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When summer returns to the neighborhood near the Muslim Center in Detroit, residents and visitors should notice a change.

Dream of Detroit, a group committed to rehabilitating houses in the city and providing entrepreneurship opportunities, has been pursuing a project to enhance the environs near the mosque off the Davison Freeway. Now, thanks to a $25,000 grant from Islamic Relief USA, a Virginia-based nonprofit humanitarian and advocacy organization, that vision of starting a park and adding lighting could become a reality.

“It’s going to make a real difference in the neighborhood,” said Mark Crain, the project director at Dream of Detroit. “It’s literally going to bring light to an area that’s dark. It’s going to connect two blocks where we’ve been purchasing homes and trying to bring density back. We think it’s going to be a beacon when you pass through.”

Dream of Detroit is among about 60 groups nationwide receiving a grant from Islamic Relief USA through the latter group’s “Silver Anniversary Community Bridge-Building” program, which aims to connect others across divides. The nonprofit, which last year marked 25 years since its official launch, fielded 175 requests from groups working in 36 states and Puerto Rico, officials said.  

Two other Metro Detroit ventures also earned awards. The InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit won a $25,000 grant to help expand the number of participants in its Religious Diversity Journeys program, which helps students learn about major faiths.

IRUSA also awarded $5,000 for a school makeover project led by the Michigan Muslim Community Council and the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC.

“The tremendous response from grassroots, community-based and national organizations shows that people who on the surface have little in common can come together to make the world a better place – a place where there’s more unity, more sensitivity, and an endless amount of potential and promise,” said Anne Wilson, director of programs for Islamic Relief USA.

Turning to the initiative was a natural for Dream of Detroit, which officially launched in 2014 and relies on outside financial help.

Formed through a partnership between two other groups, the nonprofit tackles housing, 
offers entrepreneurship training courses, hosts an annual street fair and joins coalitions in a bid to create a thriving borough.

Dream of Detroit has so far rehabbed nine homes, with one slated to be completed later this year, Crain said.

The efforts concentrate on a neighborhood that includes the Muslim Center, the HUDA Clinic and the Detroit Repertory Theatre. Residents and supporters have noted the need for more green space and lights surrounding an alley near the mosque — pushing Dream of Detroit officials to develop plans, Crain said.

The Islamic Relief USA grant is slated to fund Dream of Detroit’s “Neighborhood Light Walk and Park” project calls for a small park with swings, slides and seating; closing the alley; and incorporating art installations.

“It’s an accelerator for us,” Crain said. “We think that it’ll improve people’s perception of our neighborhood. We see this as one of many ongoing efforts to bring life back.”

The group’s focus on providing a need and working to improve the landscape for residents led Islamic Relief USA to award the grant, said Syed M. Hassan, its public affairs/media specialist. “This project will go a long way toward helping improve the quality of life, providing additional safety and just a more accessible and beautiful passage to the mosque.”

The venture excites those who live in its path, including Ann Johnson, who has helped harvest fruits and vegetables through a Dream of Detroit garden nearby.

She noticed a difference in the neighborhood as the group overhauls houses, which draws interest from city dwellers.

"It’s definitely making people want to move back,” she said.

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