Hazel ParkApril 1, 2013
Dedicated to improving quality of life in Hazel Park
By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer
HAZEL PARK — Like many inner-ring suburbs in Metro Detroit, Hazel Park was hit hard during the recent recession.
In its favor has been a small but dedicated group of about 12 residents who refused to let tough times translate into apathy and neglect.
Hazel Park Neighborhood Enrichment first formed in the summer of 2004, with the goal of beautifying the city.
“We want to upgrade and uplift,” said Ron Cunningham, a Hazel Park resident and long-time member of Neighborhood Enrichment. “The city won’t get bigger — we’re landlocked — so we have to work on quality and make sure people have pride.”
To this end, they’ve planted flowers and trees throughout the city and in the parks, including hazelnut bushes at City Hall and the library, and maple trees in Scout Park.
Beautification awards are distributed to well-kept yards in the summertime, and city-wide garden tours are held to appreciate the artistry of local green thumbs.
Hazel Park’s first community garden formed at Kennedy Park with Neighborhood Enrichment’s supervision. They also contributed Christmas lights to City Hall, as well as the first sculpture at the new Art Garden near Dairy Park on John R.
In addition, they’ve donated to the Promise Zone, which provides college scholarships to graduates of Hazel Park High. During the holidays, they go caroling at the American House, and whenever the city has a festive event like the Memorial Weekend, you can count on Neighborhood Enrichment to be there with free or low-cost activities.
With only a dozen active members, Neighborhood Enrichment could always use more volunteers. They’re also holding a spaghetti dinner fundraiser, where 100 percent of the proceeds go straight back into the community, funding various quality-of-life projects.
The dinner will be held from 5-8 p.m. April 19 at the Hazel Park Community Center, 620 W. Woodward Heights Blvd.
The cost is $6 for adults and $3 for children. Expect home-cooked spaghetti, salad, rolls and desserts, as well as raffle prizes and a grand prize.
Jeffrey Olivier, a member of Neighborhood Enrichment, said he hopes the dinner will raise awareness for what the group does, and recruit more people to the cause.
“I believe there are many citizens who have as much passion for Hazel Park as we do, and supporting Neighborhood Enrichment is definitely a great way to say you care about your city, and that you want it to continue to grow,” Olivier said.
That passion can be infectious. Cunningham remembers how he first joined the group nearly 10 years ago.
He was driving past City Hall when he saw people digging in the ground at Nine Mile and John R, clearing space for shrubbery near the city sign.
“I could’ve kept rolling, but I stopped, and as it happened, I helped with digging … and from then on we’ve been digging the last 10 years,” Cunningham said. “They were just some folks trying to make things a bit brighter, putting some flowers there at that focal point, an epicenter of Hazel Park, where everyone drives by. We wanted it to sparkle a bit.”
That extra “sparkle” is what they aim for in much of their work. These days, the challenge is finding out how to make the biggest difference on a shoestring budget.
“We’re trying to attract more people with more ideas,” Cunningham said. “The old saying goes, ‘Many hands make light work.’ We’re trying to avoid heavy-lifting here!
“We’ve always had good cooperation with the city,” he added. “The DPS has been marvelous over time. People have been good to us. So we try to give back.”
If everyone gave back, Cunningham said, the city would see a world of difference.
“People are down right now because the economy is down, but you don’t have to stay down — you can start pushing back,” Cunningham said. “Get up and get moving, and do something about it. Spring, we hope, will come soon, and it’s renewal. Each year, we go in and see what we can make a little bit better.”
The spaghetti dinner fundraiser supporting Hazel Park Neighborhood Enrichment will take place from 5-8 p.m. Friday, April 19 at the Hazel Park Community Center, 620 W. Woodward Heights Blvd. The cost is $6 for adults and $3 for children.
For more information about Neighborhood Enrichment and how you can volunteer, call (248) 542-1247, (248) 460-3251, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.