People working every day to help their communities in Detroit too rarely get large-scale attention for their efforts. But several groups in Detroit came together Tuesday to honor publicly four individuals who are quietly making a difference.
100 Black Men of Greater Detroit and the Urban League of Detroit & Southeastern Michigan joined Verizon Wireless in expanding their Everyday Heroes initiative to Detroit. Through an online competition earlier this year, the groups asked participants to nominate Detroit residetns making a difference in the lives of others.
“We recognize the power of one person to create change and improve their surrounding environment," said John Granby, regional president for Verizon Wireless.
From a group of about 40 nominees, community members voted to choose four everyday heroes in the categories of business/technology, community service, education and healthcare. The final four: Ken Brown, author and motivational speaker; Geneva Jackson, founder of the women's safe haven Sara's House; Harold McCullough, mentor and coach of the Think Detroit PAL football leagues; and Silas Norman Jr., M.D., assistant dean for admissions at the Wayne State University School of Medicine.
On Tuesday evening, the four winners were honored at a sold-out reception at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Each winner also received $500 and a Droid tablet from Verizon.
"It was truly open to anyone you work with, in the community, in your church, in the business world, friends or family who might be doing outstanding work," explained Anton Chastang, president of 100 Black Men of Greater Detroit.
Chastang's organization, a 60-member local chapter of the national group, focuses primarily on mentoring and youth development. But he sees a connection between the work his organization does with kids, which includes "adopting" students at Southeastern High School, and celebrating the community work of others.
"There's still a long road to go before our youth can understand that if you do the right thing you can be recognized for making a difference," he said. "So I think the more often we do things like this, honor the people in the community doing the grassroots work, [the better.]"
Everyday Heroes is just one of many recent initiatives committed to supporting community leaders' work in Detroit. Black Male Engagement, a project of the Knight Foundation, recently awarded project grants to 10 Detroiters after more than 1,000 shared their personal stories online. And Knight on Tuesday announced nine more grants that will give a total of $65,000 to small-scale Detroit projects focused on civic engagement.
Chastang believes it's only a good thing for more people to recognize "everyday heroes" in the city.
"We have often noted the things that have not gone right in the community and highlighted those things instead of the men in the community who are trying to make a difference," he said.