Hazel Park City Guide 2019
2019 Hazel Park City Guide

By Adam J. O’Connor

HAZEL PARK ART FAIR RETURNS THIS AUGUST, bringing the family-friendly art fair with a variety of artwork to Green Acres Park for its eighth year. To be eligible for the Hazel Park Art Fair, works must be original and crafted by the artist. Vendors of mass-produced work will not be accepted.

The 2019 Hazel Park Art Fair includes a variety of local and regional fine art and craft art vendors. The work represented showcases oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings, pencil, ink, and marker illustration, wearable art, sculpture, photography, multi-media art, crafts, jewelry, ceramics, metalworking, textiles, house decor, poster art and more.

“The Hazel Park Arts Council tries its hardest to provide a welcoming environment to artists in our community and support our first-time vendors (some 20 percent of the registered artists have not presented at HPAF before) to make their first art fair a positive experience,” says Amy Aubry, Treasurer of the Hazel Parks Arts Council. “We are always looking for ways to include more art forms and art-based experiences every year. Last year we had a mural painted during the event by local artist Carl B. Oxley and a wood sculpture carved on-site by local artist Gabriel Totzke (Bear Claw Woodcraft).”

By showcasing local talent, art fairs such as the Hazel Park Art Fair benefit the community individually as well as through its many local nonprofit efforts. As the Arts Council is a licensed 501(c)(3) nonprofit, all donations are tax-deductible. The Hazel Park Arts Council is committed to furthering artistic and cultural initiatives within the community. This is achieved through a number of avenues, including advocating local artistic initiatives as well as collaborating with the annual Hazel Park Art Fair. Sponsorship information is available on the event’s website. Also, it’s worth noting that if you’re a 501(c)(3) organization you qualify for a free 10’x10’ booth space.

THERE WILL ALSO BE A VARIETY OF ENTERTAINMENT – including live demonstrations – throughout the weekend. “Entertainment will be a selection of local music and bands,” says Charlie Rysenga, Co-Chair of the Planning Committee. “Last year we had 15 performers including a very chill Tai Chi lesson on Sunday morning. On Sunday the 25th this year, we will also have the DIA on-site for a ‘Drop-in Workshop’ from 11:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M., where attendees will have the opportunity to make tambourines!”

“We also have a great selection of food trucks,” Rysenga adds, “including Nosh Pit – who serve amazing grilled cheese – out of Hamtramck. The Arts Council will also be selling a selection of local craft beer, cider and mead as a fundraiser to support our work in the community.”

The overall goal of the Hazel Park Arts Council is to bring art – in all its various forms – to the community, and to make art accessible to everyone. While Hazel Park may be only three square miles in size and boast a population of less than 20,000, its citizens are very involved and community-oriented. Many small businesses line the streets and much support has been shown to both the Arts Council and the Art Fair itself over the years. Its proximity to Ferndale and location bordering two counties make it a perfect destination for art enthusiasts and those who appreciate small businesses and handmade items.

The Hazel Park Art Fair takes place at Green Acres Park off of Woodward Heights between Hilton and I-75 on Saturday, August 24 from 11:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. and on Sunday, August 25 from 11:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M. www.hpartfair.org.

By Sara E. Teller

KERI VALMASSEI HAS HELD THE TITLE OF DIRECTOR at Madison Heights/ Hazel Park’s Chamber of Commerce for six years. Asked to describe what her position entails, she said, “A lot of hats. Lots and lots of hats. I’m an ambassador, event coordinator, counselor, marketer, promoter, welcome-wagon, connector and more plus cleaning service and secretary. Directors do a lot of things under the umbrella.”

Regarding what the Chamber does, exactly, Valmassei said, “The Chamber of Commerce is here to promote local business. We do this through arranging networking events, publicity, making introductions, and general promotion. The Chamber is the only place where you can get a marketing team at a fraction of the price you’d pay an agency. And no one knows our communities better than we do!” She added, “The Chamber of Commerce is valuable to residents because we provide a trusted lineup of providers that has been vetted, so consumers know they can trust our members.”

The Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce is governed by a Board of Directors, with execution by a Director. According to its website, it is “dedicated to promoting business and provides lines of communication with the cities.” It also “encourages and sponsors civic activity.” The Chamber is responsible for coordinating the annual State of the Cities address, where community members can get a playback of the previous year as well as hear what’s planned for the current year from community leaders.

