to approve School of Choice slots for a limited number of students in grades TK-5, and there are a set number of openings in 9th grade for the Berkley High School (BHS) Scholars program. Although the Board has approved the School of Choice slots the last several years, availability is reassessed on an annual basis and the continuation of this program is not
guaranteed. Additionally, if the number of applications for School of Choice received after the program is approved exceed the number of openings, a lottery is held to place students. If a student’s name is drawn, he or she will be allowed into the District.

According to Stilger, Berkley students “are prepared to be creative, curious, confident, and well-rounded critical thinkers who are kind and caring and have a global perspective while understanding their communities.” The District has been named one of the state’s recipients of the Best Community for Music Education award eight years in a row. The high school is also currently ranked 62nd in the state with a 97-percent student post-graduation employment rate.

BHS was named a Best High School by the U.S. News & World Report in 2019, among the top 11 percent of high schools in the nation. In 2018, it was one of 175 schools in Michigan to be honored with the GreatSchools.org College Success award, demonstrating the District’s commitment to preparing its students for continued success after graduation. BHS was also named to the Washington Post’s 2017 Most Challenging High Schools list, ranking 21st in Michigan and 1,575 in the nation.

“Berkley School District is known for being dedicated to creating pathways for students to achieve their individual best, whatever that looks like for each student,” says Stilger. And Superintendent Dennis McDavid is leading the charge, ensuring students are supported not only while achieving their educational goals, but also while reaching their career goals after they move forward in their journey.

BHS CURRENTLY OFFERS 26 ADVANCED PLACEMENT COURSES and students are able to attend courses at the Oakland Schools Technical Centers. Outside-of-the-box courses include zoology, forensics, Encore! show choir, creative writing, film studies, history of the Holocaust, marketing, computer programming and many more. Students can also participate in the school’s newspaper, or learn robotics, foreign languages or video production while still in middle school. Many middle school students complete high school credits while attending Anderson or Norup.

Berkley’s elementary schools offer opportunities for children to excel at their own level and pace by utilizing the Cultures of Thinking & Reading & Writing Workshop models. This allows administrators to gage each student’s individual needs for furthering their academic growth.

Berkley offers a wealth of opportunities for middle school and high school students to join clubs and sports. Middle school sports include softball, baseball, football, basketball, track and field, cross country, wrestling, swimming, volleyball, golf, tennis, and clubs include yearbook, robotics, and art and drama. BHS offers football, basketball, swimming, soccer, wrestling, and cheerleading, among others, as well as club sports including hockey, figure skating, the dance team, and rugby. At BHS, students can join over 60 clubs, including unique offerings such as the vine-and-cheese club, drama, and the future teachers club.

Berkley’s students have been named All-State and Academic All-State honorary recipients for activities such as swimming, track and field, baseball, golf, hockey, and soccer. Twelve student athletes signed with colleges and universities during the 2018-19 school year. The BHS Orchestra was also one of three high school orchestras nationwide invited to play at Carnegie Hall in 2019 for the World Stride Music Festival and Berkley High School was the first school in the state to adopt Sources of Strength, a peer-led wellness program that benefits all students.

LAST YEAR JULIE SMITH, ONE OF THE CHOIR DIRECTORS AT BHS AND ANDERSON MIDDLE SCHOOL, was named the Oakland County High School Teacher of the Year. Also, in 2018, Danielle Ozanich, Angell 5th grade teacher, was named the 2019 National Hannah E. (Liz) MacGregor Teacher of the Year in the middle school division by the National History Day organization. In 2018, Superintendent Dennis McDavid was one of four people in the nation to be named a Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher.

The Berkley School District is always looking for ways to improve, and in 2018 the community passed a sinking fund initiative which levies 3.0 mills on all properties in the District for a total of ten years and equates to approximately a 1.0 mill reduction in levies on all properties. Sinking fund dollars support community investments and the program is designed to further the work that started as part of a 2015 bond initiative. Roofing and concrete replacement projects, technology infrastructure improvements, energy and security improvements, and technology device purchases are all top priorities.

