Hours of phone calls, e-mails, and a lot of effort came together better than I expected on Detroit’s East side today. The first volunteer for “Clean up the “D” Day” showed up during our morning show at 6:30 and was ready to work. He said he woke up at 3:00 a.m., couldn’t sleep, heard about the event, and wanted to come right away. I quickly handed him a pair of gloves and a trash bag and he started picking up the garbage. Not long after I finished promoting “Clean up the “D” Day” on Local 4 News Morning, people started pouring into the area of JoAnn and Tacoma in Detroit.
By 8 a.m. we were up and running.
Davey Tree Service was already trimming trees and tearing down bushes. Adamo Group was demolishing its first of two homes on Pelkey. Payne Landscaping was busy mowing the grass all over the area between Gratiot and Hoover, East State Fair and 7 Mile. Maxwell Landscape also pitched in to whack the weeds and cut grass. But the best part about the day was the people who came to this neighborhood from all over Metro-Detroit and beyond to pitch in and change this community. The wheels were in motion and it looked like a well oiled machine.
By 9:25 a.m. the five boxes of trash bags donated by the City of Detroit were gone, all gone. I couldn’t believe it. In literally a matter of an hour and a half, tons of garbage had already been placed in dumpsters. I realized this area was bad, but the layers upon layers of debris were overwhelming. Two dead dogs were recovered, so was a knife. Several mattresses, hundreds of tires, diapers, cement, broken glass, and even an awning from one of the abandoned homes was all moved to the curb for the Department of Public Works to haul away later that day. Yet what I noticed in all of this trash was the spirit of these people, willing to work, and work hard. Cleaning up the area with smiles on their faces and thanking me for bringing them there. I could not believe what I was seeing! It was the most amazing morning I may have ever experienced. Why would these strangers come together for such a cause? They came to clean for humanity and for safety, for the elders still living there, but especially for the children.
SLIDESHOW:Volunteers at 'Clean up the D'
When one block was mowed, cleaned, trimmed, and made over, the volunteers came up to me asking for more. More work and more to do. They wanted to continue in the heat of the day, with no breaks, and all the momentum in the world. It was inspiring to help them and jaw dropping to watch them. This is what should have been going on for years. Why had this community come to this point? But instead of letting it die, we literally gave it CPR and brought it back to life.
At the end of the day, after a large lunch provided by Happy’s Pizza, the crowd of volunteers, laborers, and workers gathered around to talk about the day. My words of thanks to them were really inadequate. Not for all the work they put in and not for the large transformation I saw in front of me of one neighborhood that had been so bad for so many years. It touched me that they would want to help save this part of the City that so many people had already given up on. But the fight is far from over.
The question I was asked most today was, “When are we doing this again?” They want more. They are craving more. Why, because by the end of the day the whole area looked different. Two homes had been demolished and hauled away. One of them a woman had been raped in and no one could hear her or see her because of the grass, weeds, and walls of a vacant home. She was raped there, but never will be again. The house is gone, forever.
As I drove out the neighborhood today with everyone sweaty and satisfied, I couldn’t help but wonder what’s next. I guess I’m about to find out and so will the City and the people of Detroit.