2014: Community Partners with City

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Mayor Rick Sollars’ call for “Changing Taylor Together” during his 2013 campaign drive seemed to catch fire throughout 2014 as new elected officials, department heads, business leaders and residents from all reaches of the City’s 24 square miles joined hands on a number of issues.

The mayor seemed to start the ball rolling just after he was elected in November 2013, when he ran into a tearful woman inside City Hall. As result of that meeting, Mayor Sollars opened the Heritage Park Petting Farm for 8-year-old Dominick Keck, the woman’s grandson. Dominick was suffering from an incurable illness. He, his family and friends had a memorable day at the farm visiting the boy’s favorite animal, a donkey. A subsequent City Council meeting marked November 19, 2013, “Dominick Keck Day.” The entire community seemed to join in the boy’s happiness. While Dominick lost his battle with cancer less than a month later, his can-do spirit seemed to carry through the ensuing months.

Before 2013 even ended, good news was popping up everywhere. The United Auto Workers, Ford Motor Co., the City of Taylor and the Downriver Fish & Loaves Community Food Pantry created a unique partnership to distribute over 300 boxes of turkey dinners to needy families in the area. 

Then, despite the loss of Ted Domski, who died in December 2013 after a lengthy illness, the rest of the Domski Family celebrated its 15th “True Meaning of Christmas Dinner” at the Ford Senior Center. The dinner is a remarkable free Christmas gathering that provides good food and goodwill for anyone who shows up. It’s an event that shows just what the Domski Family thinks of its community.

The City of Taylor and Meijer again combined on the “Shop with a Hero” program, putting the “happy” in the holiday season for many needy families in the area behind the efforts of local police, firefighters and military personnel. And Mayor Sollars made it a point to bring Christmas to City Hall, soliciting outside donations to hold a free holiday lunch on December 23 for employees as former mayors Gregory Pitoniak and Don Zub joined in the gathering.

While Michigan suffered through a history-setting record winter season, the can-do spirit didn’t seem to lose momentum. Early in the year, two key groups were created – the Pound Pals of Taylor, a volunteer organization that would focus on supporting the Taylor Animal Shelter, and the Taylor Dog Park Committee. Pound Pals coordinated its efforts with the animal control officers at the shelter, volunteering their time, raising money to rescue animals and helping in special events. The dog park group has yet to find a location for a facility, but nevertheless gained plenty of momentum and support throughout 2014.

Communication is an important part of any good community, and Mayor Sollars vowed to bring better and more transparency to the information flow. Early in the year, he held the first State of the City Address since 2011, a mid-day fundraiser in late February to benefit the Penrickton Center for Blind Children and the Taylor School Foundation for Educational Excellence. Over 250 people attended the event, which was taped by The News-Herald Newspapers and the City for future cable and website use.

The Rotary Club of Taylor hosted the program and bestowed the Paul Harris Fellow award recognition on Randy Fritz of Fritz Enterprises. With most of the City’s elected officials in attendance and the mayor at the podium, Taylor’s government was united for the first time in several years as the mayor rolled out a lengthy plan to improve the community through independent thinking, grassroots work, integrity, stability, and regional cooperation. That type of thinking resulted in the new and improved Taylor Today magazine, expanding in size and now publishing six times annually.

With a stress on “a community working together,” different groups and individuals continued to step forward in an effort to create a better Taylor. Part of that effort, naturally, was to improve building blocks that were already in place.

In early March, the Taylor Veterans Home Program awarded its second dwelling to the Christopher Holcomb family during an emotional and highly publicized event on Polk Street. It was the second Taylor house awarded to a veteran in less than six months, and again marked collaboration between the City of Taylor, The Home Depot Foundation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The NSP enables qualifying the City to match up qualifying veterans with rehabilitated houses in the community, while business partners and other organizations within the community volunteer labor or funds to redevelop the dwelling. The program’s next project is the old Sell House on Northline Road, which is being rehabilitated for Enchanted Makeovers, a non-profit 501(c)3.

That same month, Macy’s “Love Your Park” program ran a month-long campaign enabling people could to money to their favorite park and have it matched by the company. Simultaneously, Shwedel Dental ran its own matching campaign for funds it was collecting, all focused on Heritage Park. The effort raised near $1,200.

