Farmington staff prepares for battle, charity drive

By: Maria Allard | Farmington Press | Published December 11, 2012

 Dunckel Middle School seventh-grade language arts teacher Chris Leland, left, and former Warner and current North Farmington High School teacher Pat Henderhan go after the ball in the 2009 Battle of the Middles game.

Dunckel Middle School seventh-grade language arts teacher Chris Leland, left, and former Warner and current North Farmington High School teacher Pat Henderhan go after the ball in the 2009 Battle of the Middles game.

FARMINGTON — The court has been primed, the T-shirts have been sold and the teachers have drummed up their star-athlete personas.

On Dec. 14, the Farmington High School gymnasium will roar like a Detroit Pistons game as the north-versus-south basketball challenge, Battle of the Middles VIII, heats up.

Several Farmington Public Schools staff members will take on each other in a charity basketball game to benefit the Neighborhood House of Farmington/Farmington Hills and the Farmington Area Goodfellows.

The North Team consists of Dunckel Middle and Warner Upper Elementary staff members who will dribble, shoot and score against East Middle and Power Upper Elementary staff. Forty-three players are on the rosters, including teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians, building administrators, counselors, psychologists, social workers, student teachers and a curriculum director.

Dunckel eighth-grade math teacher Marc Szalka founded the annual event.

“When I came into the district, I wanted to do something to connect with the community,” Szalka said. “I know the holidays are difficult for many families. I though this would be a nice way to give back.”

Game admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students/children or $1 with the donation of two or more canned goods. Spectators who donate a new, unwrapped toy get into the game free of charge.

The players each come with their own skill levels.

“Some have basketball experience. There will also be people that haven’t played basketball before,” Szalka said, adding that the event is relaxed. “It’s a great time. Everyone just likes to laugh at each other.”

And while the adults get a charge out of the friendly competition, so do the students.

“The kids enjoy seeing their teachers in a different light. Every year, we pack the gym,” Szalka said. “The staff understands the impact this has on the community.”

Staff members who prefer to stay off the court also have the opportunity to assist with the event by performing other jobs during the night, including taking admission and donations. Local businesses also were sought to sponsor the game.

Farmington High School is located at 32000 Shiawassee. Doors open at 5:45 p.m. The game begins at 6:30 p.m. According to a district press release, the Battle of the Middles Basketball Game has helped raise more than $20,000 in the last seven years, along with countless canned goods and toys.

“We benefit from it big time,” Neighborhood House client support specialist Loretta Zahn said. “It’s a great thing. It does so much for Neighborhood House.”

Zahn said Neighborhood House is approaching its 25th year. She said the nonprofit organization, in which the late Richard Tupper was a large influence, helps people in crisis all year long.

“We assist with utility shut-offs, evictions,” the Farmington Hills resident said. “I can, on occasion, help with prescriptions for people that don’t have insurance. I have a food pantry. The economy is so bad. I know it’s getting better. It just hasn’t trickled down to the people I service.”

The nonprofit does not receive state or federal funds, Zahn said.

“Neighborhood House is kept alive by the citizens of Farmington, the churches of Farmington and the schools,” the retired FPS Headstart teacher said. “They’re the wind beneath our wings.” 

The Neighborhood House receives monetary donations at 31455 W. 11 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48336. Checks can be made out to Farmington Neighborhood House.

The 2012 Farmington Area Goodfellows holiday operations are in full swing with the mission of “No Child or Senior without a Christmas.” According to the Goodfellows website at www.farmington, the group is in need of canned/boxed foods, new toys and new books to help support its annual Holiday Assistance Program for families and seniors living in Farmington and Farmington Hills.

According to the website, collection boxes are at the following sites: Farmington City Hall; the downtown Farmington Public Library on Liberty Street in Farmington; Farmington Hills City Hall; the Costick Center at 28600 W. 11 Mile Road in Farmington Hills; and two Talmer Banks located at 33205 Grand River Ave., in downtown Farmington and 37386 W. 12 Mile Road in Farmington Hills. Donations are welcome through Dec. 14. The year-round collection boxes are at both City Halls and the Farmington Community Library’s downtown Farmington branch.