Members of Hazel Park Neighborhood Enrichment gather at the Hazel Park library June 21. Members landscape areas around the city and recognize aesthetically appealing homes with weekly beautification awards. They also organize citywide garage sales and fundraisers for good causes.

Members of Hazel Park Neighborhood Enrichment gather at the Hazel Park library June 21. Members landscape areas around the city and recognize aesthetically appealing homes with weekly beautification awards. They also organize citywide garage sales and fundraisers for good causes.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Hazel Park Neighborhood Enrichment continues to beautify, build bonds

Seeds currently available for sunflower-growing contest ending Oct. 1

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published June 29, 2022


HAZEL PARK — Since the early 2000s, Hazel Park Neighborhood Enrichment has been living up to its name by keeping the community bright and vibrant, with beautification efforts encouraging residents to take pride in their homes, and gardening projects across the city.

The late Jan Parisi, a former mayor of Hazel Park who died in October 2021, helped start the group as a club focused on landscaping efforts, which is also when most of the members first joined.

Chris Laymac is the current president of the club. Darlene Shaughnessy is its vice president. There are 12 core members in all.

“We enjoy our time together,” Laymac said via email, noting that members pay annual dues of only $2 and are expected to attend at least several meetings. “We would just like the members to be involved in the activities and volunteer for the events, and come up with ideas for things to do.”

The group currently meets on the first Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. inside Baldwin House at 777 E. Woodward Heights Blvd., in Hazel Park.

Laymac originally got involved when Lois Reithel, a long-serving member, asked her to join.

“I went to a couple of meetings and thought I might enjoy the group,” she said.

Among the group’s beautification efforts are awards recognizing exceptional home properties in the warm months, as well as Halloween décor during the holidays. Residents can drive around town looking for aesthetically appealing yards and nominate the address on Facebook, at which point club members may evaluate the home based on elements such as flowers, brickwork or decorative items, general upkeep and originality. Winners receive a letter and a yard sign announcing the honor, which they keep for a week before the next home is considered.

But the group also has a strong presence on public property, such as the flower circle at Kennedy Park at the corners of Merrill and Pearl avenues. The circle there is about 15 feet wide and is arranged with a hazelnut tree — the town’s namesake — in the middle, surrounded by a variety of hardy plants including sedums, daylilies and rose bushes, as well as tulips in the spring. Various members maintain the flower circle.

The club brings the community together in other ways, too, organizing citywide garage sales where a map is posted to Facebook, showing who is selling that day. Signs are placed around town to drive traffic toward each home. While the club has traditionally focused on home garage sales, the group is now considering a trunk sale at a designated location, as well.

“Everyone starts looking for the information as soon as spring starts,” Laymac said. “We also allow Ferndale to participate in being on the map.”

To stay apprised of coming sales, visit the club’s Facebook page at      

Making its return this year is the club’s citywide sunflower-growing contest, last done in 2005. The seeds are provided to anyone interested, and the goal is to grow the largest flower by Oct. 1. There will be separate prizes for the biggest flower and tallest flower, with the prize for each being a $25 gift card.

To acquire sunflower seeds, contact Chris Laymac at Arrangements can be made for the sunflower seeds to be delivered to you.

Laymac had some tips to help get people started. She said the seeds should be planted straight into the ground — they don’t like to be transplanted — and that small seeds should be planted a half-inch deep while larger seeds can be planted one inch deep. Space them six inches apart. They should start germinating within seven to 10 days. Sunflowers can grow over 15 feet tall, she said.

Those who think they have an exceptionally large sunflower will be able to contact Laymac at her email address in late September, and make arrangements for a team to come out and measure. Some may be measured in person at the Hazel Park Memorial District Library on Oct. 1.

In addition to the beautification and gardening efforts, Hazel Park Neighborhood Enrichment has held various fundraisers over the years, which have supported activities such as planting flowers, building up the hill at Nine Mile and John R roads with terrace bricks, donating a concrete chess table to the Art Park, and more. One club member has also been trying to get more residents to grow hazelnut plants, which largely disappeared as the city developed.

Hazel Park Neighborhood Enrichment is a licensed 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so all donations to the group are tax deductible. But the best way to support its efforts may be to get directly involved.

“We would rather have the person’s time and effort. We want them to have fun,” Laymac said. “You get to know about your neighbors, and some of the things that are going on in the community.”

Alissa Sullivan, a member of the Hazel Park City Council, said via email that while the club is not a city-appointed board or commission, its impact is huge.

“They seem to have a few new members now, breathing life into some fun new community ideas, like the sunflower contest,” Sullivan said. “I’m excited to see sunflowers popping up around town!”

Hazel Park City Councilman Andy LeCureaux said in an email that he appreciates seeing the beautification awards around town.

“I like riding my bicycle around and seeing the many beautiful front yards in town. My father had a green thumb and I inherited mine from him,” LeCureaux said. “Each colorful yard of blooms seems to encourage more, like spreading wildflowers. I also remember Jan Parisi and the garden tours she started with Neighborhood Enrichment, years ago.”

Luke Londo, another member of the Hazel Park City Council, said in an email that the club is a classic example of what can be done by a group of passionate, like-minded people working together.

“Their beautification awards instill pride in residents across the city, and their community garden initiatives bring residents together and make Hazel Park more vibrant,” Londo said. “I’m extremely grateful for them and all the work they do.”

Mike McFall, the mayor pro tem of Hazel Park, said in an email that the club does “great work” throughout the city, from encouraging home improvement to organizing events such as garage sales.

“Without them, our city just wouldn’t be the same,” he said. “Volunteers drive our community!”