CURRENTLY, THE ADMINISTRATIVE TEAM IS PUTTING TOGETHER a new strategic plan for the next five to ten years. “This work will set goals for the District and the words ‘inspire,’ ‘empower,’ and ‘lead,’ will guide the team through this process,” according to Stilger.

She added, “Families are encouraged to join their school’s support groups to stay involved with their child’s school and education, and each school has its own Parent Teacher Association (PTA).” The District trusts its PTA members to “believe in an education which prepares students with well- rounded opportunities and challenging experiences necessary for individuals to succeed in life.” It strives to ensure every child receives a
life-changing education and is committed to getting outstanding results for all students enrolled.

The Choir, Orchestra and Instrumental Booster groups support grades 6-12, and the Athletic Boosters support high school athletics. There are volunteer opportunities at all of Berkley’s schools, including helping in the classroom or chaperoning off-site activities and field trips. Anyone interested is required to complete the Volunteer Release Form ahead of time. This is available on the District’s website. For more information, parents and other family members are encouraged to contact their school’s office or Erin Haley at 248-837-8007 / erin.haley@berkleyschools.org.

By Sara E. Teller

THERE ARE MANY OPTIONS FOR RESIDENTS OF Huntington Woods, Berkley and the surrounding areas to get out and meet their neighbors by joining local clubs. The Huntington Woods Mens Club, Huntington Woods Womens League, Berkley Dads Club and Berkley Junior Womens Club are all long-standing nonprofits that offer fun activities, events, and fundraising opportunities throughout the year.

Huntington Woods Mens Club

THE HUNTINGTON WOODS MENS CLUB (HWMC) BEGAN IN 1977 with two dozen residents who were looking to establish a civic- minded group. Today, there are over 150 members who engage in multiple fundraising efforts and events such as the annual 4th of July parade.

“Our biggest event each year is the HWMC Service Auction,” president Michael Egnotovich explained. “This is held every March and 800 guests come to the Huntington Woods Recreation Center for food, drink and the chance to bid on over 400 auction items ranging
from $25 gift cards to an African safari.” He added, “We also coordinate an
annual cider sale with the Huntington Woods Women’s League every October and hold a raffle fundraiser for the city’s 4th of July fireworks display.”

The Club regularly raises over $150,000 at its auctions, with over $2,000,000 raised in total to date, and uses this money to fund local groups or city projects such as parks and equipment. Egnotovich said, “The Club has been making these contributions for over 35 years. We have also helped fund Berkley school district programs, such as offering concert wear for the BHS orchestra, raincoats for the marching band, and fabrication equipment for the Berkley Robotics team.”

The annual cost of membership is $75. Monthly meetings are held in members’ backyards during the summer and at indoor locations during the winter. For more information, please visit hwmc.org.

Huntington Woods Womens League

THE HUNTINGTON WOODS WOMENS LEAGUE (HWWL) STARTED IN 1970 with a mission to bring together women so that they can exercise their energies and abilities to benefit themselves and their community by promoting civic, cultural, educational and social welfare. The club meets the second Wednesday of every month at residents’ homes.

The HWWL hosts a number of events throughout the year, including a Ladies Night Out, cookie exchange, and Euchre parties, as well as fundraising efforts including an annual home tour and gala. Funds are donated to three major categories of recipients: community, education, and women and children’s interests.

Lynne Sullivan, who has been the club’s president for the past two years, said, “The home tour is our biggest fundraising event. We inherited it from the Library. Every year, there are five homes involved with a sixth reserved for the gala the night before the tour
begins.” Historically, this event, which takes place the first Sunday in June, has brought in 400-500 people with an increase in interest every year.

The HWWL currently has 45 members, and the annual dues are $35. For more information, visit hwwl.org.

Berkley Dads Club

THE BERKLEY DADS CLUB IS IN ITS 71ST YEAR, having started in 1948 with civic activities primarily focused on baseball, hockey, boxing and wrestling. Today, the focus of the club is on baseball with the organization attracting over 800 players every year and offering spring baseball, a travel club, and other related programs and clinics. Those affiliated with the Berkley School District can play in the summer league, including those enrolled in schools-of-choice.

