The Rev. Darryl Gaddy started Victory Fellowship Community Church in the city. Problems, however, have prompted him to live in the suburbs. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)
The Rev. Darryl Gaddy just wanted a death certificate. It became an exercise in futility in the city’s bureaucratic maze.
After his brother died in July, Gaddy went to the city’s Vital Records Department for a death certificate, necessary for settling affairs such as insurance and Social Security.
Gaddy twice visited the city’s Herman Kiefer Health Complex, but workers could give no reason for the delay. In August, he called state officials in hopes of speeding the process. Doing so earned him a reprimand from city workers when he returned to Herman Kiefer a third time.
“The idea of actually servicing the public was lost,” said Gaddy, 46.
The second-generation Detroiter tries to serve the city through his Victory Fellowship Community Church, which he founded on the East Side near Lakewood in 2010.
His church runs a day care, serves more than 400 with HIV or AIDS, and assists the 36th District Court in finding community service work for 3,600 people in the neighborhood convicted of misdemeanors. He has mentoring programs in schools and serves on numerous charitable boards.
Battles with city officials, though, are constant.
Last year, he took over an empty lot next to his church. He pays to mow the grass and invited city officials to take a look, hoping to acquire the property.
Instead, he received a $50 fine because a trash container had unwrapped garbage and a warning he should be paying the city to use an empty lot.
Earlier this year, a home across the street was abandoned, one of an estimated 70,000 in the city. Gaddy wanted to buy it and contacted the owner but got no response.
Gaddy urged the city to board up the home. Instead, as often happens with empty houses in Detroit, someone found another use — scrappers, drug dealers or squatters — and in early August it was gutted by fire.
Over the years, his catalytic converter was stolen from his car parked outside the church. The church’s copper gutters have disappeared.
He and his wife lived less than a mile from Victory Fellowship for 14 years. He often began at the church at 7 a.m. and returned at night. Someone noticed he was gone for long hours.
First, tires were stolen from a car in the driveway. He installed motion lights. They were stolen. Then his car was gone. Finally, someone broke into the house.
With that, Gaddy moved in 2010 to Harper Woods, joining some 184,000 blacks who left Detroit in the 2000s and continue to do so.
“It became such a huge burden to work in the city and serve the city, but yet have to live and fight the issues,” Gaddy said.