JMF & Merit Cleaned Up Detroit
Updated: Jan 28, 2019
Jordan Morgan Foundation (JMF) teamed up with Merit’s Fate Program and the Morningside Community Association (MCA) to clean up the 4800 block of Courville Street in Detroit, Michigan.
Altogether the August 8, 2015 cleanup effort brought together 37 people to board two open, vacant houses and remove debris from their lots. We finished by mowing the grass on three other vacant properties and tiding up flowerpots that line storefronts along Warren Avenue.
These houses have been vacant for years after homeowners simply picked up and left. Some properties were initially rented, but that did not last. While lying open, these houses welcomed squatters and criminals to rent free property on a block that is home to 16 children.
The best part of our day was the response that we received from the community. Many of the residents chipped in to help. Others stopped by to thank us. Some shouted their approval as they drove past.
MCA Second Vice president Beverly Brown served as patrol to ensure the safety of everyone involved. City of Detroit District 4 Deputy Manager, Toson Knight, was influential in organizing the cleanup. Even the District 4 Manager, O’Dell Tate, attended the cleanup to show his support.
MCA First Vice President Jackie Grant has lived on that block for 27 years and played a major part in gathering all the tools used to complete the project. Along with her community association and the local block clubs, Jackie has help hold her neighborhood together through all the challenges Detroit has faced. The housing problem even spilled into her yard at one point when the house next to her became one of the all-too-familiar vacant properties in the city. Eventually she bought that property, tore it down, and now her beautiful house has a large, landscaped lot next to it that hosted lunch for all of the volunteers on the day of the clean up.
The founders of Merit, Dave Merritt and Kuhu Saha, brought out 12 of their Fate students, all of them currently seniors at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. It was a meaningful experience for the students especially. They were able to witness firsthand the pride of the residents of that community, even after the financial crisis has ripped through their neighborhood.
Residents like Jackie Grant are not uncommon in Detroit Communities like Morningside. On almost every block I drove down in Morningside, you see community parks, gardens, and public spaces that sit on lots that were once vacant homes. These communities come together to board up the vacant homes with boards provided by the city (The City provides boards to anyone who asks as a compromise for their inability to address the overwhelming blight that it faces).
All in all, the day ended up being extremely productive. While our bodies hurt, our hearts were full of love and pride for the selfless feats we had accomplished. It is efforts like this and so many just like it that happen all year round that are helping hold the City of Detroit together. Detroit embodies perseverance. There is no doubt that the city has already changed so much from what it once was, but now, day by day, it changes for the better.