Maurice Marchbank eased down a ladder, wiped the sweat from his brow and admired his handiwork. The 35-year-old Detroiter had just chopped down some unruly branches from a tree on an otherwise tidy block of Sussex Street on the city’s west side.
“We have to look around and see what needs to be done and do it,” he said. “One person cannot
do it. It takes a team.”
Marchbank was one of hundreds of volunteers who took to Detroit streets to clean lots, make home improvements, share important community information and foster a greater sense of community as part of ARISE Detroit’s 12th annual Neighborhoods Day on Aug. 4. Over 200 organizations registered for Neighborhoods Day, which continued throughout August with various activities at Detroit Public Library branches and at other venues. Thousands more participated in festivals, concerts, parades, health fairs and back to school events. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan committed 300 employees to volunteer at 17 projects across the city, including 10 Detroit public schools.
The event draws volunteers from the suburbs and the city to commit thousands of hours
of help on projects big and small.
“It is nice to be part of this,” said Denise Brown, a 62-year- old member of the Sussex
Block Club in the Puritan/Fen- kell area, who participated in Neighborhoods Day for the first time by landscaping the yards of vacant homes in her area. “We tried to do it last year but could not get it together. Now we can see where we go from here.”
It was easy to see where the block club had done its work as lawns were freshly mowed,
bushes trimmed and weeds pulled. Purple and white balloons were on display so area residents and visitors could see where the work was performed. ARISE Detroit! executive director Luther Keith said the event is a way to bring city and suburban residents together and unify them in bettering Detroit.
“It’s a truly inspiring thing to see unfold all across the city,” said Keith, who traveled to
10 events across the city on Neighborhoods Day. “People were excited and energized
about showing what they are doing to build a stronger community.”
Neighborhoods Day has evolved from cleaning up lots, parks, around vacant structures and similar offerings. It has expanded to include events like this year’s Jazz on The Ave
festival in the, sponsored by University Commons on Livernois, a large flower farm display called The Garden Detroit, on Manistique on the east side, a backpack giveaway on the city’s north end, the Belle Isle and Grandmont Art fairs and the Sidewalk Festival, which drew thousands of people to the Artist Village on Lahser near Grand River in northwest Detroit.
This year, Neighborhoods Day included a Horse Festival, called Saddle Up, Detroit, by
Detroit Horse Power, at Salisinger Park on Linwood, one the city’s west side. “My mom is going to be so surprised,” said a beaming 6-year-old Ke’Von Thomas of Detroit as he looked every bit the hero from a cowboy movie. “This is my first time riding a horse.” His grandmother Deborah Nobles brought him to a horse festival. Youths were able to ride horses, engage in arts and crafts and take photos at the event as part of Neighborhoods Day.
“I told my grandson we were going to a barbecue but brought him here instead,” Nobles said while snapping photos and taking videos with her cellular telephone. “This is a great
event and I am glad he could be part of it.”
Neighborhoods day also featured a job fair and opportunity for people with a criminal record to have records of their crimes expunged. About 100 people arrived early for an opportunity to secure a job and clean up their records at UAW Local 22 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers on the city’s southwest side.
“I am hoping to get as much information as I can,” LaMont Polk, a 41-year-old Detroiter said while looking at the dozens of tables set up with job or training information. “There are options everywhere.”
Organizer Percy Johnson, a UAW pipefitter, was blunt as he told attendees that it was up to them
to follow through on training and job opportunities by submitting applications, chasing
down school transcripts and stay in touch with him.
“Use me as your guide to make sure you are being addressed with what you are trying to achieve,” he told a small crowd gathered near his table. “There are many good-paying
jobs. But you have to follow up.”
Mark your calendar for the 13th annual Neighborhoods Day, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.