Archive for : Detroit

FINDING A HOUSE OF OUR OWN

Everyone has that one place where they feel happiest and most comfortable.

For me, it is an old car factory on Holden Street, which is now used as the city of Detroit’s recycling center, Recycle Here! I stand there every Saturday morning welcoming recyclers, answering questions and collecting zip codes.

But it was in front of my favorite space that I found the perfect place to live.

I spent three months this summer scouring Detroit’s real estate listings with three soon-to-be housemates. We were looking for a place to call home for not just ourselves, but the new Repair the World-Moishe House, where for the next year we will work to build a community for young Jews by creating a home-base for service and volunteerism — and of course socializing.

Finding a house is never easy. This is the ninth time I’ve tried, and it had unique challenges. For one, none of us were living in the same city when we found out we had been selected to live in the Repair the World-Moishe House. (Over the course of our search, I believe the four of us were in the same country at the same time for a total of four days.) And in our separate corners, each was incredibly busy on our own with jobs that let us do a little good in this world.

I run Green Living Science, a nonprofit that works to help mobilize action and education around environmental issues in Detroit.

Besides trying to communicate over different time zones, we found out that it isn’t that easy to find a house to rent in Detroit with four bedrooms, plenty of space for Shabbat dinners, and a surrounding community with the infrastructure ready to tap into for planning volunteer and service projects.

Thankfully, a little serendipity stepped in.

Green Living Science works with the nonprofit Recycle Here!, the city of Detroit and Detroit Public School’s Office of Science to bring recycling services to some 20 local schools for the first time as well as in-class and after school lessons that teach students about recycling and environmentally sound waste disposal.

That means that I have a close association with about 2,000 students, teachers and community leaders — and the great advantage of talking to more than 500 different Detroit residents every Saturday.

It was on one of these Saturdays in front of Recycle Here! that I started telling a recycler named Tony about the same thing I talked to everyone about at the time: my search for the perfect house.

It turned out that Tony was looking to rent the other side of his duplex in Woodbridge, a historic district full of beautiful mansions and large front porches perfect for meeting neighbors.

It was the first neighborhood I lived in when I first moved to Detroit in 2007 and nostalgia set in as I started thinking about all the things I loved about the neighborhood, including the diversity, the character of the houses, the library next to Scripps Park, the backyard gardens, the history and the neighborhood pancake breakfast.

But nostalgia gave way to practical thought as my mind started racing about all the different organizations in and near Woodbridge with which we could partner, and about all of community projects in which we could be a part.

Without even seeing it, I knew the perfect house had found us.

By the time you read this, I and my three new friends and housemates (I believe you met Devon on this page last month) will have lived in the house for a little more than a month.

The first couple of weeks spent setting up the house have been a little less magical than the story that brought us to its door. We’re working out logistics, scheduling, deciding who does what chore, who cleans which room and trying to figure out who gets to share what food.

(I’ve been named de-facto house treasurer, responsible for bills and rent.)

By the time you read this next dispatch, we’ll have more fun stories to report, as now we’re also in the midst of planning our first few volunteer projects and social engagements.

So far, our welcome to Woodbridge has been amazing. A number of organizations have already offered to host Shabbat dinner in our home.

We’ll start saying yes as soon as we work out the details — and are actively creating our October calendar of events now.

In October, our real work will begin. We’ll start to partner with local nonprofits on volunteer projects. The first will be with Arts and Scraps, an organization that assembles learning kits for kids. So check our website soon for more details.

In the meantime, we’re going to find time between our day/evening/weekend jobs scavenging to find enough furniture to fill the house, brainstorming volunteer projects, and sometimes even finding time to enjoy the massive garden and koi pond in the backyard of our perfect service house. 

Rachel Klegon runs Green Living Science and is a resident of the new Repair the World-Moishe House in the Woodbridge area in Detroit.

