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Families & Community

An old barn
User: kendoman26 / Flickr

When is an old structure worth saving? And when does that structure become something that’s dangerous and needs to be torn down?

Those questions are being asked after the city of Ann Arbor recently tore down a 19th century farmhouse and barn that it had purchased in 2003. Some would say it's ironic that the barn was located next to the city's recycling center.

Architect Chuck Bultman is with the Michigan Barn Preservation Network and the National Barn Alliance.

Bultman said it’s unfortunate that some barns are ordered to be torn down, just because "tearing down" is the safest answer.

Dittrich Furs today
User: Jamie / Flickr

When the French built Fort Pontchartrain on the banks of the Detroit River in 1701, there was a very big reason why: fur.

The trappers who brought their pelts to the fort gave Detroit its first industry.

In the 300-plus years since, Detroit's fur industry has seen good times and bad. And it is still standing in 2014.

Writer Josie Schneider tracked this history in her story for Hour Detroit magazine called Passion for Pelts. In her piece, Schneider stated that the fur industry literally formed the city of Detroit.

Homeless man
SamPac / creative commons

When you see people who are homeless, especially young people, it can be easy to make assumptions about their lives. At least that’s what Robert Sporny says.

And he says your assumptions about homeless youth are probably wrong. As a baby, he was adopted, and his childhood with his adopted family was difficult. 

There was alcoholism and abuse in the family. On the last day of high school, at age 17, Sporny decided to permanently leave the situation.

“And I got on my bicycle and basically rode all the way across town to a friend’s house," Sporny said.

Flickr user lanier67 / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Have you ever noticed there are certain places where smokers seem to congregate? How about mental health agencies? People with mental illness are far more likely to smoke than the rest of the population.

Part of the problem is that smoking has been seen as therapeutic for people with anxiety or schizophrenia. But advocates in northern Michigan say the short-term effects of nicotine don't outweigh the long-term consequences of smoking.

And they say it’s time to help a vulnerable population quit.

Interlochen Public Radio’s Linda Stephan reported on the initiative.

*Listen to the full story above.

user: Kate Henderson / Flickr

One of Michigan's leading quilting shows is canceling its October date.

For 15 years, the Keepers of Quilting Traditions show in Durand has been considered one of the best in the state, and a major draw for the small mid-Michigan town.

Loretta Rolfes, secretary of the group, says they have struggled to keep a quality show over the past couple of years, and there are just not enough hands to get everything done this year.

Last year, the Keepers of Quilting Traditions show in Durand saw over 700 attendees. Rolfes says some young people are interested in quilting, but busy lifestyles prevent them from doing crafts like this.

“We want to keep that interest alive,” says Rolfes.

* Listen to our conversation with Loretta Rolfes above.

(courtesy of KQED)

What makes a teacher great?

And how should we measure a teacher's success and effectiveness?

These are questions that take up a lot of the debate about education in Michigan. We've got policymakers, educators, politicians and parents all weighing in, and the resulting conversation is often loud and unproductive.

Education writer Elizabeth Green explores these challenging questions, and looks at how we are preparing teachers for the realities of the classroom.

Green’s new book is Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach it to Everyone). She says great teachers are not born, but trained.

“By assuming (some teachers are born great, and some teachers aren’t), we fail to prepare teachers with the specialized knowledge that nobody is born knowing how to do. And as a result, we leave students vulnerable to teachers who haven’t learned the basic things they need to know to help students learn,” says Green.

* Listen to the full interview with Elizabeth Green above.

User: Marvin Shaouni / Urban Innovation Exchange

You might have heard of urban farming in Detroit, but do you know you can grow seafood in Detroit’s vacant homes?

Aside from the Heidelberg Project, do you know metro Detroit also has community art projects like Green Alley, Scarab Club’s art exhibits, and an upcoming Museum of Curiosity?

These are the kind of ideas Urban Innovation Exchange hopes to explore at its first national convention Sept. 24-26 in Detroit.