In May, Pastor Phillip Nissley of the New Hope Assembly of God again organized and coordinated the National Day of Prayer observance, an event that marked the 63rd annual celebration and brought together churches from across the community to a gathering that attracted hundreds of residents.

Later in May, under the supervision of the Taylor Veterans Museum Committee, Armed Forces Remembrance Day was held and focused on military personnel that served during the Vietnam War era. Hundreds of veterans was awarded a special medal and mayoral letter. The event was so popular that a second celebration was held in the City Hall Council Chambers in the fall, honoring nearly 100 more Vietnam-era veterans.

And, of course, it wouldn’t have been May without Taylor’s huge Relay for Life in Heritage Park, which attracted thousands of participants and raised an estimated $140,000 to fight cancer. 

Likewise, June kicked off with Mayor Sollars awarding the City’s annual Mayor’s Scholarships to Truman High School’s Brittany Sherry and Kennedy High School’s Lisa Gilmore. The mayor vowed to increase the scholarship money in 2015. 

Meanwhile, the 14th Annual Ride for a Reason, the Penrickton Center’s biggest fundraiser sponsored by Biker Bob’s. Then came the 10th annual “Friends 1K MS Walk,” thanks to the efforts of long-time supporter Samara Wolf. The month ended with the new and improved Taylor Summer Festival, four days of carnivals, concerts and the Masco-sponsored fireworks at Heritage Park, which benefited the four Taylor Little Leagues and the Junior League World Series, which was held for the 33rd time in August and won by Chinese Taipei.

Taylor successfully hosted the 29th Downriver Senior Olympic Games in July, and the Taylor Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, for the third straight season, hosted the popular “Music and Art in the Gardens” series from June until late August, sponsored by Fritz Enterprises and Huron Valley Steel.

Also in July, vandals broke into the newly renovated Northwest Park Pool and did damage, but Total Community Credit Union stepped up and donated $1,000 to cover all the expenses. In August, as the Taylor Northwest Intermediate All-Star baseball team became the first squad from Taylor to ever qualify for a national World Series berth at that level, four local companies – Midwest Sanitation, Hennessey Engineering, Howard & Howard Attorney PLLC and Area Towing – stepped up to help defray the costs of the trip to California by donating over $1,000 each.

Spring 2014 had also started a wave of volunteer efforts to clean up the community. It all started when Jim Taylor approached the City about a Heritage Park Clean Up Day. Taylor’s efforts ended in phenomenal success – over 260 people from Taylor and the surrounding area showed up on April 19 with tons of trash eventually trucked away. Jim Taylor’s efforts took the community challenge to a higher level, and residents started to respond on a regular basis.

Taylor Firefighters spent a day cleaning out Heritage Park’s Coan Lake, despite a steady rain. City Councilmen Charley Johnson and Alex Garza, unhappy with graffiti painted on the Monroe Street underpass at I-94, recruited a large crew of people that repainted and cleaned the area. Johnson then put together his own crew to clean the lengthy, debris-filled exit from Telegraph Road to Ecorse Road, just north of Walmart.

Evangel Baptist Church sent a group of 50 teens and adults to the City Hall complex to join with City maintenance staff, collecting trash, trimming trees, sweeping leaves and throwing mulch. Karen DePriest, best known for her effort in the Kristen’s Legacy of Hope campaign, didn’t like the way the Telegraph-Goddard road intersection looked, so she gathered a group of volunteers and raked, weeded and replanted around the flag pole areas in the heavily traveled sector.

The Kennedy High School varsity baseball team cleaned, repainted playground equipment, threw mulch and collected tree trimmings from a small park north of Kinyon Elementary School in early September. In October, the Women of the Moose Chapter 992 Lodge 887, led by Angel LaBarge, gathered a group of nearly 40 volunteers who cleaned, raked, trimmed trees and generally put an entirely new face on Oak Grove Cemetery on the City’s north end. In late November, Pastor Jared Barringer and volunteers from Beacon Baptist Church did the same thing to Golden Ridge Cemetery, north of Heritage Park.

Dennis O’Connell of the Ecology Center continued his long-time work in and around Coan Lake, with the help of the City. As of this writing, he was finishing work to reactivate the waterwheel at the center, which should improve oxygenation levels in the water and help the eco-system. In October, Doug Reimel of Prop & Sail Inc./Angler’s Marine donated two oil-free de-icers to be used in the lake this winter, again helping with oxygenation levels.