Over 250 projects planned for Detroit Neighborhoods Day

Corey Williams
Associated Press

Detroit — Participation in an annual event to spruce up Detroit neighborhoods has soared as residents, churches and organizations pitch in to help turn the city around.

More than 250 projects and events are planned throughout Saturday as part of the 9th annual ARISE Detroit! Neighborhoods Day. That’s up from about 225 last year and the 50 events held at the program’s inception nearly a decade ago.

Nonprofits and volunteers work with ARISE Detroit! to identify areas that need work and projects that need help. Each year, a number of schools get exterior makeovers with cleanings and plantings; dozens of vacant lots are cleaned of trash and debris; and improvements are made to senior citizens’ homes.

But the event also has become a “feel good” moment for Detroit, which struggled for years with population loss and disinvestment. Those and monumental fiscal troubles led to the city becoming the largest in the nation to file for bankruptcy, which Detroit exited in December.

“People have realized the neighborhoods are the way back for this city,” said Luther Keith, executive director of ARISE Detroit! “You’ve got to get the neighborhoods right.”

City leaders’ past inactivity in addressing neighborhood concerns has been reversed, in part, with help from the Obama administration and millions of dollars saved through the bankruptcy. Mayor Mike Duggan has used federal money to demolish about 4,000 vacant houses. A new streetlight installation program is humming along and a sale of city-owned side lots to residents shows promise.

“People were skeptical,” said Charlie Beckham, who was appointed by Duggan to oversee city services for Detroit neighborhoods. “Over the years they tried to get stuff done. Now, they’re seeing action and people do respond to that. There’s a buzz in the neighborhoods that wasn’t there before.”

ARISE Detroit! is a coalition of more than 400 community groups, churches, block clubs and businesses. Organizations list their planned activities and needs on the group’s Neighborhoods Day events list online. Some use the website to tell groups where wood boards can be found to board up vacant houses.

“People think people in the neighborhoods don’t care,” Keith said. “You don’t do an event like this if you don’t have hope. These people started, stayed and worked when doing so in Detroit wasn’t fashionable.”

A team from several companies will do small home improvement projects for senior citizens.

“It’s just to give back to the community,” said Tamika Webb, who works for GPX Heating. “We need to stick together and be a team.”

Find a project

To register, find an events list and map of projects, go to http://www.arisedetroit.org/neighborhoods-day-registration-2