It's one in a series of citywide events jam-packed into the month of September to showcase small projects that are transforming the city, from Tour de Troit to Dlectricity.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Muslim clerics held a vigil in Dearborn last night to show their opposition to ISIS, and to pray for the family of James Foley, an American reporter killed recently by the group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.

The small crowd held candles and signs saying “Muslims against ISIS.”

Sara Albusaid immigrated to Dearborn from Iraq.

She says her husband and son are still in southern Iraq, where they're being inundated with people fleeing the violence in other parts of the country.

"I mean, it's not just my country. I'm very worried about all the world. It makes me cry a lot, because I see you know, innocent people [have] died. I have to raise my voice" said Albusaid.

Albusaid says she’s frustrated with U.S. forces for leaving Iraq and creating the political vacuum that has allowed ISIS to spread.

"I feel very angry because, you know, when they go inside Iraq they said we are the big help for Iraqi people, and then after that, they don't care," she said. "Or there is something they wanted from Iraq, and they take it and they leave."

More than one cleric told the crowd they have to publicly stand up against any group that commits violence in the name of Islam.

Cover of The Complete Poetry: Cesar Vallejo
University of California Press

Forty-five years.

That’s how long it took Clayton Eshleman to translate the complete poetry of renowned Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo.

Eshleman is professor emeritus in the English department at Eastern Michigan University. He is a poet and a translator. His decades of work have become a book titled "The Complete Poetry: Cesar Vallejo."

Vallejo was born in the Peruvian Andes more than a century ago and died in 1938 at age 46. Eshleman says the terribly hard life Vallejo led still holds some key lessons today.

“A poet must learn how to become imprisoned in global life as a whole, and in each moment in particular,” says Eshleman.

Reflecting on his own undertaking over the decades, Eshleman says he was surprised that he had the stamina to do this, and he had no idea his "Vallejo journey" would involve a frustrating nine months in Lima, Peru, and a decade of rewording old translations.

“When you take on one of these big projects, you learn things about yourself, and about your commitment to the art, and what poetry can be,” says Eshleman.

*Listen to our conversation with Clayton Eshleman above.

An emerald ash borer
User: USDAgov / flickr

The emerald ash borer is said to be the most destructive, most costly bug that has ever attacked trees in North America.

It is responsible for wiping out untold millions of ash trees from New Jersey all the way to Colorado.

And it all started in a southeast Michigan town: Canton.

Dan Herms is a professor of entomology at Ohio State University. Herms says the emerald ash borer almost certainly arrived via infested wood used in international commerce, like solid wood packing built from infested ash trees in Asia.

Herms added the emerald ash borer is especially devastating because it feeds on the vascular tissue of the tree, which is the tissue that moves water and nutrients between roots and the leaves.

According to an article which Herms co-authored, emerald ash borers are the most costly biological invasion by an exotic forest insect to date.

“In Ohio only, research estimated that the insect will ultimately cost $4 to $7 billion, including the death and replacement of ash trees in the urban environment,” says Herms.

* Listen to the interview with Dan Herms above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A non-profit group in Flint hopes salvaging parts of some of the city’s blighted homes will help salvage the lives of some of Flint’s most in-need residents.

Lynette Delgado is with the B-Light Restoration Center. She says they are working with private property owners to salvage bits and pieces of homes to be demolished. She says they’re training local homeless and other at-risk individuals to remove architectural features of blighted homes.

Detroit Drunken Historical Society's recent meet-up explored the Belle Isle history
User: UpNorth Memories - Donald (Don) Harrison / Flickr

Some organizations these days are having a hard time getting new people involved. Classical music groups have been struggling to appeal to new fans. And plenty of arts and culture groups have a tough time attracting members.

It turns out, historical societies are also having a tough time. And that’s something that Michigan Radio’s Kyle Norris has been looking into.

Norris says the problem is that these societies tend to be older, and getting new blood is not going so well in general.