Members of the Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce include an eclectic mix of home-based businesses, large corporations, and everything in-between. These businesses do not have to have a residency in either city to participate, and they enjoy exclusive benefits such as discounts and deals made available to them via an affiliate program, networking possibilities, and access to an online directory, to name a few.

THE ORGANIZATION ALSO SUPPORTS THE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT TEAM, the Hazel Park Literacy Project, Hazel Park’s animal shelter, and its school district, and members participate in charitable events, partnering with the Community Coalition. In the past, participating businesses worked together with the Coalition to donate well over 100 backpacks to needy families with children getting ready to go back to school.

“We plan at least three events a month,” Valmassei explained, “Our calendar is available online at www.madisonheightschamber.com. “Coffee & Companies,”

“Drop-In Lunches” and “After Hours” are some of the events currently scheduled, as well as our annual Golf Outing and Gala Fundraiser.”

The Chamber also arranges ribbon-cuttings and grand openings for members and partners with other area Chambers to host collaborative events. These events bring people from all over and provide a perfect opportunity to mix and mingle.

Prior to landing her current position, Valmassei had a marketing and promotions background, and also held management positions as well as on-air positions at a few radio stations. A local to the area, she said, “I sleep in Royal Oak, but I live in Madison Heights and Hazel Park.”

She loves the ability to wear many hats in her current role and be involved in many different activities. “There are no two days the same,” Valmassei said fondly. “I’ve really enjoyed making connections with so many people in the community. I feel like I’ve found another family.”

Asked about plans in the works at the Chamber for the current year, she added, “2019 is going to be an exciting year! The Chamber is here to serve residents and businesses – give us a call.”

By Ingrid Sjostrand

HAZEL PARK IS A GREAT PLACE TO START A BUSINESS, and the dozens of decades-old companies continuing to succeed in the city can attest to that. The Hazel Park Food Center, celebrating 57 years of business in 2019 and located at 24625 John R Rd., is no exception.

Owner David Antiwan has watched the Food Center thrive since childhood. His father opened the store in 1962, and Antiwan worked there throughout his youth and continues to maintain the family business.

“We are a convenient small grocer in Hazel Park with fresh produce and fresh meat cut daily,” he says. “We have meat bundle deals and an everyday special of buy-one, get-onefree on NY strips and boneless ribeye steaks.”

Antiwan stresses that the fresh cuts every day are one of the things that have brought the store success and kept regulars coming back. He says they carry the basics and doesn’t see the need for excess, like seven different types of ketchup for example. It’s a small store – with just three employees – and they aren’t trying to compete with bigger chains, just hoping to meet Hazel Park’s needs.

“I LOVED GROWING UP, WORKING AND LIVING IN THE CITY OF HAZEL PARK. It’s such a cool little town surrounded by all the big cities,” he says. “I have always been proud of my city and always felt like we – the residents of Hazel Park – were the underdogs with a lot of fight in us.”

Antiwan’s been a part of the struggles of economic uncertainty in the city – and several personal hardships – over the years. Having lost both his parents and his three-year-old daughter to cancer, as well as being a cancer survivor himself, has just strengthened his adoration for the city and he feels a lot of the City of Hazel Park are like close members of his family.

“We’ve survived some hard times and I feel this cool little city of mine is really coming around,” he says. “My father was in this town for almost 50 years and I hope to pass the family legacy down to my sons and daughter so we can make it to 100 years.”

Antiwan hopes that the revival the city is experiencing will continue to strengthen the community and its businesses.

By David Ryals

THE KOZY LOUNGE HAS BEEN HAZEL PARK’S PREMIER NEIGHBORHOOD LOUNGE for over 50 years. It’s located near the intersection of 10 Mile and I-696, and serves American comfort food and a great selection of drinks priced for value. Known for its late-night food service and creative daily specials, the Kozy Lounge is the perfect spot to belly up to the bar for a burger, shot and a beer, or catch up with friends over a cocktail.

It’s been a family-owned business for over 30 years now and has been a consistently comfy place to hang out and play darts, pool, or shuffleboard for locals and visitors alike. The Kozy definitely lives up to its name. Its owners, Robert and Michele Haskell, spoke to Ferndale Friends to tell us their whole story of success and longevity.

