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VIEW: The CFF Good Neighbor Awards

VIEW:  The CFF Good Neighbor Awards

(FERNDALE VIEW, Crystal A. Proxmire, 4/21/2011)

NOTE: More pictures will be added later.


When I started The Ferndale 115 News in June of 2009, I set the online newspaper’s goals to be “inform, inspire and unite.”  And as my online paper grew I got to know a lot of people who are doing great things in the community, including a group of people whose values and ethical purpose matched mine directly.


Citizens for Fair Ferndale strives to inform us with their forums on important political issues, which are done with strict adherence to a format that allows all sides of the issue to be heard.


They inspire us by sharing the stories of people who serve the community and recognizing them with Good Neighbor Awards.


And they unite us around the idea of equality, freedom and community.  Their roots in the campaign for equal rights for all of our neighbors reminds me of my first experiences moving back here to Ferndale and finding so many brave activists in the LGBT community, which was the first group to really embrace and encourage me as a writer.  CFF  fought to have a human rights ordinance here in Ferndale.  Then, once they accomplished their goal of making Ferndale more fair, they tackled another issue that is dear to my heart, which is providing basic health care to our neighbors that cannot afford it.  Their meetings were the birthplace of FernCare, a community-driven and funded free health clinic for those without other options.

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Their mission is “The mission of Citizens for a Fair Ferndale is to foster a community that is dedicated to the fair and equal treatment of all residents and visitors regardless of sexual orientation, race, color, religion, gender, age, height, weight, familial status, national origin, physical or mental disability.”


When I first learned about CFF and their work, it happened to be the first of many experiences where I was on the verge of giving up the online paper.  I don’t think most people realize the struggles that I face on a daily basis in terms of funding, managing time, coordinating with others etc.  I still struggle, like many new busineses, but thankfully I am past the point of giving up.  Back in 2009 it was easier to feel frustrated.  I often felt like my ideals for the media and what it can be were so far removed from what the public is used to, and that I would never get people to understand what I was trying to accomplish.


But then I met the volunteers of CFF and learned about their great work in the community and it inspired me greatly.  It was the first time that I really connected the dots and knew that there was something special about my home town.  And that something special is that we are a unique city, blessed with dozens of community groups and people who really care about each other. And who will protect and encourage those who come here to follow their dreams.  When I met CFF I knew that if I was going to be successful anywhere, this city where I grew up was going to be the place.


And now, nearly two years later, I’m proud to say that The Ferndale 115 News has over 5,000 unique readers each month and a strong reputation in the community for fairness.  And getting a CFF Good Neighbor Award on April 19 was a huge honor.  Not just to be recognized, but also to be among so many others who embrace the same ideals and live their lives with positive energy and intent.


Kat Bruner James, Bridget Deegan Krause, Kelly Farrah, Mary Schusterbaurer and others from CFF were some of the first to get excited about the community paper and give me ideas, connections and support.  And each has multiple ways that they are involved in making the community stronger.  Bruner James is an attorney who fights for people’s rights.  Deegan Krause is an active parent and a strong advocate for the library.  Farrarah has the torturous task of balancing the books for organizations and is also involved with the schools.  Schusterbauer has also taken the lead in raising money to help support Ferndale school students through Ferndale Education Foundation and other groups.  They and the rest of CFF work hard to make events like Good Neighbor Awards and the community issue forums happen.


Tuesday’s event was a beautiful culmination of efforts by businesses, residents and volunteers. Go Comedy provided an intimate setting with a brightly-lit stage that was perfect for the ceremony.  They also opened the show with hilarious improv, which climaxed with a sound-effect war inside a pretend Ernie’s Market.  Western Market provided the delicacies and Blumz did a fabulous job on the flowers.  Lori Davis (Remax), Sherry Kruzman Photography, and County Commissioner Craig Covey were sponsors.


Awardees and their nominators were invited to attend, along with friends and family.  Suggestions from the community give the awards its diverse selection of winners, and I am grateful to the people who nominated me.  The other winners also deserve the praise and respect of our readers.


Bob Babut has also been a steady supporter of The Ferndale 115 News for the past two years.  He is the owner of Modern Tax and Accounting, one of our sponsors.  He’s been active in Ferndale for the past 25 years, often behind the scenes doing the numbers crunching that keeps many organizations running.  He is the volunteer treasurer for FernCare and has been involved in numerous projects, including: Fans of Ferndale, Arts & Cultural Committee, Michigan AIDS Coalition, Good Neighbor Garden, Pub Crawl, 2008 Human Rights Campaign, and is an Elk in good standing.  He helps on many political campaigns as well, and is a friendly face to be seen at just about any community function.


I don’t know Mark Cohen, but now I want to. (Mark, if you are reading this, please contact us at  Cohen’s energy and enthusiasm about Ferndale and the people in his W. Maplehurst neighborhood are exactly the kind of thing our community thrives on.  Cohen was described as “the neighborhood uncle” and was recognized for his help with the Slow Zone program and his dedication to his neighborhood.  There was mention of an annual fireworks display, which we hope to be invited to this year (hint hint).  When Cohen accepted his award, he said two things that really stuck.  “Happiness is the by-product of the effort to make someone else happy,” and “Karma really works.”

