Published March 5, 2013
Community staples recognized
By Sara Kandel firstname.lastname@example.org
FARMINGTON HILLS — The Economic Development Corporation of Farmington Hills recognized three longtime members of the community — a business, an organization and a church — at a City Council meeting last week.
The awards were presented by EDC Chair John Anhut at the start of the meeting. Anhut’s been involved in the group since its formation in 1978. A past business owner, Anhut understands what it means to survive for so long in one community, and it was his idea to recognize those who do.
He came up with the idea about five years ago, when the EDC was temporarily displaced during renovations at City Hall and a local business owner hosted the group.
“His name was Doug Mac, and I’ll never forget him,” Anhut said. “He did a terrific job for us. He gave us coffee and doughnuts, and I asked him to sit in at our meeting, which he did. At the meeting, we started talking about abatements and things of that nature.
“After the meeting, he came to me and he said, ‘John, how about us?’ He said, ‘You know, we have been here 25 years and we’ve paid our dues, all of our taxes, we are good members of the communities, but what is happening to us?’ That provoked me, and I started a program to try and recognize businesses and organizations that have survived in our area.”
The Feb. 25 council meeting marked the culmination of his work on the project, when, for the first time, he was able to bestow plaques of recognition to three longtime community staples: The American Association of University Women, the Universalist-Unitarian Church of Farmington Hills and Heeney-Sundquist Funeral Home.
“The American Association of University Women has certainly done a great job in our area,” Anhut said before presenting the plaque. “They believe in equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.”
Joan McGlincy, a longtime member of the Farmington chapter of the AAUW, accepted the award on behalf of the organization. At the reception prior to the awards ceremony, McGlincy shared a little of the history of the organization.
“Our motto is empowering women since 1881, and that’s really what our goal is,” she said. “The organization got started with a woman that had two daughters that lived in Boston. She wanted them to go to Boston Latin School, which still exists, and she was told that, no, they couldn’t, because it was only open to boys.
“So she started her own school. Her daughter went on to college and met with a group of women and decided that they had to open some doors because women were very limited in what they could do.”
For more than 50 years, the Farmington Hills chapter of the AAUW has been active in the community, offering scholarships, legal advocacy and more.
McGlincy agreed that women’s rights have come a long way since the formation of the Farmington Hills chapter in 1951, but she said the organization still has a lot of work to do and wrongs to right.
“We still earn less, and there are certain things that happen at work that still stand in our way,” McGlincy said. “If you look at the glass ceiling, it still exists. There are a lot of things that have just not been opened to women.”
The organization’s legal advocacy team is currently funding one of the plaintiffs featured in the Academy Award-winning film “The Invisible War,” a documentary about sexual abuse of men and women in the military.
With just as rich a history of involvement in the community, the Universalist-Unitarian Church of Farmington Hills was also recognized.
“This is our 160th year,” said Minister Alex Riegel. “In the Midwest, that’s old. The church was established in 1853, on Aug. 28, I believe, in downtown Farmington Hills. It was downtown for 110 (years), and then they picked it up and moved it to its current location. It’s the original building.”
Riegel explained that, when the church was first established in the area as a Universalist church, their ideology was considered highly heretical, but their history of persecution helped form them into what they are today.
“Universalists don’t believe in predestination — a doctrine of John Calvin that said that God knew before the creation of the Earth what souls would be saved and which would be damned. Universalists believe in universal salvation: everybody gets in the club. Well, back in the day, that was heretical, and the Universalists always had a history of being persecuted for their beliefs,” Riegel said.
To cope with financial strains, the Universalist church eventually merged with the Unitarian Church, creating the Universalist-Unitarian Association in 1961. The two Christian movements were a good fit. They shared in a similar history of persecution.
“Unitarians do not believe in the holy trinity. They believe in the unity of God and they were persecuted for this belief to the point where homes were ruined, people were imprisoned, people were ostracized, even in America.” Riegel said.
When the two churches merged, they decided that they would never turn their back on any person or group regardless of religious beliefs. Parishioners would not have to profess a creed to become members of the church.
“We are based on a covenant, and the covenant basically says we support each others’ right to search for truth and meaning according to our consciences,” Riegel said. “The result of that is we have all sorts of people in our pews on Sunday morning.”
Inside the church hall, five banners hang: one for each of the world’s major religions — Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism — and one representing Humanism.
With an even longer history in the area, Heeney-Sundquist Funeral Home took home the business award for longevity in the community.
Heeney-Sundquist was established in the city of Farmington decades before motorized hearses were even invented.
“We were established in 1850 at that location,” Heeney-Sundquist owner Mark Ziegler said. “That’s unusual among my peers. Many of them started in Detroit, in the city, and then moved out into the suburbs as their customer base moved, but we have been under that roof at that address for 163 years.”
Ziegler is the fifth owner of the funeral home, but he said it’s always been a family-run funeral home, and because of that, their clients have always been like family and remained loyal throughout the years, so they never had to move.
“We are blessed with a wonderful clientele, a very loyal clientele, so we enjoy going to work every day because we get to help people in a really dark time,” he said.
But Ziegler doesn’t just support the community in dark times. Just like the organization and the church recognized before him, through his business, Ziegler and his wife, Jody, are active members of the community — donating time and money to multiple youth, education, hospice and church programs.
“We try to give back to our community that has been very, very generous and loyal to us for generations, by supporting them both financially and with our time as much as possible,” Ziegler said.
Organizations, businesses and churches differ in many ways, but the three recognized at the Feb. 25 council meeting shared two significant similarities — a passion for community involvement and longevity. It might not be a coincidence.