Sunday, August 24, 2014

HOME DEPOT AWARD will lead to 501(c)3 non--profit headquarters in Taylor

The Home Depot Foundation has awarded a $24,000 grant to the Taylor Veterans Home Program, paving the way for work to resume on the old Sell House on Northline Road outside of Heritage Park. The house is being totally renovated and will become the new headquarters of Enchanted Makeovers, a unique Taylor-based 501(c)3 organization.

“Rodney Harris, Tom Gibbons and the people at Home Depot have been the key drivers behind this great program, and this grant will be the key element is making our newest project a reality,” said Mayor Rick Sollars. “I know what we’re doing here in Taylor fits perfectly into Home Depot Foundation’s overall vision when it comes to aiding American military veterans.”

This third project was in the works before the second home was even awarded. Enchanted Makeovers is a non-profit organization that transforms long-term stay homeless shelters for women and children into places that inspire behavioral and psychological change. Through unique projects and programs, an environment is created that supports and inspires the most vulnerable members of society while they attempt to rebuild their lives. Enchanted Makeovers becomes the foundation for the shelters by creating an environment that empowers the women and children to believe in their worth and possibilities for the future.  

Terry Grahl is the driving force behind the organization. Six years ago, Grahl was an award-winning decorator with her own business in the City. Then she received a call from an event coordinator at a Detroit Shelter, who asked her to visit and paint a wall to improve the deteriorated space. She made that visit and it ultimately changed her life – along with the lives of thousands of women and children.  

The issues that she encountered in the shelter went well beyond paint and bedspreads. She saw that a message was lacking, that everyone is worthy of hope, dignity and respect. Grahl was so moved that she ultimately changed course in her own life.  

Many of the women that Enchanted Makeovers supports are veterans, struggling single parents. In January 2013, Enchanted Makeovers finished its largest project ever.  After months of project planning, it completed the transformation of 21 bedrooms and 53 beds along with hallways and also created “The Sacred Sewing Room” inside of the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries’ Genesis II House.  

Over 300 people – including mural artists, crafters, sewers and volunteers from the City of Taylor and around the country helped to create a beautiful, nurturing environment for the women and children who live there.  

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimate that 62,619 veterans are homeless on any given night and approximately twice that many experience homelessness on any given night of the year.  The homeless female veterans who join programs like the ones offered by Genesis II House are usually unemployed and do not have any measurable income other than, in some cases,  public assistance.  The goal of the shelter programs and Enchanted Makeovers’ model is to provide the coping skills and motivation to successfully complete programs and return to their communities as productive citizens.    

While Enchanted Makeovers has been focusing its energy on the shelters supporting homeless women, Terry Grahl and her group have also been one of the Taylor Veterans Home Program’s biggest – and most unique – contributors.

“We do all of the structural work,” said Home Depot’s Tom Gibbons of his company and the countless skills trade unions and others who volunteer their time and effort to rehabilitate houses for military veterans. “But it’s Terry who really turns the house into a home. She has a tremendously unique style when it comes to interior design.”

The Christopher Holcomb family was the most recent recipient in the veterans’ home program. The 25-year-old Taylor native is a former Marine who was deployed in Afghanistan and during the Haiti Relief Effort, along with many other duties, was unanimously selected by the veterans’ home committee and awarded the program’s second home on Polk Street, south of Goddard, earlier this year. Christopher is married to Darcy and has one young child, Veyda.

During a large award ceremony outside the home, Christopher Holcomb and his family received more than just the actual dwelling. The Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights awarded him supplies and training; Barton Malow Company offered him a full-time job; Helmets to Hardhats and the Camp Liberty program offered him transitional support in his return to civilian life; and Schoolcraft Community College even awarded young Veyda a scholarship.

The first home in the program was awarded back in early November 2013. A fully renovated home in the 6300 block of Oldham was handed to the Blaine Hicks family. Hicks is a decorated Vietnam War veteran and a former U.S. Postal Service worker who retired in 1997 due to a heart attack.

The City of Taylor and The Home Depot Foundation are the major sponsors of the Taylor Veterans Home Program, which is accomplished through a cooperative effort with HUD’s Detroit office of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. In the past, the City, NSP and the Foundation have been joined by no less than 32 partner organizations, which have combined to donate tens of thousands of dollars in labor and supplies to the campaign.

The two-story Sell house was built in 1926 and has a ton of potential, with its red brick exterior, old-fashioned front porch, large lot, stone outdoor fireplace and rear stairs and ramp ways. The interior features hardwood floors, large areas that can be converted into conference rooms and work areas and even a brick fireplace in the front room. But it is old, has deteriorated badly and needs a ton of interior work – which is where the skilled tradesmen come into play.

A work schedule is currently being finalized. A fundraiser may be planned for September. The grand opening likely will take place in early December.


Pound Pals of Taylor is hosting a garage sale through Sunday, August 24, at the Taylor Recreation Center. The center is located at 22508 Goddard.

The event will take place between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day.

The organization is accepting wearable clothing, baby items, workable electrical items, working electronics, furniture and knick knacks. 

Cash donations will be accepted.

Profits are going to help the sick and injured animals at the Taylor Animal Shelter.

Call Mary Yount (313) 715-2866 or Amy Atwood (313) 418-8616. 

TAYLOR CONSERVATORY: Butterfly Day, bonus concert are scheduled

The Taylor Conservatory Foundation hosts "Butterfly Day" at the Taylor Conservatory & Botanical Gardens from 1 to 4 p.m, Sunday, August 24. 