Rob said, “We are so grateful for the opportunity to express our love for Hazel Park and the surrounding communities. A bar is four walls, a roof and a license. A neighborhood watering hole has all the finest furnishings that money can’t buy: Its patrons. It’s layered with characters, stories, advice, experiences and heart which give it charm and life. I could talk for days about all the great people that pull open the side door, letting sunshine and weather pierce into the warmth of Kozy Lounge. Without fail, there are always a few ‘hellos’ exchanged before you’re done adjusting your stool.”

LIKE EVERY LONG-STANDING BUSINESS there are countless stories to tell. Michelle spoke about how her parents first met there. “My parents met here for the first time over 30 ago, when my mom served dad Captain & Diet Coke over the same laminate counter that is there today. We all felt sadness when the racetrack closed and shared beers with the former employees when they lost their jobs. I still have pictures of the previous owner and their deep bonds within the city. The Kozy has lasted despite all the other changes in the city because it has its own soul. Every owner, employee and patron has been involved with this city in a communal way too.”

Their business is an anchor inside Hazel Park’s storied history. “The Kozy is a hub that helps bring culture to the city in the most humble ways. It’s a place where neighbors meet after work. Neighbors stop in to find the best electrician, mechanic, babysitter, lawn service person or shuffleboard player. If you’re a blue-collar worker, our place is for you. The Kozy is a place where people fall in love, get engaged, mourn the loss of a family member, celebrate a birthday, a ladies night out or a beer with friends after work. It has the same coolers that have been a short purgatory for millions of beer bottles in the last 57 years. Our hot griddle is where thousands of Kozy burgers have been devoured or loaded on roach coaches that once drove to all the tool-anddye shops around I-696. Our place is where dances are danced, tears cried, teams cheered, gossip whispered and glasses raised for a toast. You can’t help but belong. Kozy patrons are family.”

Rob closed by emphasizing the business owners in Hazel Park support each other no matter what. They participate in charity together, grow together and share ideas. He said he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

The Kozy Lounge is open daily:

Monday-Saturday 10:00 A.M. – 2:00 A.M.

Sunday 12:00 P.M.-12:00 A.M.

(248) 547-5017 | KOZYLOUNGE.COM

By Maggie Boleyn

HAZEL PARK, LONG KNOWN AS “THE FRIENDLY CITY”, could also be called “The Volunteer City.” Volunteer service organizations add much to the Hazel Park community. Hazel Park volunteers selflessly give of their time and talents, making Hazel Park a better, safer place to live, and enriching the lives of residents. The Hazel Park Lions are a fine example of the many civic and service organizations working to strengthen our community.

“We take care of our community,” says Mike Dalecke, Hazel Park Lions Club current president. He has been a member since 2005. “Then, we branch out to other communities.” Together, Lions Clubs are a worldwide organization, currently marking 101 years of helping others all around the globe.

Lions Clubs encourage community service, and strive to promote high ethical standards in commerce, industry, professions, public works and private endeavors. The Hazel Park Lions Club has been serving the city since 1947. Perhaps you have encountered a Lions Club member standing at the 9 Mile and John R intersection during “White Cane Week,” held in late April to early May. White Cane Week raises funds to support projects throughout the year to strengthen the community.

“We don’t expect thanks or gratitude,” says Peggy Burleson. “What we get out of it is satisfaction in having helped others.”

Peggy and her husband Larry have been involved with Hazel Park Lions for many years. Larry has been a member for 30 years, and Peggy has been an active member for 15 years. She served as Club Secretary for more than 14 years before leaving the position. Larry designs and builds ramps throughout Lions Club District 11A-2, which covers all of Oakland and Macomb counties. So far, he has built around 90 ramps in Hazel Park and the surrounding areas.

“We’re more than Leader Dogs,” Dalecke noted. Indeed, you will find the Lions Club supporting many community events in Hazel Park throughout the year.

BURLESON MENTIONED THE MANY LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS the Hazel Park Lions work with to help individuals with blindness and visual impairments: Leader Dogs for the Blind, Penrickton Center for the Blind, Beaumont Hospital, Madonna College. Through these organizations, and others, the Lions also help provide a big dose of Christmas cheer, hosting a party at Penrickton Center and adopting a family for the holidays. “Lunch with Santa” at the Hazel Park Recreation Center is another holiday highlight. During the Memorial Day weekend, look for the Lions Club refreshment tent at Hazel Park’s Memorial Day festival. Proceeds from these sales support many community projects.