PRESS RELEASE: Detroit Nation and Repair the World Launch Drive, Detroit Nation’s New Tech-Based Volunteer Initiative Designed to Boost Local Economy


Partnership enables initiative launch, hiring of Detroit Nation’s first staff member

New York, NY and Detroit, MI, September 24, 2012DetroitNation, a national expatriate organization dedicated to supporting the Detroit region, and RepairtheWorld, a national nonprofit that works to inspire American Jews to volunteer, today announced the launch of Drive, Detroit Nation’s proprietary incubation program that hopes to build the local economy by encouraging social entrepreneurship.

Designed to extend the network and resources available nationally to social entrepreneurs in Detroit, Drive hopes to help Detroit’s social entrepreneurs quickly scale their venture. Teams of skilled Detroit Nation volunteers partner with Detroit- based social entrepreneurs for intensive sessions designed to help the participating local businesses overcome challenges that have prevented them from achieving growth. Two types of intensives are offered, a Blitz session which lasts one day or an extended session which takes place over a period of four weeks. Drive allows Detroit based social enterprises to connect with mentors nationwide. Drive also hopes to help build Detroit’s position as a vibrant place to live and do business. Volunteer teams from across the Detroit Nation network are strategically matched, through a skills and interest-based process, with social entrepreneurs in Detroit to help them overcome self-identified challenges in developing their businesses.

“We are grateful to Repair the World for helping build Drive as a robust volunteer solution,” said Rachel Jacobs, founder, Detroit Nation. “We look forward to the launch of the program in late fall and expect that Drive will facilitate opportunities for individuals with an interest in Detroit to engage in the city’s burgeoning start-up culture. Further, Drive will provide access for Detroit’s social entrepreneurs to professionals with the resources needed to help sustainably scale their businesses.”

“Repair the World has been working to build volunteerism in Detroit, with a large focus on education and literacy. We’re excited to grow our commitment to boost the local economy by building the area’s community of social entrepreneurs,” said Will Berkovitz, senior vice president, Repair the World.

Meg Pouncy, program manager, has been hired to oversee Drive’s launch and subsequent implementation. In addition to being a successful product designer, Meg is also the founder of Blue Sugar, a design firm committed to designing products and services that achieve positive social impact.

Detroit Nation has begun seeking volunteers and Detroit businesses to participate in the initial phase of Drive. For more information about Detroit Nation and Drive, visit http://www.detroitnation.org/drive_2012

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About Detroit Nation

Detroit Nation is a national volunteer-led organization dedicated to supporting Detroit by directing the money, skills and energy of native Detroiters now living elsewhere to organizations engaged in economic development, cultural innovation and job creation in Southeastern Michigan. With more than 1,700 supporters between five chapters in Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C., Detroit Nation members represent a range of industries, including professional services, film, media, green engineering and healthcare.

About Repair the World

Repair the World is a national nonprofit organization that mobilizes Jewish Americans to address the world’s most pressing issues through volunteering. Headquartered in New York City, we connect individuals with meaningful service opportunities to help their local, national and global communities, and enable individuals and organizations to run effective programs rooted in Jewish values. For more information, visit weRepair.org. Follow us on Twitter @RepairtheWorld.

 

Contacts:

Meg Pouncy

586-322-6484

[email protected]

OR

Dara Lehon, Repair the World

646-695-2700 x18

dara@weRepair.org

 

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The Soul of Service: The new Repair the World-Moishe House in Detroit aims to build a community of volunteerism

Devon RubensteinI should be long gone from Michigan by now. Like most New Yorkers who move here to attend school in Ann Arbor, I had no intention of staying.

Still, after graduating last December, I couldn’t bring myself to leave. First, I chalked it up to not wanting my college experience to end and not wanting to leave my friends, my house and, of course, Michigan athletics. But as I watched most of my friends and classmates pick up and move, I realized it was more than that. Michigan had become a part of me.