The group invites you to visit the Conservatory to see and learn about “all things butterflies” during its special day dedicated to the beautiful winged creatures.  Native butterflies are in peril, due to pesticide use, and continued loss of their habit. You can learn how to you can help these beautiful flying jewels of the garden. 

There will be opportunities to hand-feed live butterflies inside a mobile butterfly house, along with many other ways to learn how easy and fun it is to raise butterflies. 

Butterflies don't move, breathe, smell, see, eat, or taste like we do. Join Brenda Dziedzic, author and owner of Brenda's Butterfly Habitat, as she teaches the anatomy of a butterfly with a visual presentation at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. 

You’ll also be able to visit with professional and hobby butterfly raisers and learn easy ways to attract butterflies to your yard. There will be many different styles of butterfly 'houses' so you can see all the creative ways to raise them. Jeff Nicita, local expert and Master Gardener will be on hand to answer your gardening questions.  

In addition to the educational opportunities, there will be child-friendly crafts, face-painting by Flutterby Faces, door-prizes, refreshments and lots of butterflies! So, flutter-by to see some pretty butterflies!  $3 per person. Children in strollers, free.  All proceeds go to garden development and educational programs at the Conservatory. For more information, contact or call Patty Donahue, 888-383-4108.

IN OTHER NEWS: Wednesday, August 27, marks a BONUS concert as part of the Fritz Summer Concert Series. Is runs from 6-8 p.m. (doors open at 5)   

Levi Johnson Jr and his band “Pearl Handled Necktie” will be playing outdoors at the Conservatory. Their music will be a blend of Motown, James Brown and other favorites. This ‘Music & Art in the Gardens’ concert is hosted by the Taylor Conservatory Foundation and is the encore bonus event to wrap-up our Summer Concert Series. Admission is $5. Free parking, kids 5 and under, free. Lawn chairs encouraged.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Zip Lining the Berlin Wall

TOMMIE SAYLOR: Finding the perfect place to reenergize the batteries

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been”
 -- Rainer Maria Rilke

By Tommie Saylor
Kennedy High School Principal

As people filter back to school, putting in some precious prep time “getting things ready,” they often ask, “What did you do this summer?” 

It’s a common question often asked by educators, perhaps even a statement of endearment, a way of saying, ‘Hey, I missed you. How are you doing?”

With that said, let me tell you what I did this summer. 

I spent a lot of time in my happy place, the woods. For me, there is nothing better than being in the woods surrounded by nature, breathing in the crisp clean air, seeing the vast variety of emerald greens in the foliage, the smell of earth filling your nostrils, and the sounds of creatures. 

In the woods life is simple: No cell phones, no computers, no problems that can’t be easily solved. One of the many weeks I was in the woods, I found myself on the Mason County line in the Manistee National Forest at the cabin of a good friend, a retired 40-year high school science teacher, Steve Larsen. Dave Grollimund, current adjunct professor at Central Michigan University, accompanied us.

In addition my youngest son, Devin (19) and a few of his friends came along for the ride.

Let me tell you, life does not get any better than sitting around a campfire telling stories about the “Wood Witch,” the “Dog Man of Michigan” and swapping lies. This is my happy place, where my batteries get recharged. I left in June beat down, broken, and tired. I return energized, filled with optimism, rested and ready for the new school year.

I hope that all of you had this same type of opportunity. I feel that this school year will be one of the best years yet, that we already seem to be further ahead than we were last year, that we have all the right people in the right places, even our football team looks strong and ready for action.  Simply, our efforts at the end of last year placed us in a position to be successful this year and we are well on our way.

I am eager to see those thirsty little minds walk through the door enthralled with the prospect of being filled with knowledge. Teachers teaching and students learning – what a wonderful world we will soon be living in.

What starts here, changes the world. Making Kennedy the school of choice. Excellence by design.

MCDOWELL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Getting ready for the school year

McDowell Elementary School is a busy place these days.  The staff can't wait to see all 350 smiling faces of our students coming through our front doors on the first day of school, September 3. Staff has been sprucing up the building in anticipation of a wonderful school year.

TOMMIE SAYLOR: It's time for staff members to gear up!

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
 -- Winston Churchill

By Tommie Saylor
Kennedy High School Principal

We stand at the precipice of another school year, and as such, the possibilities are endless.  No one knows for certain what is in store for us, though we make plans and prepare for the upcoming school year with visions of perfect scenarios playing in our heads like home movies.

We hope that all our students come to us prepared to learn, knowing that many will not. We hope to draw the very best out of our students, knowing that some will not give their best. We hope to fill all our student’s needs and that while at school they feel safe, valued and important. We hope that they know that we truly care. 

For this reason we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of perfection, to chasing every student and smothering them with kindness, discipline, direction, while giving them a sense of purpose and inspiring them to greatness.  We few, we precious few who often stand as the only positive thing in many of our students lives, rededicate ourselves to give our students every bit of essence we have.

But until then, we must prepare. We must harvest our strength that has been growing over the rehabilitating summer months, tweak our lessons to best suit the needs of our students, and “get our minds right” for the upcoming marathon.

I am confident, that when the opening bell sounds, like prize fighters coming out of their corners for the first time, you will be strong, prepared, and eager.  That you have set yourselves to the task, and that together in our unified strength our students will advance to levels previously thought unobtainable. I feel that this will be our best year yet.

What starts here, changes the world.

Making Kennedy the school of choice. Excellence by design.