“We get players from Royal Oak, Madison Heights, and even further out,” said President Mike Kerby, who was a player himself years ago and has been in his position for nine years.

The organization hosts a fundraising raffle every year, as well as Euchre parties, squares parties, and other events. The funds go towards parks and recreation initiatives, including improvements for existing facilities as well as the construction of new spaces.

“We donate to baseball fields and surrounding parks. We also put in a batting cage in Huntington Woods,” Kerby said.

For more information, visit berkleydadsclub.org or email berkleydadsclub1@gmail.com.

Berkley Junior Womens Club

BERKLEY JUNIOR WOMENS CLUB IS A NONPROFIT THAT STARTED with twelve members in 1985. The club’s mission is to develop and foster projects of civic betterment and promote leadership training and cooperative action among its members. It meets the third Wednesday of every month at the Berkley Community Center at 7:00 P.M.

“Our group engages in a variety of volunteering,” explained President Lisa Kempner. “The majority of it is local to Berkley, but we also participate in events outside of Berkley, such as Race for a Cure. We collaborate with a multitude of other non-profit organizations and city departments to help wherever we can.” She added, “Many of our events are a collaborative effort. We work with Berkley Parks & Recreation to put on Boofest, the Daddy-Daughter Dance, Mother-Son Fun Night, and Breakfast with the Bunny. We work with the Holiday Lights Parade Committee for the tree- lighting ceremony, and with the Downtown Development Authority in putting on the Robina Rhapsody concert series. We also work with the Berkley Days Association to sponsor an event during Berkley Days, and we sponsor Candy Cane Lane at the Berkley Community Center.”

The group offers an annual scholarship to a female Berkley High School student that demonstrates a high level of volunteerism, and each year, the club works with Berkley-Huntington Woods Youth Assistance to sponsor a family for Christmas and to send children to camp in the summer.

The club is open to women over the age of 21. There is a $20 membership fee. Those interested can attend a meeting or email berkleyjuniors@yahoo.com.

Story By Ingrid Sjostrand | Photos By David McNair

Sometimes a passion just follows a person and inspires them throughout life. For April McCrumb this passion is art, and for nearly two decades she has shared her creative craft with the City of Berkley.

Co-owner of Berkley stores Catching Fireflies, Yellow Door Art Market and co-founder of the Berkley Art Bash, McCrumb’s interest in art developed in childhood. And although she pursued a degree in education, she found ways to incorporate creativity into teaching.

“I was always raised to be creative, but I followed my parents lead and took a conservative college route and just dabbled in art shows and craft fairs on the side,” McCrumb says. “While working in education, a lot of paper was being recycled; I created stuff in class with the kids and it transitioned over time into the traditional papermaking hobby.”

This hobby became A.I. Paper Design which McCrumb and her husband Steve made out of their home and sold at the Ann Arbor Artisan Market. As demand grew, they found the perfect 2200 sq. ft. storefront available in Berkley to grow the brand and McCrumb’s career shifted back to art full-time. An old pharmacy at 3117 W 12 Mile Rd. was transformed into Catching Fireflies in October 2000 with some bright paint and help from friends looking to sell their own work on consignment.

“We thought the front half could be used for selling and the back half would be our studio; essentially the goal would be to make enough in the store to pay the rent,” McCrumb says. “Over time Catching Fireflies gained popularity. We moved our studio and turned it into a full store.”

MCCRUMB’S VISION FOR THE STORE GREW from an art studio space with a storefront to a gift shop with the purpose of bringing others joy.

“Our favorite adjective is ‘whimsical’ – we like to delight and inspire happy things,” She says. “We want people to come in here – whether they buy or not – to be uplifted, this world can drag you down and we want this to be a little haven.”

The popularity of Catching Fireflies propelled into the opening of multiple locations – one in Grand Rapids that was eventually moved to Rochester and another in Ann Arbor. They’ve stayed true to the whimsy theme and have been conscious of the locations of their shops.

