Up at day break on a crisp fall morning, Marie Handley takes the wind
in stride – actually a 3-mile stride around her northwest Detroit
neighborhood. It's a walk she's taken regularly for going on 30 years, waving to neighbors on her way.
isn't just exercise, it's a step toward community
building," says Handley, 66. For the past five years, she's added
litter clean-up duties to her walking, averaging three bags full of
trash, about a bag per mile in her neighborhood
of 1,000 homes.
Handley, a retired teacher and mother of four
grown children, isn't on anyone's clock or payroll. Yet she is one of
the legions of city dwellers who step forward with dependability to do
what needs to be done for the Motor City.
Among others, you
find Dan Shottenfels, a longtime resident of Rosedale Park, part of a
200-member network that maintains the Grandmont-Rosedale Little League Baseball
for about 40 teams and 700 kids. Another is Irving Berg, who, at
84, leads thrice weekly tours around the Detroit Institute of Arts.
according to Handley, Schottenfels and Berg, is far more fun for those
who get involved in worthy causes. They are a small part of legions of
salty, serving, city dwellers who dig in their heels to perform
unpaid, seldom-acknowledged tasks.The one-woman clean-up crew
Marie and Bob Handley moved to a red brick colonial in Green Acres in
1964, she was too busy changing diapers and cooking for four children to
walk outdoors. The impetus came from her oldest son who had a Detroit
Free Press route. She helped pull the red wagon and found herself
enchanted by the people and architecture about her.
grew up. She ditched the wagon, quickened her pace and added more
blocks to her daily walk. Every walk brought new pleasures and a twinge
of frustration. She started with bringing one bag
along to whisk away trash, soon stopping for more bags to combat
litter. Why so much litter?
Traveling by car, according to John
Staudemier, a professor who teaches the history of technology and philosophy
at the University of Detroit,
is more like occupying a container that
passes through a pipe. The houses, sidewalks and
streets just fly by as we pass between point A and B. Motorists
aren't attached in any philosophical way to their temporary
"Walking is a wordless vote of affection for a
neighborhood," Staudemier says. "You take responsibility as a citizen –
not a passer through."
Neighbors notice and are grateful, but
Handley is humble about the impact of her daily routine. "It's nothing
special," she says. "I like getting outdoors. Every day I discover
something new." The baseball coach
finds Dan Schottenfels and his wife Anita Regalado jogging past Stoepel
Park with their nearly grown children, Hannah and Ben. The Grandmont-Rosdale Little League Baseball
season has ended, but Schottenfels
still looks over the chain link fence to see whether any kids are
tossing balls around.
Wait until spring. Crews of Rosedale and
Grandmont residents will clear the four baseball diamonds of litter and
plant new grass for the 700 kids who play on 50 teams, from T-ball to
senior tournaments for kids up to age 18. Schottenfels has his eye on
"Having a baseball league here in Rosedale
Park separates us from neighborhoods that don't," says Schottenfels,
52, co-owner of CompuPacific, a Plymouth data-processing company. The
20-plus year city dweller is a
former ball coach for his children's leagues and current umpire
coordinator for all the leagues.
"Kids ride their bikes past me and yell, 'hey coach,' and that's a good feeling," he said.
200 northwest Detroiters step up to the plate and help the
Grandmont-Rosedale league, according to Frank Lanzilote, the
commissioner. "We're the biggest sanctioned little league within the
city limits. Without the contribution from people like Danny, others
who sell hot dogs at fundraisers and the two or three coaches on each
league, we couldn't help all the kids that we do."
spends the winter recruiting umpires from the ranks of college students
and young professionals who graduated from the Grandmont- Rosedale
"People want to help,
but they are so busy they can't take on the whole thing, but they find
their niche. Dan doesn't want to organize the whole league but he does
one thing that needs to be done," says Tom Goddeeris, executive
director of the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp.
be sure, Grandmont-Rosedale was named a "Cool Cities Neighborhood in
Progress" in 2006 thanks to the enormous leagues of volunteers who
help plant trees, renovate sagging houses and staff a farmer's market
in four neighborhoods including Grandmont, Grandmont #1, Rosedale Park
and North Rosedale Park, according to Goddeeris.
is what unifies parents and kids, one generation after another, and the
neighborhood. It is music to Schottenfels ears. "People take care of the
ballpark. It is a point of pride." The constant art teacher
21 years Irving Berg served as director of the Cass Tech High School
art department, teaching fine and commercial art to students, many of whom have gone
on to colleges and design studios across America. Now he introduces art and sculpture to school children as
a docent for the Detroit Institute of Arts
"Every tour is
different. I like to get the kids to look and think," says Berg, 84. He
lives with Harriet, his wife of 60 years, in a condominium in the Park
Shelton, a quick walk to his thrice weekly volunteer assignment,
wandering amid Rembrandt, Degas, Picasso and Jacob Lawrence.
is one of about 665 volunteers whose hours represent a $882,787 annual
donation to the art institute. Together they log about 48,935 hours of
annual service. Berg will join more docents and schedule more tours
when the DIA celebrates its grand reopening in November 2007.
likes to engage the children in the museum experience. "You ask the
children what they see, what they think, what makes them say what they
do," Berg says. "When they are excited, when they get into it, you can feel
the whole museum light up."
Berg has devoted his life to arts
and culture. He met Harriet at Wayne State University in 1943,
enchanted with how she read Shakespeare aloud. Their first date was a
concert at Masonic Temple. Harriet at age 82, a
longtime dance instructor at Marygrove College, continues to coordinate
the Madame Cadillac Dance Theatre
and the Detroit Renaissance Dance
Company, which perform all over Detroit, paying homage to the city's rich
history of music and dance.
Leading tours at the art museum fulfills a lifetime passion for Berg. As a
docent he is a walking time capsule of information about the DIA's
collections present and past. Children inspire him to continue, even on
days when he walks with a cane.
"Children never cease to amaze me,
pointing out things I haven't seen before. Hearing their interpretation
changes my interpretation," he says. "It is a great relationship."
Looking for a volunteer opportunity in the city? Contact United Way of Southeast Michigan via its free 2-1-1 phone service. Just dial 2-1-1, and they can match you with organizations that could use your help.
Irving and Harriet Berg
Marie Handley walking in her Neighborhood of Greenacres
A Little League Game in Detroit
Irving and Harriet Berg in front of the DIA
All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger
Photographer's Note: Irving Berg was one of Dave's Art Teachers at Cass Tech