But that’s not an issue for Amy Elliott Bragg, a co-organizer for the Detroit Drunken Historical Society.

It's a meet-up group that hosts monthly activities at local bars in Detroit for people to come out and learn about history. Bragg says there's no commitment, the gatherings are easy to attend, and all are welcome.

“We have found that there are people who might not be immersed in the library in their historic text all night, but they enjoy history, they are interested in it. They want to weigh in,” says Bragg.

* Listen to the interview with Amy Elliott Bragg above.

Hold your horses, because new episodes of The Incredible Dr. Pol begin this Saturday on National Geographic Wild.
User: The Incredible Dr. Pol / facebook

One of TV's most endearing and unlikely reality show stars is Dr. Jan Pol.

He's a veterinarian with a country practice in mid-Michigan, near Mount Pleasant.

He is also the star of the National Geographic Wild series The Incredible Dr. Pol. The show begins its fifth season Saturday.

Pol is telling his story in a new autobiography Never Turn Your Back on an Angus Cow: My Life as a Country Vet.

He says he learned the lesson to never turn your back on an Angus cow the hard way when he was growing up on a dairy farm in the Netherlands.

“You don’t turn your back. You cannot outrun the cow. You cannot outrun the horse. You cannot outrun almost every animal on the planet.”

Pol opened his veterinarian practice in 1981. In his more than three decades of practicing in Michigan, he has seen big changes in farming in the state.

“When we started here, there were two or three family farms every mile. Those have disappeared. Farms got bigger, but it doesn’t mean cows got better care,” says Pol.

* Listen to our conversation with Dr. Jan Pol above.

This one thing meant the world to a runaway teen

Aug 20, 2014

Veronica Riddle ran away from home as a teenager. She wants people to know that spending time and talking with troubled youth can be a big deal. Here's why.

Wikipedia

Are you afraid of crime? Are your children afraid of crime?

If the answer is yes, Chris Melde says that’s not a bad thing. In fact, your fear could be what keeps you out of harm’s way.

Melde is an associate professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University. His study of fear has been published in the journal Justice Quarterly.

Melde says fear of danger is a natural instinct to remain vigilant in the face of potential danger.

“If adolescents have a healthy fear of crime, it’s really an indication that they are likely to take precautionary behaviors,” Melde said.

These kids would avoid situations like parties with drugs and alcohol, hanging out where there is no adult supervision, or hanging out with delinquent peers -- all of which are known risk factors for violent victimization and violent offending.

He said in his piece that there is a "victim offender overlap." The population most at risk for being violently victimized are people who are likely to victimize other people.

Melde said that when talking about fear of crime, it is not merely a comparison of people who are fearful and people who are not fearful.

“We are really talking about a kind of continuum of people’s anxieties about being victimized,” Melde said. “People with a really low level of fear are actually more likely to put themselves in harm’s way and have a higher rate of victimization.”

*Listen to the full interview with Chris Melde above. 

Mandi Wright / Detroit Free Press

Controversy over police force has hit not only Ferguson, Missouri but a small town in West Michigan as well.

Some residents in Barry Township, Michigan are getting angry over the build-up of its police force.

Specifically, the nearly three dozen unpaid, reserve police officers from outside the community.

These non-certified officers are carrying guns, riding in patrol cars and, according to some, using way too much force.

Lori Brasier of Detroit Free Press has been covering this controversy.

“These officers were stopping people for having things dangling off their rear view mirrors, they were stopping a lot of high school kids just to stop them,” says Brasier.

The department also has two Humvees and two armored personnel carriers received free of charge from the U.S. Department of Defense for a township with only four full-time officers. 

"People are paying attention. They are going to realize these things are unnecessary and aren’t going to keep us safe,” says Brasier.

* Listen to the full story on above.

Here's a video from the Free Press:

Steven Depolo / Flickr

When we think about poverty, we tend to picture cities.

But a recent series in Bridge Magazine brought attention to poverty in rural communities in Michigan. The poverty rate in rural areas is higher than the rate in urban areas.

