what's working

The Ann Arbor Home Share program at the University of Michigan connects homeowners over the age of 55 with younger people looking for a place to live. 

The program allows senior homeowners to manage household chores and offset costs--but it also offers companionship. 

Every arrangement is unique.

In some cases, younger roommates take on housework or run errands in exchange for lower rent. 

Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with Carol Tice and Kristina Gifford, who participate in the Home Share program. Tice, 80, rents out part of her home to Gifford, 24. Tice has been a participant for over 7 years.

Cascades Humane Society in Jackson, Mich. offers pet food and supplies to families who are having financial difficulties. The pet food pantry helps families keep their pets and reduces the number of animals in need of new homes.

As part of our What’s Working series, Michigan Radio’s Christina Shockley speaks with Debra Carmody, executive director of Cascades Humane Society, about the pet food pantry program. 

Sixty-two percent of US households have at least one pet. Yearly pet care costs can range from $500 to $800—an expense that might be out of reach for families that are forced to downsize. “When you see people coming to our agency and they have to relinquish their pets, it’s heartbreaking,” Carmody says. 

The Michigan State Park System won the gold medal award this year for the top state park system in the nation. People use the parks for swimming and boating during the summer, and hunting and downhill skiing during the winter, among a host of other activities.  We wanted to find out more about how the parks system affects our lives.  So, as part of our series, "What's Working," we called Ron Olson, the Chief of Parks and Recreation.

Gene Firn is the founder of Paint for Kids, an Ann Arbor-based organization that mobilizes parents and community volunteers to paint schools.

Firn, who teaches a DIY painting class, was looking for practice walls for his students when he learned that the Ann Arbor school system doesn't have a painting department. He thought he could help, so he submitted a proposal.

The concept is simple: an experienced painter supervises parent volunteers as they transform hallways and classrooms over holiday weekends.

Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with Firn, who said that Paint for Kids fulfills the needs of local schools, but also attempts to create a culture of volunteering.

Many service members face hardships when they return from active duty.  A program at the University of Michigan puts new vets in touch with other veterans to help guide them through the process of returning to everyday life back at home. Brandon Brogan is the program manager of the Buddy-to-Buddy Volunteer Veteran program. As part of our What's Working series, Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with Brogan.

Nearly 1.6 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer this year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Half-a-million people will die of cancer this year. But millions of others are affected by cancer in some way. 

Wives, husbands, children, and friends of cancer patients can also face a crisis when a loved one is diagnosed and treated for cancer. As part of our weekly What's Working series, we spoke with Barb Hiltz, executive director of the Cancer Support Community of greater Ann Arbor. The organization works to help the family and friends of cancer patients.

In October of 2010 the Kalamazoo Community Foundation declared itself an anti-racist organization. But the foundation's leaders recognized it was going to take more than just a declaration to counteract persistent racial disparities.

Sharon Anderson, the foundation's Community Investment Officer, spoke with Michigan Radio's Tamar Charney.

"We're looking at every aspect of our work to determine who is being left out. Who is not at the table, and why...so that whatever we do, we do from an informed perspective," said Anderson.

The anti-racist program at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation was designed to include youths and youth-serving organizations. The foundation provides resources for youth organizations to develop after-school programs that build academic and social skills, and teach leadership and civic engagement.

The goal is more than equality, it's equity--identifying the gaps and taking action to ensure that every group has the opportunity to be successful. For Anderson that means fighting racial disparities by educating leaders and having an informed perspective when it comes to community development initiatives.

"We struggled in the beginning--where should we start? And the lesson is, start anywhere and keep moving," Anderson said.

-Meg Cramer-Michigan Radio Newsroom

Every week on What’s Working, we take a look at people and organizations that are changing lives in Michigan for the better.

The Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation in Detroit has been around for 75 years. People who work at the foundation describe it as a center for creative aging, an opportunity for seniors to learn new ways to creatively express themselves as they grow older.

Christina Shockely, host of Michigan Radio's Morning Edition, spoke with Rachel Jacobsen, the community development coordinator at the foundation.

Jacobsen said that proactive aging allows seniors "to exercise the more creative parts of their minds and bodies in ways that help them age well and also, hopefully, continue to develop into old age."

Every week on What’s Working, we take a look at people and organizations that are changing lives in Michigan for the better.

