Expo Shows Residents Many Ways to Get Involved in Ferndale
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Aug. 1, 2018)
Ferndale, MI – “I like being on the board. Being involved we help create the Ferndale that we want,” said John Hardy who sits on the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.  He and fellow board member Emily Obert represented the committee at the Ferndale Civic Expo and Ice Cream Social held at the Ferndale Library Tuesday evening.
In spite of stormy weather, dozens of people came out for a tasty treat and to learn about the many ways to be involved in the community.
Official city commissions such as the Parks and Recreation Committee, Arts and Cultural Commission, Beautification Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, and Environmental Sustainability Commission are among the ways residents can help influence the direction of the city based on their personal expertise.  Members are appointed by the Mayor or City Council after applying, and several groups have openings. Those who want to learn more can visit the City of Ferndale website.
The Park and Recreation Advisory Committee recently went through a three-year process to create a Parks Master Plan. This document creates the vision, and a wish list for improvements to public parks in the city.
“I was at one of the public input sessions at the Rust Belt Market, and that’s how I learned about the committee,” Obert said.  “I’m really passionate about making sure Ferndale is inclusive of all its residents.  Volunteering on the Parks Committee is one way to make sure everyone can go outside and enjoy our city.”
In addition to focusing on the infrastructure of the parks, the Committee also helps come up with programming ideas and promoting events and classes offered through the Recreation department. Their table at the event was full of fliers for events such as fall youth soccer, family unity party, mom to mom sale and back to school safety.
Another group dedicated to inclusion is Citizens for Fair Ferndale and their Ferndale Inclusion Network.  CFF is known for their nonpartisan candidate forums and their civility pledge program which encourages respectful discourse.  The Ferndale Inclusion Network was created as a place for those who want to do more to promote equality.  Ferndale Police Sgt. Baron Brown works with the Inclusion Network on programs and dialogues, including the upcoming Think Before You Dial: A Conversation about Living While Black which is Sept. 11 at the Ferndale Library.
“Sometimes these conversations on inclusivity happen without the police, often when the topic is about them,” Brown said.  “We want to have the approach of sharing how we fit into topics of inclusion.”
Ferndale Youth Assistance is a group that helps families through the tough times of youth by providing counseling and support in times of crisis, grief and loss, bullying, anxiety, anger management and as a diversion for police matters such as shoplifting, assault, and possession of tobacco.  “We meet with them and their families to help them cope with whatever is going on,” said FYA case manager Tasha Hanson. FYA also hosts fun events for kids and educational events for parents.
“Our biggest fundraiser is the Ferndale Blues Festival, and we are always looking for volunteers for that,” said Melinda Hicks.  “There are other volunteer tasks too, like helping at our youth events and other fundraisers.”
“Ferndale Youth Assistance gives me so much hope,” Hanson said. “I worked in probation for ten years and I’ve seen what can happen if young people do not have support.  It saves so much money to face problems early on.  What we spend in Youth Assistance is small compared to the cost of court, probation, or incarceration down the road.”
Another organization dedicated to service is the Ferndale Rotary.  This is Ferndale’s oldest civic organization, approaching its 100th birthday.  The group combines networking with good will, raising money to give bike helmets to children and scholarships to graduating Ferndale High School seniors.
“We put the fun in fundraising,” said Treasurer Carrie Fanelli who enjoys the meals and discussions that Rotary members share.  “Our motto is ‘service above self,’ and we get to do that while making friends.”
Ferndale Rotary is currently in restructuring mode, with a focus on recruiting new members who will soon have an organizational meeting to decide when to meet.  “We want to see who is interested, and come up with meetings that are best for members,” Fanelli said. “We may do a mix of morning and evening meetings, but it depends on what members want.” Those who are interested can contact Fanelli at servpro9678@comcast.net, or President Jerome Raska at Jerome@Blumz.com.
The Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce also combines networking with service, with business and non-business members in Ferndale and beyond.  Over 250 members enjoy regular events such as coffee connections and Business After 5 networking, and the group helps support public art though the community with their Artist in You program.  “We strengthen the community with everyone working together,” said Chamber Director Kimberly Spencer.  “We’re accepting new members and there is a sliding scale.”
Another longtime organization is the Ferndale Garden Club.  It began in 1931 and is believed to be the oldest garden club in Michigan.  Brian and Rachel Engel are active members.  “We meet once a month from September through May with programs and discussion,” Brian said.  “The meets are informational but there’s a lot of human interaction.  It’s got this old fashioned vibe, great snacks, people sharing stories.”
Topics are of interest to gardeners such as composing, making teas, making use of weeds, and even a presentation on chickens.  The group also fundraisers to provide scholarships for horticulture students, and they maintain a public garden at Oakridge and Livernois.  “The group is really inter-generational, and it’s just fun to talk with other people who are passionate about gardening too.”
A similar, yet different, way for gardeners to connect is through the Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge Area Garden Club Facebook Group. This online group is moderated by Ross Sandelius and Dave Assemany who are delighted to have over 1,700 members.  “Everybody is super sweet,” Assemany said.  “We talk about gardens, trade plants.  There’s a lot of asking ‘what is this?’ and ‘how do I do this?”
Although online groups tend to being out the negativity in people, the Garden Club is exceptionally pleasant.  “For as large a group it is, I don’t remember the last time we had any problems,” Sandelius said.  “There are never any squabbles. I think its because gardeners are nice.”
Other groups included Ferndale Downtown Development Authority (DDA), Friends of the Ferndale Library, Ferndale Community Concert Band, Ferndale Rat Patrol, Ferndale Community Foundation and Good Karma Club.
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