blogging / Life / Pink Hat Missions / Volunteering / writing

Musketeers in Detroit

It’s 10:24 am

Spending a cold gray day inside doing some chores on this Sunday. It is quiet outside except for the birds chirping away. The cheetah is downstairs checking them out. He also noticed that its overcast and that his window  has been closed,he isn’t too upset because he also knows the weather is changing. He has slept upstairs with me 3 times this week and I found him sleeping under a light blanket as well. He is a pretty smart cheetah..

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So I’m at the job late in the afternoon this past Friday when Justin,who along with Darryl and myself,are the Musketeers when it comes to volunteering at our store,walks up to me and asks if I want to do a project on Saturday. I know our store is doing various volunteer projects for veterans during a 3 month period and our last project was for a 95 year old WW2 veteran.
Last year the three of us did two projects at VFW halls in Detroit so I was thinking the same thing. I was confused about one thing and it must have showed in my face as Justin said “I forgot to put up the sign-up sheet,it was sent to me a few weeks back but I put it in my binder and forgot about it”. Actually,in his defense,I can understand this happening,we have had a lot of big walks from several higher ups the past few weeks. We all have been very busy around our store.

 

Rake and shovel lying on the grass
I said it wasn’t a problem,I would be happy to go and where would we be going. Justin said we would working in Detroit,cleaning and boarding up houses for the Detroit Land Bank. We had to register and acknowledge the fact this could be a hazardous project. We both looked at each other and just shrugged…we signed up,made arrangements to meet at 7:30 am Saturday and I went home.We meet up,get coffee and head to Detroit on the freeway. The traffic was light and as we got off the freeway,we knew we were not in a good area.

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As we drove down the streets,the blight started getting bad and going down residential streets,you could see the boarded/abandoned houses popping up.  Mayor Mike Duggan (just like every Detroit mayor) has started going house to house asking for volunteers to protect the city against Devil’s Night which is Halloween. Arsonists attack these empty houses and torching them which spreads the already thin Detroit Fire Department even thinner.
Every sitting mayor asks for volunteers or angels to help patrol the city to keep a eye out for these thugs.
We got to the meeting place where about 30 folks were waiting. We found out we were part of a 8 group effort to board up 100 houses spread across the city.  Loaded up some gear and supplies and convoyed out to our site.
Wow…as bad as the destroyed houses look on TV,it pales when you see it up close and personal,its just awful. Overgrown trees and brushes,huge piles of trash and furniture all over the place. Justin and I put on our gloves and headed to the back on the first house while half of our team went across the street and started the clean-up there.

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(This was not the home we worked one,its just an example of what we did work on)

 

 

The back door was gone as was the backstairs. The city used a unique defense tactic to stop squatters from moving in,they Bobcatted a pile of trash up to the back door. One would have to climb a unsteady mountain of trash to gain entry,not a risk you would want to take…we hit the pile and started moving the trash. We found about 45-50 cable boxes in our pile,along with a pair of couches and even a busted toilet. After another worker and I carried it to our pick-up pile,Justin came up and said “Damn,what a great photo op missed…Jeff and you carrying that toilet together”. Jeff is our District Manager at the job. The man isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty,that is for sure…we continued to work and suddenly our team got a little bigger as a few people who lived in this neighborhood joined us in attacking these houses. They brought rakes,hoes and energy,it must be so sad and more then a bit scary to live to such a house,much less houses.  Women and children are often attacked and dragged into these hellholes where they are robbed,raped and even killed.  Duggan has been aggressive in tearing these blighted houses down but Detroit needs another 400 million dollars to finish the job.

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(Not a home we worked on,just another example)
The crew had great spirit as we cleaned our first two houses and moved to the 3rd and 4th. The 2nd house was a bit challenging as the driveway was filled with rebar,concrete and tile flooring. We didn’t have the equipment for the removal of that so we worked around it.
Cars were driving by and people were saying “thank you” to the volunteers for their hard work. The weather was cool and gray which was perfect for the work we were doing.
As we worked someone commented that we hadn’t seen any mice or rats. The fact of the matter is,we didn’t see ANY life at all…no rats,dogs or insects! It wasn’t until we reached the last house that someone rescued a cricket,that was really quite amazing to see nothing alive,even the animals and bugs are leaving the D.
Justin and myself along with a store manager and Jeff stayed behind and started boarding up the doors and windows on house 1,3 and 4. The houses themselves were quite beautiful,we were talking about how nice it would be to have a porch that was both wide enough and sheltered to sit outside,drink some coffee and people watch. Maybe they were used like that once but not now,now all they are is reminders of what was in Detroit.
We finished up boarding our houses while the 5th house was cleaned up,we got pizza for lunch afterwards. The local news came out to film the story,even though we were done,we still “worked” for the cameras as they filmed the 5th house (and the best of the lot).
Soon it was time to go but there was a lot of equipment that needed to be picked up. Our team leader called for pick-up but that was going to take a while. He became visibly nervous because we weren’t in a good neighborhood and he would be by himself for who knows how long.  Justin and I plus another guy from a different store and a volunteer from another group said we would stay while the TL went and got his van.
As we stood there,we noticed that at least half of the drivers don’t stop at posted STOP signs. And that most cars have damage to them….
We saw a van drive by our work site at least six times and they weren’t being social. After 30 minutes,the TL returned and we filled his van with a lawn mower,bags,hoes,rakes,power saws,etc….then we all went home. It was a unique volunteer project to say the least. We are supposed to be doing another project soon to help some more folks.
Our team leader was impressed with the effort,he said he would was expecting two houses to be boarded up but the fact we did five was beyond what was hoped for.

 

Going to have a guest blogger soon from the group Caring Hands who will be sharing what Sarcoidosis is and raising awareness of this illness. Glad to be able to provide a platform for any group like this in order to help get the word out.

Lastly,I am launching my biggest Pink Hat Mission yet starting in November,the cheetah and I are going to be renaming November to “Sockvember” as we are going to be collecting unopened packages of socks to give to people in need. I will be posting a new blog detailing this event later this week.
As of now,I have 7 folks and possibly a small business who have agreed to be part of this….a most promising start!!

 

Well that is all I have for this entry…..thank you for reading me!!

If you are on Twitter,please feel free to follow me @Jinzo_2400.

Shout outs-

Justin W – had a outstanding time but we need our other Musketeer for the next project!!
Atlanta – Think of this as a canvas and your words as paint…..what will you create??
Cezanne – thank you so much for all of your comments,I am glad my words move you to do so…
John Branch,Jr – Next we rap,it will be about hockey,I promise!
Stephen Clark – #SMAshSMA Your granddaughter is blessed to have a grandpa like you. Much respect
Monique P – New beginnings!!! You are a inspiration!
Eve M. – I had that theme stuck in my head for a day!! Thanks for the comment!!

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5 thoughts on “Musketeers in Detroit

  1. Reading this was a real eye opener … very impressed with what you did. I wonder what stories those houses could tell. Must have been sad seeing them in such a state of disrepair …
    Sockvember sounds awesome! 🙂

    • These houses were once so amazing,Jane,real gems. But so many factors played into Detroit’s violent decline…you have whole entire blocks that are like this except for maybe one family still hanging on.
      This was my third volunteer project in Detroit and I hope to do many more in the future….and I am hoping Sockvember is awesome!!

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