“All are in unique historical buildings. Rochester is located in the old train depot downtown and Ann Arbor is a very old building in the middle of Kerrytown,” McCrumb says. “I love that our buildings represent quirkiness and fit the flavor of our brand.”

Another thing that sets Catching Fireflies apart from other local gift shops is their online presence. They created an e-store in 2008 before it was a common trend among smaller retailers.

“We have progressed with the times and 90 percent of our catalog is available to purchase online,” McCrumb says. “I’m proud that we are keeping up with the big dogs and it helps us gain customers that are not local.”

SOON AFTER THE CREATION OF CATCHING FIREFLIES, in 2001 McCrumb collaborated with the Berkley Chamber of Commerce to create Berkley Art Bash. The event occurs on the second Saturday in June and is the largest community event in Downtown Berkley, shutting down 12 Mile Rd. between Kipling and Buckingham Rds. It has attracted crowds as large as 10,000 people.

“We had 150 booths this year and over the years we’ve had such a great response,” McCrumb says. “For the Chamber, it’s a huge bump to make money and make the city a great place to do business. Now we have over five blocks of booths, kids activities and music.”

While Catching Fireflies carries multiple artist brands and Berkley Art Bash provides an event for art in the community, McCrumb noticed a lack of spaces where artists could control the sale of their own work. When a storefront became available doors down from Catching Fireflies at 3141 Twelve Mile Rd. she jumped at the chance to create the Yellow Door Art Market in 2010.

“It’s tough being an artist. You have Etsy and art fairs but I thought we could be the in-between space for artists that don’t want to do art shows and be a bridge for artists who want to open a store but might not be ready yet,” McCrumb says. “People can shop there and truly shop local – everything in there is made by someone in Michigan.”

MCCRUMB MAY HAVE BROUGHT ART TO BERKLEY in a variety of ways, but she recognizes that she couldn’t have done it without the help of the city.

“The community has been so supportive of local art. Being here for 19 years, we’ve seen so many changes and I think it’s only gotten better,” she says. “The City is great, the population is supportive and I really feel blessed by this whole community in Berkley.”

And she says if you’re passionate about something, take the chance and pursue it.

“It sounds cheesy but I love the quote, ‘Follow your heart but take your brain along with you.’ Not to say this didn’t come with a lot of hard work and sweat equity, but you can follow your dreams and make it work beyond what you ever imagined.”

Catching Fireflies (248) 336-2030 3117 W 12 Mile, Berkley, MI 48072

Yellow Door Art Market (248) 336-2038 3141 12 Rd, Berkley, MI 48072

Mon/Tue/Wed/Fri/Sat 10-6 Thur 10-8 Sun 12-5

By Lisa Howard

SINCE 1990, YAD EZRA (OR “HELPING HAND” IN HEBREW) HAS BEEN PROVIDING KOSHER GROCERIES TO LOW-INCOME JEWISH FAMILIES IN THE COMMUNITY. While there are other food pantries in the area, Yad Ezra is the only kosher pantry.

But that’s not the only thing that makes them different — they also offer a choice pantry, which is to say that clients can choose which items they want from a shopping list of options ranging from dry staples like canned fish and whole-grain pasta to whole chickens and fresh produce. “We’re unique in that we purchase much of the food we distribute rather than just relying on donated foods,” says Lea Luger, the Executive Director of Yad Ezra. “Because of that, we have a bigger variety to offer clients.” They serve about 1,250 families each month and distribute over a million pounds of food every year. In addition, they provide clients with non-food essentials like toilet paper, diapers, and household cleaning items.

With only six people on staff, Yad Ezra depends heavily on volunteers to keep the pantry running smoothly. Fortunately, they have a core group of 125 to 150 volunteers who are willing to help out, whether that’s delivering food to homebound clients or sitting down with clients to review the menu and make sure they’re maximizing the points they’re allotted. (Yad Ezra gives each client a certain amount of points to spend based on their family size.)

Yad Ezra is a supplemental pantry, meaning that they assume clients have other means of financial support, such as SNAP benefits. Still, most clients find that their monthly visit is equivalent to about three weeks of groceries. “There’s a misconception that if you live in a certain area or are of a certain religion or ethnicity or demographic, no one in that community is low-income, and that’s not true,” Lea says. “Hunger is everywhere. But food insecurity is not like homelessness — you don’t see it. It’s hidden.”