The articles were written by Pat Shellenbarger for Bridge Magazine.

Shellenbarger joins Stateside today, along with Jane Zehnder-Merrell, the Kids Count project director of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

“Of the 13 counties in Michigan with poverty rates above 20%, 11 of those are rural counties,” said Shellenbarger.

Shellenbarger wrote that poverty is not exclusive to poor rural counties, such as Lake County. Poor people live in wealthy rural counties as well, like Livingston, and the poverty rate for children has increased.

Music artists who are "walking the beat."
Walk The Beat / facebook

Using music to bring communities together and to help children discover music – that's the idea behind a new foundation called Walk The Beat.

There's a big event coming up Saturday in Grand Haven, Spring Lake, and Ferrysburg to help launch the foundation.

Musician and songwriter David Palmer is the founder of the Walk The Beat Foundation.

He says the goal of the foundation is to get kids involved with music, which leads to its slogan: "Teaching the Rhythm of Life."

On August 16 from noon to 5 p.m., each one of the three cities will have open houses featuring local musicians and businesses. Visitors are welcome to go from location to location and experience different types of music.

*Listen to the interview with David Palmer above.

The Capri Drive-In in Coldwater, Michigan is still operating in 2014.
User: All Things Michigan / Flickr

Whether you were a little kid jumping into your pajamas before Mom and Dad loaded up the station wagon, or a teenager looking for a little "privacy" on a date, the drive-in theater could be a pretty magical place.

The very first drive-in opened in New Jersey in 1933. But it sure didn't take long for Michiganders to catch on to drive-ins. They opened up in virtually every corner of the state.

Harry Skrdla channeled his happy boyhood memories of going to the drive-in to come up with a book for the Images of America series. It's called Michigan's Drive-in Theaters.

Lavender being grown in Michigan.
User: Deb Nystrom / Flickr

When we think of "typical" Michigan-grown crops, it's easy to think cherries, blueberries, or corn.

But there's one corner of Michigan that is perfect for growing this: lavender.

Linda Longworth owns Lavender Hill Farms in Boyne City. It's the biggest commercial lavender farm in Michigan.

Longworth says they have about 13,000 lavender plants on her farm, and they are now right in the middle of the harvest season.

Longworth also works with local craftsmen and outside companies, so that her lavender can be turned into various products such as soap, lavender shortbread cookies, lavender vodka and beer.

*Listen to the interview with Longworth above.

Dustin Dwyer profiles the Goodson family in this weeks State of Opportunity feature. Stacy Goodson says, "If a child showed up at your doorstep, hungry, needing somewhere to live, you would let them come stay with you. ... we sign up to be the doorstep that they show up on."

User: kshawphoto / Flickr

As Detroit slid into poverty and eventual bankruptcy, one of the oft-repeated complaints was that Detroiters didn't have a place to shop for fresh, wholesome food. It says they had to turn to "party stores" with an emphasis on snack foods, beer and soft drinks.

But Auday Arabo says that “food desert” is a myth. He's the president and CEO of Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers, which represents more than 4,000 stores in Michigan, Ohio and nearby states.

To find out where the stores are, Arabo says they actually put all the data together and made a map.

"Once we showed people what the stores looked like on the inside, it really changed a lot of hearts and minds," says Arabo.

Arabo says instead of “food desert,” it’s more of a “food access” issue, because lack of public transportation and crime are the two major challenges in Detroit.

However, Arabo says the grocers in Detroit have always been there, especially independent stores, even though they don’t market as much as the big chains do.

* Listen to the story above.

Fight Blight and Spur Revival in Flint campaign / indiegogo.com

Tackling the issue of blight in urban communities is incredibly challenging.

Recently, the city of Flint, with the help of the Genesee County Land Bank, has torn down 600 properties in its effort to demolish more than 1,500 blighted homes in the city.

It’s part of the Michigan Blight Elimination plan, with support from the Hardest Hit federal grant fund.