That’s why I’ll spend the next year of my life immersed in helping the heart of Michigan — Detroit — and joining one of the Jewish world’s most innovative new ventures: a residence dedicated to building a community of volunteerism.
This past week, I moved, along with three other 20-somethings, into a Repair the World-Moishe House in the Woodbridge area in Detroit. We didn’t know each other much beforehand, but we share a common desire to make a difference in the world.

The idea is simple, really: We want to build a center for volunteerism for other young Jews like ourselves. That’s why we will be inviting anyone we know — and anyone they might know — to join us for both social and service-related events and activities.

The House is an amazing chance for us to put into practice our ideas about helping others and activism, and to build something concrete around what for many our age may seem like a nice — but abstract — idea.

Devon in front of Repair the World-Moishe HouseI got to understand the power of volunteerism when I was 16. I met Rodney, an 8-year-old boy who had recently lost both of his parents, and I had the honor of mentoring him through the Salvation Army Daycare in Hempstead, N.Y.

Since then, volunteerism has been a constant for me, whether it’s working with preschoolers at Head Start in Ann Arbor or setting up window displays at the Ten Thousand Villages in Austin, Texas.

In college, I learned about Detroit from textbooks and the news. Academically, I understood the city’s ups and downs. But it wasn’t until I took the last elective I needed for my public policy degree that I really embraced Detroit for all these ups and downs and started to connect my past volunteerism with a new passion. I realized that I wanted to help Detroit.

As I learned about incredible service opportunities here, for the first time I saw a career in helping others. I realized that if I really want to follow my heart and actually make a difference, this is the place to be.

This Repair the World-Moishe House project is designed for people like me.
My new friends and I, the residents of the Repair-Moishe House, will each have full-time day jobs. And in our spare time, we’ll work to encourage others our age to volunteer to help Detroit.

I’ll be working with underprivileged communities through AmeriCorps VISTA; Brad Snider will continue his urban development work in Mexicantown; Rachel Klegon will continue to run the nonprofit Green Living Science; and Josh Kantor will work with NEXTGen engagement at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

(In the coming months, they’ll each share with you in these pages more about their initiatives, thoughts and experiences. And, of course, we’ll give you updates about how the house is progressing.)

We spent most of the summer searching for a four-bedroom house in a neighborhood that is both accessible to young people and that would provide a solid home base for service projects.

After weeks of dead ends, we found the perfect house in the perfect location at 4446 Commonwealth St. in Woodbridge.  I can count the number of times I’ve been to Woodbridge on one hand. But it’s exactly what we wanted — a diverse and dynamic community anchored by organizations like the Woodbridge Neighborhood Development Corporation and Woodbridge Community Youth Center (WCYC), with which we will work closely.

We’re not sure exactly what all of our service projects will look like down the road, or what projects, programs and partnerships will fill our Repair-Moishe House.But we are starting close to home with our first volunteer event: Painting the batting-cage room in the WCYC to make it resemble a baseball stadium.
From there, we hope to create sustainable partnerships with other groups both in Woodbridge and broader Detroit to make a positive difference here.

I’m excited, and I embrace our House’s mission to mobilize Jewish young adults toward service in Detroit. Because, while I may still have a slight New York accent, and I’ll probably always say “soda” instead of “pop,” there is something about this place — its rich history and tremendous potential — that makes me proud to now call it home.

Devon Rubenstein works with underprivileged communities through AmeriCorps VISTA and is a resident of the new Repair the World- Moishe House in the Woodbridge area in Detroit.

Mission Continued

What do you do when you get back from a life-changing trip to Israel and there’s not enough time left in the summer to do anything — but too much time left to do nothing? High tail it to Detroit to volunteer with your friends and make new ones. Such was the consensus among the 40 strong who wasted no time getting involved upon their return from the Sue and Alan J. Kaufman Family Detroit Federation’s 2012 Teen Mission (TM12).

As part of Repair the World’s ongoing youth enrichment efforts in Detroit, the teens hooked up with Summer in the City to spend some quality time with elementary school students participating in Project Play programs.

