Veterans Park at Piquette is a celebration of all the community
Detroit continues to make its way back from financial chaos. As it does so, the community of Detroit is leading the way. It isn’t just the decision makers in City Hall or the state legislature who are bringing back Detroit to its former glory. As a matter of fact, some people who would be thought of as needy and dependent are in the forefront. A textbook example of this can be found in Piquette Square for Veterans Park.
Piquette Square for Veterans is a Detroit program provided by Southwest Solutions (www.swsol.org) and its partners. The residential building was opened up in 2010, and seeks to help homeless veterans return to normal civilian life. A permanent facility with 150 residents, counseling staff is meeting with the residents on a routine basis to help them map out a plans of action and develop highly positive goals. The veterans are survivors of America’s wars from the Vietnam Conflict all the way to the recent battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. The state of Michigan pays 70% of the living expenses of the residents, and the remainder comes from the residents themselves. The contribution of these veterans to the new Renaissance in Detroit is across the street in Veterans Park at Piquette Square.
Formerly the grounds of the Studebaker Plant, the original idea for the park came from the veterans themselves. They were hoping to clean up the urban blight in the vacant lot and create a small park that would include flowers and vegetables. Overcoming initial obstacles to the idea, the veterans and South West Solutions reached out to the Detroit community at large. Their contacts included approaching foundations, corporations, community groups in the area, and neighborhood youth. It became a collaborative effort of people in Detroit who simply refuse to see this great city crumble.
Raising money for something like this is always a major challenge. Grants from foundations were secured, but the veterans and Southwest Solutions decided on something else to increase the number of stakeholders in Veterans Park. They offered naming rights to various parts of the park. For example, a corporation donating a certain amount of money would have naming rights to a flagpole, or perhaps a basketball hoop. So that ordinary members of the Detroit community could be part of the fundraising, personalized paver bricks were made available. For a given amount of money an individual could purchase a paver brick with a personal message on it. As of this writing, approximately $500,000 have been raised.
Veterans Park will be officially opened to the public on September 11, 2014. It will include raised vegetable gardens, recreational space, picnic sites, and areas for special events. The park will also have green spaces, a flag court, a wall for the art of the veterans, horse shoe pits and a basketball court. It will be a place where the community can go and celebrate the contributions of the veterans.
The park is meant to help the homeless veterans better heal, but there is more to it. This park is a project that serves to assist the people of Detroit in their healing process as Motown gets back on its feet. Veteran’s Park at Piquette Square shows what the Detroit community itself is capable of doing. This is not the result of one generous donor. Everyone joined together in the effort and the result is a green space where once there was only shrubbery and loud graffiti. Veteran’s Park is an effort of the people working for the common good. This positive scene of hope can be repeated everywhere folks are willing to collaborate to rejuvenate Detroit.
Anyone who is interested in being part of this continuing story of urban success should contact Ms. Cheryl Allen, Veterans and Volunteer Resource Facilitator, at 313-297-1377 (or email at firstname.lastname@example.org). The veterans proudly gave their best in the service of their country. The park is symbolic of the great pride Detroit residents have in their community, and their willingness to be of service for the betterment of Detroit.