How Detroit’s Chalfonte volunteer clean-up efforts are transforming their neighborhood

How Detroit’s Chalfonte volunteer clean-up efforts are transforming their neighborhood
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“It’ s not where you live, it’ s what you do where you live.” Al Addison.

“When Robinson and Addison walked the neighborhood later in the summer months, they found others joining the effort.”

Building Blocks

How Chalfonte volunteers clean-up efforts are transforming their neighborhood
By E. B. Allen

Like a sheriff and deputy, together they patrolled the streets.

But it wasn’ t outlaws Charles Robinson and Al Addison, the respective president and vice president of Chalfonte Neighborhood Awareness Group, were after. It was trash, overgrown grass, or anything else that gave the area bordered by Detroit’ s Fenkell and Lyndon Street, Livernois and Wyoming Avenues the appearance of neglect.

Then a funny thing happened. When Robinson and Addison walked the neighborhood later in the summer months, they found others joining the effort.

“Now, we notice there is less litter on the ground,” Addison says. “We were mowing the lawn, now other people were mowing the lawn. This was with no communication. People just joined in.”

The organic growth of one of the west side’ s most dynamic new block clubs has been one both Robinson and Addison have enjoyed watching. Having recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, the Chalfonte Neighborhood Awareness Group is drawing attention from both its residents and city officials, including Mayor Mike Duggan, who was recently joined by Gov. Rick Snyder at a roundtable in the community. The governor and mayor congratulated the volunteers on their dedicated efforts.

It was Duggan himself who indirectly inspired Chalfonte’ s formation, Robinson says.

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“I lived in an apartment in downtown Detroit,” he recalls, “and when Mike Duggan became mayor and was giving some of his speeches, I decided, ‘ Why not move down to one of the neighborhoods and do something to help improve it?’”

Robinson began making renovations to his new home in June 2014 and then decided to try and rally the community by passing out a letter. Soon Addison joined him and the groundwork for an ongoing neighborhood effort was established. Meetings held among the residents have welcomed managers and deputy managers from Detroit’ s District 2, which encompasses the
neighborhood. Tim Horton’ s coffee shop on Wyoming Avenue and nearby BP and Valero gas stations have even supplied snacks and refreshments.

Robinson recently approached the Greening of Detroit about support for a beautification effort.

The result was 84 trees planted between Livernois and Wyoming in an October 17 outing fueled by 200 Greening of Detroit volunteers.

“They came, they brought their families, their kids,” says Addison. “It was fabulous.”

But both Robinson and Addison, who has resided in and out of the neighborhood since 1967, say they know the responsibility for its upkeep rests with those living there, whether renters or homeowners. The first meeting of 2015 drew about 12 residents, the most recent drew 30. “

It’ s not where you live, it’ s what you do where you live,” says Addison. Having watched the neighborhood for decades, he adds he’ s encouraged about Chalfonte’ s future as a change agent.

“I sense some movement,” he says, “and the movement is hope.”

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