Although Yad Ezra is a kosher food pantry, says Lea, because they care about the hunger issue in general, they go out of their way to address food insecurity in the greater community. She and her staffers work with fellow organizations like Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest to make sure that all donated food items are given to someone in need. If Yad Ezra receives donated food that isn’t kosher, for instance, they give it to those fellow organizations so that they can distribute the food to the greater community.

Yad Ezra also advocates for Metro-Detroit programs that focus on food, including programs like Do It 4 Detroit, a micro-grant program that supports grassroots organizations addressing hunger or food justice issues in Detroit, Highland Park, and/or Hamtramck. This year, Yad Ezra was able to secure grant money that is allocated directly to Do It 4 Detroit. They also participate in the Crop Hunger Walk and 24 Hour Food Stamp Challenge every year.

ANOTHER ASPECT OF YAD EZRA’S MISSION IS TO PROVIDE COMMUNITY EDUCATION, particularly for youth. Four years ago, they were able to expand their Giving Gardens and hire a master gardener to oversee the gardens, allowing them to host agricultural workshops for both youth and adults. (Most of the harvest also goes to their clients.) Helping with the gardens, hosting food drives at schools, and participating in food drives at synagogues are all ways Lea would love to see more youth get involved as volunteers.

And, she points out, it’s important to stay involved. “This is the time of year when people start thinking about Thanksgiving and call us wanting to donate a turkey dinner,” she says. “Awareness is high at this time of year. That’s fantastic! But the truth of the matter is that hunger is a year-round issue. Do a food drive in May or June, when the need is just as great — hunger doesn’t go on vacation.”

www.yadezra.org | 248.548.3663

By Sara E. Teller

THE TWISTED SHAMROCK STARTED IN DOWNTOWN FERNDALE IN 2005. OWNER JIM MONAHAN RECALLED, “I am of Irish descent and felt that the greater Metro-Detroit community needed a good Irish/Celtic goods shop. After leaving the corporate world, and doing some intense research, I opened the store.”

The shop was on 9 Mile for a decade. “I had a good run there for ten years and celebrated all the great things happening in Ferndale, except for the parking,” Monahan said, adding, “My last few years in Ferndale the parking continued to become more congested.”

While he said he wasn’t “looking forward to a move,” Monahan knew it was necessary, and in
2015 he found just the right spot in nearby Berkley. “I found a new space on 12 Mile that was perfect,” he said. “The new space has ample parking – and it’s free to park! – and it also had a rear entrance off the parking lot which I didn’t have in Ferndale.”

The new location officially opened that Summer and proved to be even more advantageous when the County Oakland Irish Festival started taking place right downtown.

MONAHAN SAID, “SINCE COMING TO BERKLEY, a few good Irish people and organizations gathered and have organized the County Oakland Irish Festival here. The festival just celebrated its fourth showing on September 7, 2019 [and] featured over 20 bands, musicians, pipers, and Irish dancers, as well as vendors and food trucks. Of course, all the great shops and restaurants in Berkley join in.”

The Twisted Shamrock easily fits in with its wide array of Irish/Celtic goods – from stunning jewelry to Irish sweaters, capes, men’s caps, vests, and art, home goods, and edibles, including tea, candy, and jams. Those looking for everything Irish can also shop online at thetwistedshamrock.com.

Customers come from all over searching for unique treasures. “You can’t find Irish shops everywhere,” Monahan explained, “So, many people searching for [stores that] carry the Irish goods” stumble upon the Berkley gem and become regulars.

Monahan said he’s eager to share Ireland travel tips and contacts as well, stating, “If anyone is looking to travel to Ireland, we also are connected to great travel tours. Stop in and ask. I’m always happy to talk about Ireland!”

248-544-4179 | 3074 12 Mile Rd.
Tues. – Fri. 11:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M., Sat. 10:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M.,
Sun. 12:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M.