From the boisterous neighborhood cheerleader, to the modest deep-thinking matriarch we go to Carol Frederick.  Frederick got sucked into community involvement the way many of us do, with a small step leading into a nearly-addicting desire to make the world a better place.  “It started at a PTA meeting,” said the soft-spoken Ferndale mom.  “I sat in the back and was just going to listen,” she said.  That meeting turned into a lifetime of involvement with the schools, including four years on the Ferndale School Board.  “Carol understands that a good community has roots,” her nominator said.  And surely Frederick is part of those roots and the trunk that keeps organizations like Ferndale Eagles Nest and the PTA going strong to support our community’s kids.


Ernie Hansen is the lovable proprietor of Ernie’s Market at 8500 Capital.  It’s a small convenience store with a big sandwich, and an owner with a big heart.  “As we walked in the door it was like Ernie had been waiting for us,” said his nominator.  “He absolutely loves life,” said Deegan Krause, who presented him with his award.  Several times through the night, his signature greeting could be heard.  “Hey baby,” he says in a radio-announcer voice to those he considers a friend.  Which in Ferndale means anyone that walks into his store.


Another thing about Ernie worth noting is that back in 1968 he was offered a job that had a large signing bonus.  Hansen had a choice to make.  Take the job or start a life for himself.  Even though it was a hard choice and a risk, he took the money and bought himself a car and Ernie’s Market.  Now he is a staple of the community and a very happy man.


Another happy man in Ferndale is mail carrier Brandon Lampkin.  Lampkin has a “spring in his step” as he covers his route on the SW side of Ferndale, says his nominator.  He has a “warm smile, listening ear, and joy of life” that he shares with the neighbors as he brings them their mail each day. He has been a part of the community for 21 years, and explains his vibrant personality on route quite well.  “It’s easy to be nice to someone who is nice to you,” he said.


Growing up in Ferndale provides young people with many opportunities to shine as good citizens.  Ferndale High School Senior Ryan Humphreys exemplifies what it means to be a good kid.  He is one of five children, active in his church and school, and helpful to people in his neighborhood.  He helped his neighbor move several months ago, selflessly spending hours on numerous days to pitch in.  He is active in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, participating in the first year, forming a team with his family the second, and stepping up to be part of the logistics team for this years event.  And he’ll be joining the US Air Force after graduation.  It was great to meet Humphreys at the Good Neighbor Awards.


Ryan Lyons and Ronnie Garnsey could not make it to the awards.  They were nominated by an elderly cancer patient who shares an apartment building with them on Bermuda.  The neighbors live one on each side of her and they take turns helping her with tasks like fixing her car, buying groceries and help around the apartment.  “They never take any money,” the woman wrote.  “Nominating them for an award is something I can do for them.  They are not just good neighbors, they are great neighbors.”


Another good neighbor is Julia Music. Also one of my favorite Ferndalians, Music was described as a “teacher in every sense of the word,” by her nominator.  In 2002 she moved to Ferndale.  By 2003 she as a volunteer for Steppin’ Out, and in the years since she has added volunteering for Triangle Foundation, Community Foundation, Ferndale Pride, the Library Bookstore,  and on political campaigns to her list of activities.  She has also started the Ferndale Adoption Network to connect families with an adopted child, or those considering adoption.  She is a teacher in the West Bloomfield school district, and a proud parent.  I personally could not imagine Ferndale without her and her cheerful, generous spirit.

There is so much to say about Frank O’Donnell and Helen Webber. This couple has shared a lifetime of activism for equal rights and peace.  Their nephew Jim O’Donnell was asked by CFF to present their award, and Jim came ready with a shirt full of buttons and a bulk pretzel jar full of buttons from campaigns that his aunt and uncle has served on.  Webber served two stints on City Council, from 1974-1978 and from 2000-2005.  O’Donnell served on the School Board from 1975-80, with three of those years as President.  He also volunteers doing finance for nonprofit organizations like CFF.  Webber is the President of Peace Action Michigan, Treasurer of the Community Foundation and helps organize the annual Memorial Day parade.  These are more people that have impacted Ferndale more than can be described in a simple award introduction or a paragraph in a story.  It is an honor to know them and work alongside them for the betterment of us all.


CFF also recognized a community partner in Richard Latimir.  Latimir set up a scholarship fund for Ferndale High School students who compete in an essay contest about diversity.  The William L. Cronin Diversity Scholarship is in honor of his partner who has passed away.  The essays, which we at The Ferndale 115 News were grateful to be able to share, exemplify the message of fairness that CFF embodies.  Latimir was not able to attend the awards ceremony, and his presence was truly missed.


Dan Martin introduced me, and I think he too should be recognized as an active Ferndalian, along with the dozens of other supportive individuals who filled the room to share in the good cheer of the evening.

I cannot express my gratitude enough in being part of this group of people. I could not run The Ferndale 115 News without people like those in that room.

I hope that the community will continue to support me and The Ferndale 115 News. Ferndale deserves a strong, independent online news source, so that we can control the messages at a community level, and so that we can continue to recognize the hard work and good deeds of people and businesses on a daily basis.


My short-term goal is to make The Ferndale 115 News a reader-funded enterprise.  I am here to work for you.  Traditional business models rely on advertising dollars to survive.  That is part of the reason that mass media has become commercialized and lost its focus. I value local businesses and the support that a few have provided.  But ultimately I work for you.


I hope to run The Ferndale 115 News as a business for the next 2-5 years so that I can perfect the methods for gathering news and production.  But then I would like to become an educational non-profit run by the community as a whole and managed by a Board of representatives from the community.  If you believe in having a Ferndale-owned daily online news source, please chip in what you can towards our operating expenses by donating at



To learn more about Citizens for Fair Ferndale, go to their website  CFF also has its own section of news on The Ferndale 115 News at

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