Polish Mission promotes grants

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 20, 2015

 Cecile Jensen, co-director of the Polonica Americana Research Institute of the Polish Mission, talks to Robbe DiPietro, director of the grant programs at the Michigan Humanities Council, about panels that were funded by the council.

Cecile Jensen, co-director of the Polonica Americana Research Institute of the Polish Mission, talks to Robbe DiPietro, director of the grant programs at the Michigan Humanities Council, about panels that were funded by the council.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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ORCHARD LAKE — Thanking the Michigan Humanities Council for three grants received over the years, the Polish Mission of Orchard Lake Schools showcased a hall of cultural items before hosting a grant workshop for the council Feb. 13.

Because Poland celebrates Paczki Day the Thursday before Lent, the Polish Mission set up paczki and other traditional Polish sweets to honor the council. The Polish Mission building was also decorated with traditional Polish costumes, displays of the grant projects and a mechanized Polish panorama that represents over 1,000 years of Polish history.

Last summer, the Kellogg Foundation awarded the Michigan Humanities Council $1.7 million for a new grant program called The Heritage Grants, according to Joe Cialdella, program manager for The Heritage Grants. Cialdella said the new program is designed to “support organizations that want to tell stories about the people in Michigan that aren’t often told,” unlike the automotive and lumber industries that have been highlighted time and time again.

These stories, he said, could include immigrant stories, black history or Polish history. Any group that isn’t part of the dominant or main historical perspective of Michigan that has a story to tell can apply for the grant.

Because of the $1.7 million award, the council has the opportunity to travel across the state and reach out to various organizations to educate them about the grant programs. Cialdella said they reached out to previous grant winners to host grant workshops.

The Polish Mission’s workshop was the first one held by the Michigan Humanities Council in conjunction with a previous grant winner.

“We like to be in contact with previous grantees to continue these ... relations,” Cialdella said. “The paczki are a nice perk at this particular location.”

Cecil Jensen, co-director of the Polonica Americana Research Institute of the Polish Mission, said the Polish Mission was pleased to host a workshop because it has benefited from the Michigan Humanities Council three times in the past five or six years.

“We’re such a small organization. Without the funding, we wouldn’t have a program. Maybe larger universities kind of say, ‘Well, writing something for $15,000 is not worth our time.’ It makes all the difference in the world to us,” Jensen said.

The first grant the Polish Mission was awarded — It All Began in Poland — was created to honor the veterans and displaced persons in the Michigan Polish community.

“People don’t realize all the suffering and triumph that Poland went through in World War II,” Jensen said. “(The project) was about the displaced persons that were expelled from Poland by Nazis and Russians.”

The second grant was for The Grandparents Project. Grandparents were encouraged to bring children to the Polonica Americana Research Institute of the Polish Mission to learn how to document their Polish heritage. The grant allowed the Polish Mission to provide archival boxes for over 125 families, as well as print the proper paperwork of each family’s history on archival paper.

“Kids got to keep the box. So anytime they had some kind of family event that was worth saving, it went in their archival box,” Jensen said.

The third grant was for a collection of vintage photos taken by Polish photographers. The photographs were first put on display at the Polish Mission, then at the Hamtramck Historical Museum and the Clinton-Macomb Public Library, Jensen said. The funds also permitted the Polish Mission to publish an 84-page publication that showcases 23 Polish Americans who became photographers in metro Detroit. Over 2,000 images were scanned last summer, and people are still asking to donate images.

“We were celebrating the fact that we had 23 men from Poland that opened small businesses,” Jensen said.

The Polish Mission will be applying for a grant through the Michigan Humanities Council’s new Heritage Grants program. If they receive the grant, it will allow them to digitize copies of the The Polish Weekly/Tygodnik Polski from 1904-1989, which would allow scholars to use the archived papers, Jensen said.

For more information about the Michigan Humanities Council and the grant programs, visit www.michiganhumanities.org.

To learn more about Polish research and programs through  the Polonica Americana Research Institute of the Polish Mission, call (248) 683-0323.

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