Ken Lampar is the director of Macomb Literacy Partners, a program that helps adults learn to read and improve their literacy skills.

Nearly 70,000 adults in Macomb County are functionally illiterate, meaning they can’t perform tasks like filling out a job application or reading a perscription. Though literacy rates vary across the state, an estimated 8% of adults in Michigan lack basic reading skills.

Every week on What’s Working, we take a look at people and organizations that are changing lives in Michigan for the better.

Food Gatherers, a Southeast Michigan food bank, offers a job training program for youth ages 17 to 24.

Some participants are currently managing a mental illness, others have children or are primary caregivers for younger siblings—all are at risk for homelessness.

Christina Shockley, host of Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition, speaks with Mary Schlitt, director of development for Food Gatherers.

Every week on What’s Working, we take a look at people and organizations that are changing lives in Michigan for the better. Mabel Rodriguez, the director of the Migrant Outreach Program at the University of Michigan, is helping the migrant community by bringing U of M students to the community to teach English.

Rodriguez says that due to long hours and a limited ability to travel, members of the migrant community can not attend ESL (English as a Second Language) classes.

Every Monday in our What’s Working series, we talk to people and organizations across the state that are changing lives for the better. This week, we speak with Sue Schooner.

Schooner never liked kids, but she started volunteering with a girls group in Ann Arbor a few years back, and the young women found a way into her life... and they never left. 

So, Schooner quit her job as an auto executive, and is now the executive director for “Girls Group,” a program that mentors and supports high school girls, giving them the opportunities they need to attend college.

“I think part of why the program is so successful is that we provide wraparound programming. So we have discussion groups every single Friday about parent communication, anger management, we have a very intensive college prep program which is basically available seven days a week,” Schooner says.

Every week on What’s Working, we take a look at people and organizations that are changing lives in Michigan for the better. The Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center is targeting youth violence in Flint by getting kids involved in activities that improve their community.

Youth Empowerment Solutions (YES) is an after-school program run by the center that gives students the tools to initiate and manage community development projects. Today we speak with Susan Morrel-Samuels, the managing director of the Youth Violence Prevention Center at the University of Michigan, who tells us what’s unique about the YES program.

Governor Snyder wants us to get healthier. The Governor delivered a health address last week and part of his plan revolves around getting Michigan's kids healthier. During his speech, the Governor mentioned the "Safe Routes to Schools" initiative.

As part of our weekly "What's Working" series, we speak today with David Hornak, Principal of Horizon Elementary schools in Holt, Michigan. Hornak has enacted the "Safe Routes to Schools" program at his school.

Every Monday morning, we take a look at groups around the state that are trying to improve things in Michigan. Today, we hear from Samantha Schiebold, a third year undergrad at the University of Michigan who is also the project manager of the Student Sustainability Initiative at U of M. The group works to increase awareness of ways students can protect the environment.

One of the Initiative’s biggest successes was hosting a zero waste U of M basketball game last year.

All this year, Michigan Radio has been spotlighting people and organizations that are trying to improve life in Michigan. In 2004, residents of the Averill Woods neighborhood in Lansing started an association. Their goal was, in part, to promote a positive quality of life, to help neighbors connect with each other, and to improve safety. We speak this morning with the President of the Averill Woods Neighborhood Association, Melissa Quon Huber.

The Michigan Women’s Dinner Initiative is a unique effort to raise money for women in need.

This is how it works:  Women gather at someone’s home, bring a dish to pass, and a check for the amount of money they’d generally pay for a dinner at a restaurant. That money is then donated to a certain charity or group that helps women and children. The other upside, the women visit and enjoy the food they’ve made to share. As part of our "What's Working" series, we spoke with Cate McClure, who runs the program.

 

The “Detroit Youth Energy Squad,” or D-YES, teaches high school students about energy conservation. The students then visit homes in Detroit and make the homes more energy efficient. As part of our What's Working series, we spoke with Justin Schott, founder of the group.

Therapeutic Riding, Inc., or TRI, uses horseback riding to help children and adults with disabilities.

Jody Scott, the president of TRI, lists cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome and multiple sclerosis as some of the disabilities TRI works with. Scott says, “If there’s some kind of challenge that an individual is facing, they will have an assessment to see if we would be a good fit.”

