Volunteers fanned out across Madison Heights neighborhoods the morning of Nov. 7 to rake leaves as part of the “Rake with the Mayor” program, which was started by former Mayor Brian Hartwell in 2016 and continued this year with new Mayor Roslyn Grafstein.

Volunteers fanned out across Madison Heights neighborhoods the morning of Nov. 7 to rake leaves as part of the “Rake with the Mayor” program, which was started by former Mayor Brian Hartwell in 2016 and continued this year with new Mayor Roslyn Grafstein.

Photo provided by Roslyn Grafstein


New mayor keeps tradition of raking with volunteers in Madison Heights

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published November 18, 2020

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MADISON HEIGHTS — It’s been a crazy year, but some things stay the same, like the changing of seasons, the falling of leaves — and neighbors helping neighbors.

Madison Heights Mayor Roslyn Grafstein put out the call for help for the “Rake with the Mayor” program that Brian Hartwell started back in 2016 when he was mayor. Hartwell is now the judge of Hazel Park’s 43rd District Court, and Grafstein was appointed by the City Council to fill his vacancy as mayor.

For this year’s event, volunteers mobilized the morning of Nov. 7. Among them were youth ranging from elementary to high school age, including football and volleyball players, and members of the National Honor Society and the National Junior Honor Society, as well as school board members from the Madison and Lamphere districts and their families, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, and others, including a young family and a man in his ‘80s.

In all there were more than 50 volunteers. A list of 24 addresses grew to more than 40 as more people saw the volunteers at work and asked for help. Eve Sandoval, a member of the Environmental Citizens Committee, also went back the next day with a crew of volunteers to continue the work.

All leaves were raked to the side of the street for the city to pick up later that week. The city has a truck that comes by to vacuum up piles of leaves.

While Hartwell originally started the program in 2016, this wasn’t Grafstein’s first time participating in it. She had been part of the program in 2018, as well. She said this year’s program floored her with the turnout and number of houses they covered.

“It was amazing,” Grafstein said. “At the start, I stood in the parking lot of the (Madison Heights Active Adult Center) and told everyone I had a good problem: I had more volunteers than I thought I would need.”

The extra volunteers resulted in more homes and backyards being raked, the mayor said. There was one family that finished their assignment early and then went to rake at a relative’s home. Another group was asked for help by a neighbor that saw them raking — a request to which they enthusiastically agreed.

“It really gave me a sense of community,” Grafstein said.

Hartwell said he’s happy to see the event continued. The original event was inspired by work he had done with the Madison Heights Men’s Club cleaning up snow and ice at city bus stops.

“Public service requires us to leave our offices, roll up our sleeves and help others,” Hartwell said in an email. “I’m glad to hear the tradition continues, especially during this time of year when many disabled, low-income senior citizens need a wellness check. We do more than clean yards of fall leaves — we perform the old-fashioned duty of keeping a watchful eye on our community elders.”

Mark Bliss, a member of the Madison Heights City Council, said he encourages people to get involved volunteering in whatever way they can.

“For decades, Madison Heights has been known for its strong sense of community and volunteerism, and as we’ve seen throughout this pandemic, it’s a powerful force for good in these dark times,” Bliss said via email. “We’ll get through this together, and so long as we continue to build on our city’s long example of volunteerism, we’ll emerge stronger than ever.”

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