HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. - Avalon Village has recently received two houses as a donation from Wayne County Land Bank, which believes in their mission to transform the struggling southeast Michigan city.
Highland Park's population has been dwindling since the 1940s, but one woman is bringing hope to this Metro Detroit neighborhood. Shamayin "Mama Shu" Harris has been dedicated to building a better community for over a decade, and she just received two very sizable donations to her cause.
Wayne County Land Bank recently donated two homes to Harris, who now owns 29 properties in the area. Most of these homes were purchased with her own money along with donations.
"We have a lot of homes in Highland Park that need some tender, loving care. We're very excited to donate them to Avalon Village, where someone has a vision for their renovation and rehabilitation" said Wayne County Land Bank executive director Sheryl Jordan.
The area is now home to a park, a market and multiple renovated homes, but there's more to be done in the area. She's currently turning a forgotten home into a "homework house", giving children a safe place to study and socialize after school. There are plans to add computer labs, shower facilities, a recording studio and outdoor athletic courts to keep children active.
In addition to cleaning up and renovating the older properties, she also holds events for the community; including a band camp to educate and inspire children.
"I've learned that if you want some things done, you've got to do them yourself" said Harris.
Harris' work has been receiving attention, and she's traveling the country, speaking to universities, cities and those who are interesting in helping their communities the way she has.
"I think about the beautiful thing we're building here in the city. I think about how much is needed, and I have a good time actually doing this," said Harris.
Avalon Village is looking to raise funds to complete renovations on the homework house. Harris is hoping companies or individuals would be willing to adopt a room in the house, allowing it to be completed. If you'd like to donate or volunteer, click here for more details.
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