Lions also provide summer programs at Bear Lake Camp for visually-impaired children. “Blind children often have another physical challenge,” Burleson said. Teaching campers life skills like water safety helps children gain confidence and independence.

The Lions are actively involved with events in Hazel Park Schools, such as helping out with the all-night parties for High School students. For the middle school, two students are selected each year for an award from the Lions Club. Other educational projects supported by the Hazel Park Lions have great potential to make lasting change for the future. The Lions Club works with the Promise Zone, which supports college attendance for students living in Hazel Park. Also, each year, the Lions Club presents college scholarships for three graduating students from Hazel Park High School.

The Hazel Park Lions Club meets at 6:00 PM at the Hazel Park Recreation Center on the second and fourth Mondays of each month. “We invite anyone to be part of our club,” Dalecke said.

If you would like to donate to the Hazel Park Lions Club, checks can be mailed to 23109 Harding, Hazel Park MI 48030.

By Sara E. Teller

COLOR & INK STUDIO WAS STARTED BY PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC LAW AND HIS WIFE AND VISUAL ARTIST CANDACE LAW. The couple opened a studio first in Berkley and, since September 2018 have been showcasing and supporting creativity in the arts from a new studio established in Hazel Park. For more than a decade, the Laws have been promoting creativity in Southeast Michigan.

“The building the studio now occupies was completely re-designed and renovated last year by Five/Eighths Architecture in Ferndale,” Eric Law said. “We wanted a place with a modern, industrial feel that would be welcoming and inspire creativity. The move to larger quarters provides us with an exciting opportunity to expand our programs and services for artists in Detroit and the metropolitan area.”

Law added, “We’re really excited to join the emerging art scene in Hazel Park and become part of the community with this wonderful new space. Hazel Park has an active Arts Council, and the residents are interested in and engaged with the arts. There’s been a lot of curiosity about what we’re about and everyone has been very welcoming.”

Color & Ink offers a space for creating photographs and other visuals that connect with viewers in different ways, providing learning resources and media services for the visual arts, teaching artists to expand their expression with new and non-traditional mediums, publishing and exhibiting work, and assisting artists in making their projects available online. There is a working photography studio where Eric photographs artwork for artists and galleries, creates websites, and publishes books. In her studio, Candace creates fine art primarily in encaustic and mixed media.

“We have dedicated space for teaching workshops in encaustic, mixed media, and photography, as well as hosting workshops by guest instructors in new and nontraditional mediums,” Law said. “Artists also can book individual studio time to work on their own projects, an affordable alternative to renting a studio full-time.”

He added, “We have a gallery for exhibiting the work of local artists, as well as a multipurpose space for artrelated meetings and educational events. For example, we host the monthly meeting of the Hazel Park Arts Council and hold a bi-monthly gathering of Detroit-area artists called Art:Dialog.”

Anyone interested in collaborating with Color & Ink can check out www.ColorInkStudio.com, visit their Facebook page @ColorInkStudio or call 248-398-6119. Program inquiries can also be sent to info@ColorInkStudio.com. Members of the community can check out the gallery, which is open weekdays from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. or by appointment.

“Exhibitions are usually up for six to eight weeks,” Law explained, adding, “Workshops in the second half of the year are still being planned. We’d love the opportunity to meet folks with an interest in the arts who live in Hazel Park. Our doors are always open for creative inspiration!”

By Maggie Boleyn

COFFEE. YOU PROBABLY START YOUR DAY with this beverage. You might grab another cupful at midmorning. Or, perhaps you drink it constantly throughout the day before downing another cup after dinner. You drink it with co-workers, and maybe you drank it on a first date. Whenever and however you choose to enjoy it, coffee is very likely a big part of your life.

“Coffee is a great conduit to bring people together,” says A.J. O’Neil, the self-described “Chief Bean Officer” of Detroit Bold Coffee Company. “We’re not too serious about titles,” he added.