One of the riders that Scott works with has multiple sclerosis, and benefits physically from riding. Scott says, “[She] is able to, when the horse is moving, tighten up her core muscles so that she can balance correctly. Then she uses these same positions in her wheelchair, actually, to help hold her back up straight, and by sitting up straight it opens up her entire rib cage so she can breathe better.”

Horseback riding also has mental benefits. Scott says, “We have had some children who have never spoken a word, and their first words have been spoken while riding a horse at therapeutic riding.”

When you think of a prison, you probably envision an expanse of concrete, metal bars, and tall barbed wire fences. But, on the grounds of the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti, there’s also a huge garden. As part of our What's Working series, we speak with Ellen Baron, a horticulture instructor at the prison who teacher inmates how to plant crops. Once the food is grown, it's donated to a local food bank.

Nikonmani / Flickr

All this year, Michigan Radio has been taking a look at groups and various programs that are trying to improve the state. It's part of our series, "What's Working." In 2010 Detective Michelle Bryant became the Lansing Police Department’s first liaison to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community. We speak to Detective Bryant this morning for our "What's Working" series.

Five years ago, the Skillman Foundation began a project called “The Good Neighborhoods Initiative.’ The goal was to improve life for kids in six Detroit neighborhoods. Skillman asked the University of Michigan School of Social Work for help, so the school created the “Technical Assistance Center.”  That group serves as a resource for the neighborhoods as they enact change.

Professor Larry Gant is leading the U of M team. He spoke with us for our weekly series on Michigan Radio, "What's Working."

Clean Works Project

Jun 27, 2011
Robert Scales / Flickr

All year, Michigan Radio has been talking with people about projects and efforts that are having a positive effect on the state. Today, we hear from Ruth Olsson, a long-time volunteer for the Clean Works project in Grand Rapids.  The main goal of the project is to reduce the rate of HIV.  To do that, it runs a needle exchange program where drug users can turn in used syringes, and pick up a clean one.

The city of Midland has a plan.  A “Youth Master Plan.” It was created by educators, clergy, police, parents, and others in the community to help kids in Midland. As part of Michigan Radio's What's Working series, we speak with Dick Dolinski, one of the founders of the Plan.  He’s president of the Legacy Center for Student Success. For more information, and to contact Dick about starting a Master Plan in your community, click here.

 

screen grab from YouTube video

Imagine being picked up by police for a crime you did not commit. You plead your innocence, but no one believes you.

Now imagine you're convicted and sentenced to prison for that crime.

For our What's Working series, Michigan Radio host Christina Shockley spoke with David Moran, the co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic.

The Clinic, at the University of Michigan Law School, aims to overturn the convictions of people who were wrongfully convicted.

It's estimated that 1,500 people currently in Michigan prisons were wrongfully convicted.

You can hear the interview with David Moran above.

And here's a video from the Michigan Innocence Clinic on the case of Dwayne Provience who spent ten years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

jamesjyu / via flicker


There’s a big push these days to eat more locally-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables.  St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor has started a farm on its property to supply fresh produce to hospital patients, employees, and the community.  Bridget Bodnar reported on this story for Michigan Radio and she spoke with Morning Edition host Christina Shockley about it.

Rust Bucket / Flickr

You know about agriculture, of course.  But what about aqua-culture, or seafood farming? Russ Allen worked in shrimp farming for twenty years in Latin America. When he returned to his home-state of Michigan, he decided he wanted to create a method of aqua-culture that could be used anywhere in the world. He’s working on his dream in Okemos, just outside of Lansing. He’s been farming shrimp there for several years using a special, environmentally friendly method.

Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley spoke with Allen for Michigan Radio's What's Working series.

HarrisinMI / Flickr

This week, What’s Working is taking a trip to Grand Rapids to focus on the “What’s Your Art?” campaign. Many of us are familiar with the annual ArtPrize event held each fall in Grand Rapids, but there are many other art events taking place in the city throughout the year. The What’s Your Art? campaign aims to raise awareness of the many arts-based events held year-round in the Grand Rapids area.

Caroline Older is the Executive Director of the Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids, and she is overseeing the “What’s Your Art?” campaign. She says What’s Your Art is focused on supporting the culture of art in Grand Rapids more than any one specific event.