“At Summer in the City, every camper gets a volunteer buddy, so you really get the chance to get to know someone and brighten everyone’s day,” said Shane Perlin, one of the volunteers. “It’s a really fun, inclusive environment, where we get to meet all sorts of people AND enjoy the summer weather.”

Summer in the City provided youth programming for over 150 campers daily, including academic enrichment, arts, athletics and field trips — all powered by energetic volunteers from the city and suburbs.

As Shane describes it, TM12 involved service in Israel, including volunteering with Muslim kids in a Druze village. “The great thing about the experiences in Israel and Detroit is that you forget about all your differences and get to focus on the things you have in common. Everyone loves soccer.”

What did you do this summer? Tweet us about your summer volunteer experiences or post on our Facebook wall!

 

Repair the World, Moishe House team up in Chicago, Detroit

Two Jewish houses for young adults dedicated to community service will be built during the fall in Chicago and Detroit as part of a partnership between Repair the World and Moishe House.

Repair the World is a New York-based operation that works to inspire American Jews and their communities to volunteer; Moishe House is an international organization focused on building community for Jews in their twenties.

There are 44 Moishe Houses in 13 countries, engaging more than 53,000 young adults each year, according to the organization.

“We have been working with Repair the World for more than a year to strengthen our service-oriented program offerings at Moishe Houses around the globe,” said Moishe House’s CEO David Cygielman in a statement. “The opening of the Repair the World-Moishe House represents the next step in our partnership, cementing our commitment to providing high-quality Tikkun Olam opportunities to Jewish young adults.”

The houses will act as hubs for volunteer and service activity in each city as their residents engage local young people in addressing pressing social issues and humanitarian needs such as educational inequality, homelessness, poverty, hunger and domestic violence.

“In our work building a generation of young Jews committed to service, the Repair the World Moishe Houses will play a critical role in inspiring young adults to make a commitment to promoting service, giving residents and their peers an excellent opportunity to make a difference in their local communities,” said Repair the World’s CEO Jon Rosenberg in a statement. “We’re excited about this expanded partnership and its potential to see real impact on the ground.”

Moishe House and Repair the World Partner to Open Service Oriented Houses

Following a national search for outstanding young leaders dedicated to serving those in need, Repair the World and Moishe House will open two Repair the World Moishe Houses to serve as communal residences for young adults in Detroit and Chicago. The houses will act as hubs for volunteer and service activity in each city as their residents engage local young people in addressing pressing social issues and humanitarian needs such as educational inequality, homelessness, poverty, hunger and domestic violence.

The collaboration enhances the Moishe House model with an increased service requirement, tapping into Repair the World’s expertise in building effective service and Jewish service-learning programs while also bolstering existing Repair the World service projects

For each house, two groups of four residents will receive a modest rent subsidy and budget to build service-related programming for other Jews in their twenties, as they work to improve social conditions and then relate this volunteerism to their Jewish heritage, history and values. The residents are expected to move into the homes – which they are currently identifying – in August and begin programming by September 1, 2012.

The opening of Repair the World Moishe House represents a growing partnership between the two organizations who earlier this summer co-sponsored a Jewish service-learning retreat in Maryland focused on training Moishe House residents and community members across the country on methods by which to engage their peers in meaningful, effective service.

Coming Home

Because there’s no place like Detroit

When I was 17, I couldn’t get away from Bloomfield Hills fast enough. When I was 19, Detroit beckoned me back. When I was 22, I raced home from New York. Now I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else in the world. A circuitous path — geographic, professional, spiritual — has led me to quite possibly the world’s best job: part professional volunteer and part volunteer professional.

On growing up in Jewish Detroit

It’s easy to take for granted what an exceptional Jewish community this is. I went to public school and dropped out of Tamarack after a few years, but when I look at who I’ve stayed close with over the years, I am continually struck by the shared values and good humor of our community. I hope my kids have as rich an experience as I did — just without the mullet.