What Detroit Bold is serious about is providing good coffee geared towards “hardworking humans.” From its beginnings as AJ’s Music Café in Ferndale to the present, O’Neil takes his coffee seriously, while providing a little shot of fun along the way.

Organizing a musical marathon featuring 50 hours of “Danny Boy” beginning on St. Patrick’s Day and setting a Guinness Book of World Records for holding the longest “Assembly Line Concert” are just two examples. O’Neil said the Assembly Line Concert was created to “bring awareness to the little café that bailed out Detroit, one cup at a time.” The event logged an impressive 288 hours of live music running for 12 days with more than 300 performers participating.

“Our vision is to promote great things about the hardworking people of the community,” O’Neil said. He said that coffee provides the backbone for hard work done by people in this region. One of the things he loves about Hazel Park is the industriousness of the residents. “There are hardy souls in Hazel Park,” he said.

After a roofing accident ended his days working in construction work, O’Neil says he found himself in a coffee shop and thus began a new career. “Coffee found me,” he says. He decided to use coffee as a vehicle to showcase and “promote the Detroit area and the great things we do here.” Detroit Bold’s beans are roasted in Highland Park, the city which launched auto giant Henry Ford. “Between Hazel Park and Highland Park is where this all happens,” O’Neil said.

O’NEIL SAID THAT HE DOESN’T REALLY SEE HIMSELF AS COMPETING with larger coffee chains like Starbucks. With millions of coffee drinkers in the US alone, O’Neil says, “There’s plenty for everyone.”

According to Espresso Business Solutions (EBS), approximately 50 percent of the population, roughly 150 million Americans, drink espresso, cappuccino, latte, or iced/cold coffees on a daily basis. EBS pegs the average U.S. consumption at 3.1 cups per day, and notes that specialty coffee sales are increasing by 20 percent per year and account for nearly eight percent of the 18 billiondollar U.S. coffee market.

By promoting the local aspects of his products, O’Neil says any competitive aspect is downplayed. “We complement, we don’t compete,” he said.

Unlike the former Starbucks CEO, who is toying with a 2020 presidential run, another area where O’Neil will not be competing in soon is politics.

Although he was a 2010 Congressional candidate, he says, “I have no future plans to run for office.” Instead, he said he will be concentrating on his product line and marketing new coffee offerings like “Baseline” – the “8 Mile” deep, dark roast blend which is served every Saturday at Eastern Market.

O’Neil sees Hazel Park as populated by hardworking people that care about the community. “We don’t kick our wounded, and we don’t leave anyone behind,” is how he characterized the community. “If I were rich, I would still want to live in Hazel Park,” he concluded.

For more information about Detroit Bold Coffee, visit www.detroitboldcoffee.com.

By Sara E. Teller

FRANK ANTHONY POLITO HAS HAD A PEN IN HIS HAND for as long as he can remember. “I’ve always been a writer,” he said. “I was the kid in fourth grade who wrote ten pages when he was told to write five.”

He is also a Hazel Park native, and there are many references to local hot spots in his writing. He said, “My novels are loosely based on my life, growing up gay in Hazel Park during the 1980s. They are all fiction, but there are lots of local references, like Country Boy restaurant, that make them fun to read for people who lived in Hazel Park during that particular time period.”

Polito said of his published novels, “Writing them was like taking a trip down memory lane, getting to revisit a time that was difficult. Being a gay kid in 1980s Hazel Park wasn’t easy. Even though there were a lot of us, we just didn’t know it at the time…the support I received when they were published, from old friends and teachers who came to my book signings, made me finally feel popular after so many years of feeling quite the opposite.”

His favorite novelist is Michael Chabon, and Polito’s third novel, The Spirit of Detroit, was inspired by his book, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. He also has a favorite screenwriter – the legendary filmmaker John Hughes.

“I’ve been called ‘the gay John Hughes,’” Polito said fondly, adding, “which is an honor since he’s my favorite screenwriter.”

An award-winning author himself, Polito also has a passion for the stage. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in Theatre from Wayne State in 1993, where he got involved in many productions and even met his life partner, Craig Bentley.

At 24, Polito moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting.

