Local Org Love: Hazel Park Neighborhood Enrichment
(Guest View by Leigh McLaughlin, Nov. 1, 2015)
On a cool spring day in 2005, an eclectic group of Hazel Park residents stood looking at a dilapidated park in the city, rolled up their sleeves, and got to work. Newly founded by current Hazel Park Mayor Jan Parisi in January 2005, the Hazel Park Neighborhood Enrichment Committee was embarking on its first big adventure. With help from the city, a small building was torn down, a water line installed, and 19 garden plots were mapped out.
At first the group sifted through dirt that hadn’t been worked since the 1960s. It was full of broken pieces of glass, nuts, bolts, wires… At one point someone found what they though was the end of a car. It turned out to be a stove. There weren’t even worms in the soil. It was so desolate that Mother Nature herself had all but abandoned it. After weeks of effort and help from a multitude of volunteers, Hazel Park’s first community garden was born.
Every year since then the group has done something to improve Kennedy Park. With funds raised from their own hard work, the playground equipment was repainted, the sandbox filled, new baby swings purchased, and the circle at the front of the park was completely re planted. It is now framed with benches in memory of the late Frances Presnell, a business owner, Lion, Enrichment Committee member, and friend to Hazel Park.
But this was only the group’s latest endeavor. Prior to that, City Hall got a makeover of its own when the group decided to spruce up the corner at 9 and John R. Led by master gardener Bev Hamby, the corner was re-landscaped and planted. She even purchased and donated several flowering pear trees to provide shade to those working on the east side of the building. Of special note is the group’s commitment to bring back the Hazel Nut, which used to grow wild, and ties in with the city’s history. Also called the Filbert, the group has held a get together every St. Filberts Day (August 22nd) at the racetrack.
The group is committed to gardening. During past Memorial Day parades, they handed out sunflower seeds and engaged residents in a sunflower growing contest. And over at Jardon, a whole lot of hard work built raised garden beds so the students in wheelchairs could experience gardening with ease.
Don’t have a lot of room to garden? Fairy gardening was introduced two years ago. A fun event that helps you create a container garden with touches of a miniature world. And if you’ve always wondered how cool your neighbors yard or house is? The garden and home energy tours are your chance to take a peek. All these come with a nice luncheon at the end and the best sweet tea that has ever graced your tastebuds.
They also teamed up with other groups and donated items to the new Art Garden next to the Dairy Park on 9 mile. They pulled weeds, tore down old fencing and installed new, and towards the middle of the garden sits a chess table and chairs donated in memory of Bev Hamby, committee member and friend who lives on through all the plants and trees she planted through the years.
If you look around you will see a little touch of Hazel Park Neighborhood Enrichment in most corners of the city. The various concrete pots filled with flowers and other seasonal affair are their doing, along with the holiday lights at City Hall during the winter holidays. The new glass bus stop at 9 mile and John R, and have you ever received a curb appeal award? Yes, that’s them too.
The spaghetti dinner is a fun annual event in April that gets better and better every year. With lots of raffle prizes donated by area businesses, Lions, and the group members. It’s a fun time for all. Everything at the dinner is homemade; from the spaghetti sauce that simmers for hours, to the homemade vanilla whipped into real cream for the beautiful and delicious desserts at the dessert table. The dessert table itself is a draw for the event!
They have had trunk sales at various locations, Halloween, Christmas, and St. Patrick Day home decoration contests. And there’s a new walking club that just started this year. In the fall they have hosted the pumpkin painting activity, pie eating contest, and jewelry making at the Harvest Festival. Nothing says fun like a wearing a garbage bag and having pudding all over your face! Trunk or Treat just got started at Tuski Park, as well as Halloween treats at the High School. Currently you can see their scarecrows guarding the 9 mile and John R corner.
There are several ways that Neighborhood Enrichment uses the funds they raise to help others. The group has donated to the Hazel Park Police Department’s Positive Relations Program for several years now. The last two years they have been selling snacks and beverages during the Memorial Day Parade. 100% of the sales go to the program. The group donates the cost of the items. They have also donated to the Promise Zone, purchased trees for the city’s parks, helped various charities, and even helped a plucky young reporter go to Washington so she could learn how to help others.
There’s no telling what they’ll do next, or where you may find them. But guaranteed it will be creative, they will have had fun, and it will be to help make the city of Hazel Park a nicer place to be.
Find them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Hazel-Park-Neighborhood-Enrichment-216124725095199/timeline/
And if they sound like the kind of folks you’d like to join forces with, meeting are the first Thursday of every month, 6:30pm at the Hazel Park Recreation Center. When you walk in the building, follow the laughter, you’ll find them.
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Local Org Love: Hazel Park Neighborhood Enrichment