On ways he’s making his mark in the city

I am humbled that anyone knows who I am or cares what I’m doing. I think what initially draws a lot of us to Detroit is that you can create your own opportunities and make an impact here. But Detroit has made a much bigger mark on me than I have on it. My experiences in the city — far more than eight years of higher ed — have shaped my worldview and directed my moral compass. That said, I still get pretty excited when I see Summer in the City murals in Chrysler and Nike commercials.

On what inspired you to get started

Equal parts restlessness and naivety led us to start Summer in the City during college. You don’t have to spend much time in Detroit to see that it’s a markedly different place from how it’s typically depicted. We were inspired by the people and groups that welcomed us and thought that if we could extend that warm welcome — and harness the energy of everyone who responded — we could do some good work.

On his work with Repair the World

I am the Manager of Detroit Service Initiatives for Repair the World (www.werepair.org), a national organization dedicated to making service a defining element of Jewish life, learning and leadership. We have a great culture ofTikkun Olam in our community, but it can still be hard to turn our values into value. I get to work with any group or organization that’s interested — J-Serve, Tamarack, Frankel Jewish Academy, U of M Hillel, our JCRC, Backstage Pass, NextGen, the list goes on — to make volunteer work work equally well for both them and our community partners in Detroit.

On choosing to move to Detroit

Don’t wait for a rent subsidy — or even a job offer. Carpe Detroit! There is no place else in the world you can write your own story the way you can in Detroit. That’s true for people who grew up in the city, reversed track from the suburbs or are migrating from elsewhere in the country or the world.

On his hopes, dreams or plans for Detroit’s future

I aspire to a Detroit that is the greatest place in the world to be a kid. For both current Detroiters, who have been dealt a pretty tough hand, and for geographically mobile people looking for a diverse, dynamic place to live their values and pass them on to their children. Also good for the young at heart and outright Peter Pan types.

On what’s next for Detroit, in his opinion

Transit. Gotta happen. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like, but anyone who’s serious about the future of Detroit had better get serious about transit.

Favorite restaurant

Hygrade Deli. Great Reuben, old-school staff, colorful clientele. And it tastes even better doing your small part to support Stuart Litt and Detroit’s last Jewish deli.

Favorite place to take kids

The zoo. It’s magical every time, partly because I get to see it through their eyes and partly because I always get lost there. It’s crazy to think that these animals and people came from every corner of the earth to my backyard. I could chill with the Japanese Macaques all day.

Reading now

A lot of Dr. Seuss.

Crazy (But Good) Way To Spend Spring Break

A group of students from the University of Michigan are spending their spring break renovating an eighty-eight year old bowling alley at the “Latino Mission Society” center in Southwest Detroit.

It’s part of a community project to provide a safe recreational area for kids in the neighborhood to hang after school as well as a location for them to do their homework.

Our Jorge Avellan caught up with the college students today and has their story.

Click here to view the segment on Detroit’s My20 News at 10.

UMich students on an alternative break experience with Repair the World

A group of students from the University of Michigan are spending their spring break renovating an eighty-eight year old bowling alley at the “Latino Mission Society” center in Southwest Detroit.

 

 

Online commentary: Looking back on a decade of Detroit service

Ben Falik is a co-founder of Summer in the City. He is the manager of Detroit Service Initiatives for Repair the World and teaches a course on volunteerism at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Ten years ago, a couple friends and I had the dangerous combination of audacity, energy and naïveté to think we could change the impact that volunteers had on Detroit — and the impact that the city had on them. Always alliterative, we hoped to make service “fun, flexible and fulfilling” for volunteers — “practical, productive and purposeful” for community partners. So, as college sophomores, we started Summer in the City (SITC).

Through years of trial, error, blood, sweat and tears, we’ve developed the three (other) Ps, our core initiatives: Paint (graffiti-deterring murals), Plant (productive community gardens) and Play (tutoring and camp programs).