“The goal is a long-term goal, not a short-term answer. The impetus behind the What’s Your Art campaign came in the fall of 2008, when we all know the stock market tanked. It was a very tough time for lots of non-profit organizations, and the foundations in our area were looking at ways to try and help support arts organizations. And what we wanted to do was raise awareness about how incredibly rich this region is with its arts and cultural organizations. And we’re so thrilled that ArtPrize takes place, and we wanted to leverage the excitement that ArtPrize brings to the arts for the other forty-nine weeks of the year when ArtPrize isn’t taking place.”

Older says that, while What’s Your Art is still in its startup phase, there have been a number of factors that have contributed to the campaign’s success thus far.

“When we started it, we were very much hoping to help organizations drive some ticket sales. And who knew at that time that websites such as Groupon or, I think it’s LivingSocial, would be developed and be so successful at marketing last-minute ticket deals. And lots of arts organizations have ended up using those.”

Although What’s Your Art is a work in progress, Older says the campaign is developing ways of measuring its success as it evolves.

“In terms of measuring the success, we’re looking at how many people we have reading our e-newsletter which is growing exponentially each month. We have Facebook followers and we’re looking at how many additional Facebook followers we get each month, and the same thing for Twitter. And then of course we’re measuring how many visitors we get to the website, but, as I said, it’s all a work in progress. We’re very excited about the support that we’ve received from the foundations in town, particularly the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, in helping us with marketing and public relations needs in regards to this effort.”

Older says technology and social networks have proven themselves as effective ways to raise awareness about the arts. But she says people sometimes underestimate the various benefits a healthy art culture can have for a local community.

Eric Sweet

This week, we’re changing it up a bit for our “What’s Working” series. Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley is welcoming Michigan Radio Reporter Kyle Norris into the studio to talk about a program in a Kalamazoo neighborhood that revolves around bikes.

Resident Ethan Alexander has organized a program called the Open Roads Bike Program, which teaches kids about bike maintenance. The children learn to perform a number of tasks involved in repairing and taking care of bikes. When they’ve completed all of the tasks, they are rewarded with a bike of their own.

But the bikes are not the only focus of the program. While learning how to take care of bikes provides the children with a sense of accomplishment and pride, Alexander makes sure the kids learn how to respect and get to know one another.

Kyle Norris recently attended a regularly held workshop event in the neighborhood called “Fixapalooza,” where she got to witness what the program has to offer first-hand. She says the atmosphere was similar to that of a block party, plus bikes – many, many bikes.

“It was a total party. There was Michael Jackson on a boom box, blasting. There was pizza. There was a dog running around. And there were a lot of kids, and adults, too, and bikes – bikes flipped over, adults working on bikes, kids working on bikes.”

The program got started when Edison neighborhood resident Ethan Alexander combined two things he had in excess: bikes and an understanding of how to work with children. Norris says it all got started about three years ago.

“He actually created it because he had a lot of bikes kicking around. I think he’s sort of a bike-head, so he had a lot of bikes. But he’s also a social worker, and he knows how to work with kids and get kids to work on their social skills and work on becoming better kids. So he kind of put the two loves together.”

The children who participate in the program don’t have to come very far to join in the fun, says Norris.

“Many of them come from this Edison neighborhood. They come, literally, down the street. Maybe single-family homes, maybe economically challenged.”

Alexander says the program gives the children a sense of confidence that they may not have in other areas of their lives.        

“A lot of these kids may not be successful in school. They may not be successful in other avenues. But you put a wrench in their hand, or you put a screwdriver in their hand, and that’s when they kind of light up, that’s when they get excited, and say, ‘Oh, I can do this. This is something I can do.’ And they’re valued and they start to believe in themselves and their abilities.”

After hanging out at Fixapalooza, Norris describes Mr. Alexander as a “zippy” guy. She says his leadership creates the atmosphere of respect.

user eXtension Ag Energy / flickr

Rick Wilson, the project manager for Heritage Sustainable Energy, is our guest this week as our “What’s Working” series continues. Based in Traverse City, Heritage Sustainable Energy is a wind power company that has been managing the installation of wind turbines in both the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan. Heritage is in the process of installing and expanding wind farms in the state, and is already producing roughly 40 megawatts of power.

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