Doug Weiland, executive director of Genesee County Land Bank, joined us on Stateside to talk about the plan’s priority and progress.

Meanwhile, some people are taking a very personal approach to dealing with blight in Flint.

There’s a crowdfunding campaign going on right now that hopes to raise $10,000 to tear down a single crumbling home on Parkbelt Drive. 

Excellent Schools Detroit tries to help parents navigate the educational landscape in Detroit. Dan Varner heads up the group, and says the amount of choice is simply overwhelming. Dustin Dwyer sat down with Varner to learn more about what he thinks can help and how Varner got to where he is.

user:itupictures / flickr

The Millennial generation has been described as lazy and entitled. A generation of people who need instant gratification, and have short attention spans.

That doesn’t sound good at all, especially considering Millennials will soon dominate the workplace. Morley Winograd joined Stateside today to discuss how this generational shift will impact the future of Michigan. He spent most of his life in Michigan and is co-author of three books on the Millennial generation.

“Millennials are America’s largest and most diverse adult generation,” Winograd said. “They not only tend to be united in their beliefs, but they are also pragmatic idealists.”

Tim Shields / Flickr

There's been a lot of talk about what to do with the surge of children from Central America crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. And some are even coming to Michigan.

Oscar Dussan understands why these children are risking their lives to come to the U.S.

Dussan is the executive director of International Samaritan, an organization in Ann Arbor that provides programs and outreach to extremely impoverished communities across the world.

Dussan said impoverished children in Central America don’t really understand their circumstances until they reach ages 12 and 13. They really start to notice their surroundings and can become sad or even depressed.

They wear old clothes, and their culture and mannerisms are different. They are extremely impoverished, literally living in garbage dumps, chasing garbage trucks for food and resources, and are being attacked by rats. They also face extreme violence from gangs.

They flee north because ultimately, risking their lives here is better than living in their home countries.

*Listen to the full interview with Oscar Dussan above. 

– Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom

UAW sign.
UAW

In the 1970s, at the height of its power, the United Auto Workers had more than 1.5 million members. Today it has fewer than 400,000. Some of the reasons behind that include an aging union workforce.

But it’s not just the UAW. As many in the labor movement turn to retirement, unions are looking to rebuild and reinvent with younger members.

Roland Zullo is with the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy at the University of Michigan.

Zullo said that job insecurity is the main reason why young people are not ready to join unions.

Cascades are open every night this summer 8-11pm. Tickets are $4 per person.
User: michchick98 / Flickr

We recently asked people on our Facebook page for their ideas about hidden gems in Michigan. One of the answers was the Cascade Falls in Jackson. The landmark was created in the 1930s by a local businessman. But these days the Cascades need some help. The county parks department is trying to raise almost $10 million for renovations to the mechanical, plumbing, and electrical parts of the falls.  Michigan Radio’s Kyle Norris and Lucy Perkins decided to visit the Cascades and describe what happens at this manmade attraction.  * Listen to the full story above. 

Crego Park: Now open
User: Kevin Driedger / Flickr

​LANSING (AP) - Lansing's largest park is back open after more than a quarter-century.

The 200-acre Crego Park was closed in 1986 after industrial waste was found on the property.

The Lansing State Journal reports the city quietly reopened the park earlier this summer, but officially marked its rebirth at a ceremony Thursday.

Several current and former city officials, and more than a dozen relatives of ex-Mayor Ralph Crego took part in a ribbon-cutting.

City officials used a $500,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and $250,000 from Lansing's parks millage fund to add a parking area, a fishing pier and a launching facility for canoes and kayaks.

Crego Park was closed after 200 drums of paint sludge and other toxic waste were found on the grounds.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Everyone in the packed wooden pews - as well as a dozen or so latecomers who squeezed into the back - in the little Grace Lutheran Church in Vassar, Michigan rose to sing what would serve as the evening's main hymn: 

"This land is your land, this land is my land.

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