Elks Club Awards Honor Those Who Make Ferndale Great
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 9, 2013)
From being willing to climb on rooftops in the winter, to delivering a high risk baby, to surviving rounds of layoffs, to good old fashioned community service – residents and employees of Ferndale were recognized for many great things by the local Elks Club on Oct. 9. The annual awards dinner honored the Citizen of the Year, Senior Citizen of the Year, and employees of the year from various city departments including Police and Fire.
Senior Citizen of the Year Muriel Bryant has been volunteering with the Ferndale Seniors for six years. She recalled her introduction to Ferndale life, saying “The first thing that caught me when I moved into Ferndale 14 years ago is the Memorial Day Parade and to see how you’ve embraced the children in your parade. Each of the schools was represented, parents were there. I said, ‘this is my city.’”
Jeannie Davis presented Bryant with her plaque, and praised her for her service. “Muriel is always so willing and she volunteers for the jobs that are just flat-ass work. She doesn’t have an ego. She doesn’t have an agenda. She’s willing to work. She comes [to] Cookie Challenge, Spaghetti Dinner. She works for the Foundation on the Tastefest. She’s done other volunteer things and everybody’s always happy that we have Muriel with us. So Muriel you’ve totally earned this award.”
Matt Nowaczok earned the Citizen of the Year Award for his leadership in organizing Clean the Ferndale Up Day two years in a row. The first event brought over 100 people together in teams of volunteers through the city. He followed up the second year by getting more local businesses involved and raising money for supplies.
“This year it was really a no-brainer,” said Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter. “Matt Nowaczok has been such an active member of this community for the last several years…he’s one of the newer members of the Library Board, he’s involved in a lot of organizations and for these things alone he’s deserving, but really the reason that he kind of rose above all the other deserving candidates is for his effort two years ago when he founded an event called Clean the Ferndale Up… It’s that kind of spirit that makes Ferndale work.”
Nowaczok, joined by his wife Marcy and sons Abe and Matt, said “I moved back to Detroit several years ago wanting to make a difference, and thank you for recognizing that.”
The Court Employee of the Year was awarded for the first time ever, and in this case was done posthumously. Wally Giszczak worked at the 43rd District Court for over 20 years, coming in six days a week, 52 weeks a year, according to Judge Joseph Longo. “We all depended on him. We miss him every day. Four years is coming up,” Longo said. Giszczak’s wife Jessie accepted the award on her husband’s behalf.
Development Director Derek Delacourt presented an award to City Hall Employee of the Year Marc Howell. As building inspector, Howell makes sure homes and businesses though Ferndale are safe to be occupied. “From the day I got here I was amazingly impressed with Marc’s dedication to his job and his willingness to do what a lot of other inspectors I knew in previous careers weren’t willing to do. Marc climbs every roof, in the middle of winter, and takes great pride in it. He speaks to contractors and people trying to work in the city at a level they can understand. He is constantly striving to make doing business in this city easier to do.”
Mike “The Garage Father” McClellan was named Department of Public Works employee of the year for a second time. McClellan was not available to accept the award, but he was commended by fellow DPW workers for his lifelong employment as the City’s mechanic, starting at the age of 19 back in 1975.
Ferndale Police Chief Timothy Collins presented Police Officer of the Year to a man whose career has been a roller coaster of bad timing that ultimately brought him to and from the city, landing him as the School Resource Officer for the Digital Learning Center. Officer Jim Farris first worked for the Dearborn Police. He then spent 12 ½ years in the Pontiac Police Department, working his way up to Sergeant. In 2007 he sought a new scene and he gave up his stripes to come work for the Ferndale Police. After sacrificing his status and coming to Ferndale, he got laid off in 2010.
“We laid Jim off and he became the unluckiest laid off police officer on the planet,” Collins said. “First he went to work for the Clarkston Police Department and their department folded completely and he lost his job again.
“Then he got a job with the Inkster Police Department. And they laid him off. And then he got a job with the Hazel Park Police Department and they kept him.” Collins said they then came up with an arrangement with the school district and the city to bring Farris back as the School Resource Officer at what was then known as the Taft Adult Education Center.
“The next year they completely changed the format and it’s now the Taft Digital Learning Center. Now that job has turned out to be more of a job than I think Jim signed up for, but he did stick with it.”
Teamwork was the theme behind the Fire Department Employee of the Year, because the award was actually given to four people SGT. Robert Farrar, Firefighter Jarod Berousek & John Schwall and Engineer Patrick McIntosh.
The team responded to a trauma call of a woman home delivering a baby with a midwife. The baby had gotten stuck in the birth canal and the midwife was in over their head. She had waited over half an hour to call the paramedics. When they arrived they were able to stabilize the mother and delivered the baby in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. The baby lived for a short time, but ultimately died because of the damage done during the time it was trapped. Fire Chief Kevin Sullivan explained that the case prompted a state investigation and efforts to change regulations for midwives in Michigan.
While the story was tragic, it is an example of what rescue personnel face each day on the job. “It is one thing to keep in mind for both firefighters and police officers. When we go out on these cases, this stuff never goes away. It’s a bittersweet thing for them to get an award for it because of their efforts, but in their mind they lost a baby that night. They did everything they could, but the outcome was negative.
“But that’s what we do. And most of the time the outcome is going to be negative, and occasionally we hit one out of the park and we get a home run.”
The awards presentation was followed by a community dinner.