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Students help CityEdge, Youth for Christ serve Hazel Park

Plan is to turn iconic ‘Blue Building’ into a gathering place for the community

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published April 18, 2016

 Dale Bishop meets with Lainey Popovic, 16, one of the volunteers from River Valley Community Church near South Bend in Indiana. Fixing the air hockey table nearby is Craig Brundage, pastor of CityEdge Church, and Joshua Bishop, a volunteer with Youth for Christ Detroit.

Dale Bishop meets with Lainey Popovic, 16, one of the volunteers from River Valley Community Church near South Bend in Indiana. Fixing the air hockey table nearby is Craig Brundage, pastor of CityEdge Church, and Joshua Bishop, a volunteer with Youth for Christ Detroit.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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HAZEL PARK — For the second year in a row, a group of students from a church in Indiana came to Hazel Park to volunteer alongside like-minded do-gooders at CityEdge Church and its new partners at Youth for Christ Detroit. They worked both indoors and outdoors, at the parks and the “Blue Building” — once the administrative building for Hazel Park Public Schools, and now jointly used by CityEdge and YFC Detroit.

There were about 10 students and three adults from River Valley Community Church, near South Bend in Indiana, who came to metro Detroit the first week of April. They painted door jambs and trim in the Blue Building at 23136 Hughes Ave., and installed a large room’s worth of vinyl flooring in a recreational space that will soon serve the community in a variety of ways.

The plan is to open the space later this year to all community members, with game tables and video game stations, a coffee bar, and plenty of room for workshops and classes. The idea is to turn the Blue Building into a community hub similar to the Hazel Park Public Library, where people of all walks of life can feel safe and enjoy each other’s company. The work of the volunteers from River Valley helped nudge CityEdge and YFC Detroit closer to their long-term goal.

The students also worked in Felker Park, between Easterling and Battelle, and Sutar Sutaruk Meyer Park at the southeast corner of Caledonia and East Granet. Create the Flame, a state-licensed nonprofit started by one of the founders of CityEdge, helped spearhead the restoration of the latter — work that continues today.

In the parks they raked up litter, painted playground equipment and, in the case of Caledonia, they dug out the foundation for cement to be poured for a welcome center patio. While unseasonably cold weather conspired against the students and the cement wasn’t poured that day, it was still good progress that will help the community make the parks a more inviting place.

“We were able to see so much change so quickly. We were able to see kids in the game room (at the Blue Building) and people at the church praising God, so the people saw what we were doing, and we saw the people we were helping,” said Sarah Brock, a student from Indiana who came to Hazel Park both this year and last. “Last year, I spoke to several people in the neighborhood who really thanked us for reviving the area and the community around Caledonia. To hear that appreciation is really great.”

The students also accompanied Dale Bishop — executive director of YFC Detroit — on a trip into Detroit. YFC Detroit is an interdenominational ministry that focuses on building relations with kids, providing strength and support.

According to Craig Brundage, pastor of CityEdge Church, the experience was eye-opening for many of the students who come from more suburban communities and aren’t used to urban areas. YFC Detroit has an office in Corktown at Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards. 

“Some of the strength that day (April 6) was Dale Bishop sharing some of the redemptive stories about the lives they’ve rebuilt and reclaimed as they worked down there, and really how God is redeeming lives,” Craig said. “It was a great, insightful and celebratory day.”

The students from Indiana were on their “Life Trip,” where they spend spring break serving others in need. Brundage’s son, Cameron Brundage, worked with the group and said there was a mix of new students and returning students this year.

“It was interesting to see the dynamic there,” Cameron Brundage said. “The people who were able to be here twice in a row were able to take a bit of ownership, showing off the cool things they’d done the year before at the BMX park and the park on Caledonia. They took a lot of pride in that, and the new students were pretty impressed.”

Both men agreed that the recurring message was one of serving others, something that is a cornerstone of their church. 

“We talked quite a bit to the kids about serving,” Craig Brundage said. “It’s not about us; it’s about what we can do for others. Jesus himself said that he came not to be served, but to serve and be there for others. When we give ourselves to others, we’re doing it for him.”

CityEdge Church and Youth for Christ Detroit are located at the Blue Building, 23136 Hughes Ave., across the street from Hazel Park High, and can be reached by calling (248) 765-4361.

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