Ten summers and 200,000 hours of SITC service culminated last month on Finale Friday: 450 city and suburban volunteers, twice the summer’s daily average, itself nearly 20 times the size of our first year; 300 elementary-age campers from across the city; dozens of familiar faces from the neighborhood getting into the action; and, of course, enough barbecue for everybody.

Paint, Plant, Play

Unlike the eight weeks prior — each day, volunteer crews scattered strategically to every corner of the city — Finale Friday brought everyone together outside vacant Hubert Elementary School in Brightmoor, an oft-overlooked corner of Detroit, to paint, plant and play together:

• Paint: We painted our 50th mural of this summer, a two-story tribute to Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, painted in just 24 hours and bearing a line from the book that could be the motto for Brightmoor, if not all of Detroit: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

•Plant We weeded, watered, hedged and harvested in a handful of Brightmoor’s prodigious, prolific community gardens, familiar from weekly volunteer visits, during which casual conservation often lead to, “What if we got together and painted a mural at Hubert?”

•Play: During the 4th Annual Summer in the City Olympics, a decidedly non-competitive bonanza for kids of all ages — volunteers paired one-on-one with campers on country-themed teams — replete with moonwalk, petting zoo, face painting, photo booth and school-supply-stuffed backpacks for everyone.

A Decade in a Day

First to arrive on Finale Friday were 125 new and returning Teach for America teachers – one of them our former Project Plant director, back from Andover, Mass. TFA joined us to kick off their second year back in Detroit. By all accounts, they are here to stay and an invaluable part of the rapidly changing landscape of public education in Detroit.

Mid-morning, two Summer in the City stars (both in attendance, both named Sam) got calls offering them teaching jobs at Glazer Elementary School. Glazer, our first school partner, was spared closure in spite of its tough neighborhood and perpetually leaky roof — thanks to the efforts of parents, teachers, Focus: HOPE, Temple Beth El, us and others. It has a new lease on life, and some lingering uncertainty, as a charter school. Some Seussical certainty: two volunteers named Sam said “yes” and then became Miss N and S. And as we were assembling for the Finale Friday Foto, an email arrived in my pocket with the final bank approval for Summer in the City to purchase 1655 Clark Street, an historic home along Clark Park and Vernor. “The Collaboratory” will be the first ever home for our traditionally nomadic organization and the literal home, year-round, for four ensconced SITC leaders.

The picture is definitely worth a thousand words — spoken, written, sung and heard by thousands of diverse and dedicated stakeholders. If I had to capture the sentiment in far fewer words and the spirit of Seuss, I’d say, “decade done … we’ve only just begun.”

Summer in the City is holding an OpenHouseWarming at The Collaboratory this Saturday, September 17 from 10 am to 10 pm at 1655 Clark Street. The public is warmly welcomed – details at www.summerinthecity.com/hq.

Young Detroiters Work to Bridge the Gap Between the African American and Jewish Communities

The Craig Fahle Show

Pressley and Falik

QuanTez Pressley, left; and Ben Falik, right (Credit – Gabriela Santiago-Romero)

Members of the African American and Jewish communities came together last month at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs Mission to Detroit conference hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit. In the wake of the conference, two attendees, QuanTez Pressley and Ben Falik, are working to bridge the gap between these two communities in Metro Detroit through service, conversation, and more.

Craig sits down with these two for an open conversation.

If you are interested in finding out how you can get involved with their efforts you can contact them by email. Ben Falik can be reached at [email protected] and QuanTez Pressley can be reached at [email protected]

Read the article written by QuanTez Pressley and Ben Falik, published in the Jewish News here.

JCPA Mission to Detroit

Participants of the African American Jewish Community Mission to Detroit pose at the Heidelberg project. QuanTez Pressley and Ben Falik are in the back row, the middle and far right respectively (Photo compliments of the JCRC)

Listen to the piece that WDET’s Rob St. Mary did on the Jewish Council for Public Affairs Mission to Detroit conference in June, 2011 here.