“When that didn’t work out as I’d hoped, I started writing,” he said. “In 2001, I wrote my first play John R, which was later adapted into my first novel Band Fags!. It was published in 2008. John R tells the story of two gay teenage boys living in Hazel Park in the mid-1980s and what happens when one of them decides he’s ready to be ‘out and proud’ while the other is too ashamed to step out of the closet. The play is based on my relationship with my best friend of almost 37 years. It received its Detroit premiere in 2015 by Slipstream Theatre Initiative of Ferndale at its former home in Hazel Park. The play has also been produced in New York City, San Francisco, and in Omaha, Nebraska.”

FOLLOWING HIS BFA IN THEATRE, IN 2006 Polito also received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon.

“While there, I wrote two plays. The first is called Ferndale: 1955 about a gay World War II veteran who returns home from the war, marries a young widow, and tries to live a ‘normal’ life. My second play is called Another Day on Willow St, and tells the stories of two couples – one gay, one straight – living in New York City in the weeks leading up to 9/11. The original production at Carnegie Mellon featured Anthony Carrigan, now seen on HBO’s Barry.”

The author-playwright has received a few notable awards along the way. In 2008, his novel Band Fags! was named Best Fiction by the LGBTQ book-of-themonth club, InsightOut. Then, in 2009, his novel Drama Queers! was named Best Gay Romance by the Lambda Literary Association.

In 2013, Polito and Bentley moved from New York City back to Michigan. “We were featured on the HGTV show ‘House Hunters.’ We now live in Pleasant Ridge with our two dogs, Clyde and Jack.”

“My parents and my sister’s family still live in Hazel Park, so I’m there often. Polito said, “I love that more young people are moving to Hazel Park, which is exactly what my parents did when I was a small child. It’s a great place to raise a family. When one Hazel Parker does something great, everyone in the city takes pride in it.”

Polito spent the past four years directing mobile video games for the Episode app, including Pitch Perfect, Mean Girls, Pretty Little Liars, and Demi Lovato’s World Tour, but said he recently gave that venture up to focus his energy on a new one.

“The big news is that I’m finally in the process of pursuing my dream to produce my first feature film. This past year I wrote and developed a modern-day adaptation of John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink. Unfortunately, Paramount passed when we pitched the script to them, even after Molly Ringwald herself had read it, and was being considered to direct.”

But that only made Polito more determined to see his project make it onto the big screen.

“We are now in the process of revising the screenplay to make it more of an original story, keeping the same characters and premise,” he said. “The (working) title is Peasant Ridge and it tells the story of a transgender girl from Hazel Park who moves to Pleasant Ridge in order to live life as her true self. We will begin production within the coming year!”

On Saturday June 1, 2019, at 10 A.M., the City of Hazel Park raised a rainbow flag in honor of June being declared Pride Month. “I’ve been asked to give a reading from my books immediately following that at the Hazel Park Library, and to speak a little bit about my life. It’s an honor to be recognized by my hometown. Thirty-five years ago, I would’ve never imagined the day I’d see a Pride flag flying high over the Hazel Park City Hall.”

By Sara E. Teller

WILD WINGS BIRD REHABILITATION, A FULLY-STOCKED BIRD INFIRMARY AND NURSERY, is dedicated to caring for injured birds and abandoned baby birds. The general public, shelters, and humane societies can bring them in for care. Owner Marg Sapp says anyone who sees a bird in need of help can also contact her directly.

“Text me a picture and I will then give advice on what to do, if anything, and offer referrals if I cannot take it,” Sapp said.

In general, Wild Wings accepts songbirds, including robins, finches, sparrows, starlings, cardinals and blue jays, as well as crows, pigeons, and mourning doves. Those inquiring about any others should contact the Michigan DNR office.

The bird rehab is well-equipped to ensure babies and other rescues grow and thrive with its four incubators, two indoor aviaries, three outdoor aviaries, a fully stocked infirmary with oxygen, and a nursery. Baby birds are fed every twenty minutes to one hour from 6 A.M. to 11 P.M. As they grow, they are moved to one of the larger outdoor aviaries where they can work on perfecting their flying skills and learn to eat on their own. Then they are “soft released” on site where backup feedings can take place as needed.

When an adult bird comes in, it is treated for any health concerns and is taken to a veterinarian if needed before being released back into the wild. If, for any reason, a bird cannot return to its natural habitat, it will be tested for placement in a sanctuary or educational setting.

Wild Wings relies on the help of those willing to offer their time and accepts new volunteers or interns from April 1st to September 1st. “We hold a round-up every April at Treat Dreams in Ferndale to find interested people,” said Sapp. “At the round-up they learn about us, fill out applications, sign up for training, and get free ice cream!”

She added that volunteers are welcome to return if they have already offered their time in the past. “Most of my volunteers come back every year, she said. “I have only lost a couple, due to life conflicts.”

WILD WINGS HAS AN 87 PERCENT SURVIVAL RATE, which is one of the highest in Michigan. The rehab takes in over 600 birds every year, and as a 501C3 charity, runs solely on donations and volunteer support. There is a baby bird registry available through Amazon and anyone interested can help provide necessary items for incoming babies such as heat pads, enclosures/habitats, cleaning supplies, and food.

“It was an idea my manager had, and we ran with it,” Sapp explained. “We usually need a ton of stuff before the babies come, so we decided to hold an online baby shower. It has been a huge success. We also have an Amazon wish list, too, so people can purchase supplies and they get sent directly to us.”

During baby season, the center also has a SponsorA-Bird program, which offers those interested an opportunity to get to know one of the birds and track its progress. For $40, a baby bird of the sponsor’s choice is selected and named. A certificate is issued, and photos and updates of the bird are sent regularly, to the sponsor can stay connected throughout the process and watch it grow.

Wild Wings hosts several educational talks a year on relevant topics as well, including what to do if you find a displaced bird, and bird conservation and pigeon awareness. Marg and her volunteers deliver the speeches and bring their two spokespigeons along for the ride.

For more information, contact founder and owner Marg Sapp at WWbirdrehab@comcast.net, 248.701.2523 or visit the organization’s website at wildwingsbirdrehab.org.

By Nicholas Kelsa

RECENTLY, I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET with Hazel Park’s new Animal Control Officer, Jennifer Thomas, at the Hazel Park Animal Shelter at 24211 Couzens. The facility is well-maintained, and the residents are cats and dogs who are either surrendered by their owners or brought in by the Hazel Park police. Many of the animals turn out to be missing or lost. The facility is located inside the DPW yard, on the north side of the garage. The Hazel Park dog park is located directly next door (residents can purchase an annual pass for $25 from the City Clerk’s office at City Hall). “We encourage residents to use the dog park. It’s a great way for people to exercise with their pets.”

The pets which prove to be missing or lost stay at the shelter temporarily while the owner is located. The facility also coordinates veterinary services for injured animals who are then adopted out following recovery. Additionally, Hazel Park residents can report injured or lost animals by calling 248-5464096 and asking for Officer Thomas. After hours and for emergencies, residents can call 248-542-6161. The shelter also maintains an active Facebook presence, where photos of available adoptions can be viewed. The Hazel Park Police Department is another resource for residents to report problems to animal control, such as aggressive or neglected animals.

Officer Thomas holds a masters degree in zoology from MSU and worked at the Detroit Zoo for 15 years. She has also adopted two cats and is a lifelong animal lover. I asked her how she got into this line of work. “It’s the story that you hear from most people. I’ve always loved animals!” Thomas is also a mother of two daughters, Eve and Amber.

I also asked Officer Thomas what kinds of precautions pet owners can take to avoid losing their pets. “We definitely encourage microchips,” she said, and she mentioned that a lost cat had recently been returned from Hamtramck specifically because of a microchip implant. Officer Thomas also mentioned the importance of keeping pets on a leash when in public due to the various unexpected distractions. Dogs can very often run off when they see something interesting, particularly a squirrel or another dog.

WE DISCUSSED THE SHELTER’S VOLUNTEER PROGRAM, which is critical to the facility’s operations. “Our volunteers are how we get things done.” Volunteer shifts are typically one-two hours long, usually on nights and weekends. Volunteers must also be at least 18 years of age and pass a background check.

Most importantly, Officer Thomas wants residents to know that the shelter’s animals are well-cared-for and need to find loving homes. She makes sure the animal is a good fit for the interested family and the fee ranges from $40-$120 for adoption. The best way to begin the process of pet adoption is to visit the Shelter and fill out an adoption application (and visit with the pets of course).

Officer Thomas is a welcome addition to the Hazel Park community, and is providing valuable services to Hazel Park residents, and our most vulnerable pets.