November 27, 2015, Detroit, Michigan – Voices for Earth Justice, a faith-based network of people concerned for the environment, received the Detroit Community Development Award during a special ceremony on October 28 in Cobo Center’s Grand Riverview Ballroom.
Individuals and organizations working hard to improve the quality of life in Detroit’s neighborhood were honored for their tireless efforts. The 2015 awards, presented by the Masco Corporation Foundation, was hosted by Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD), and Michigan Community Resources.
Voices for Earth Justice was recognized for its establishment of Hope House and continuing efforts to open an Agro-Ecology Center and for completing a “project that leverages local artistic talent, private and public assets and/or other community resources, to transform a public space into a safe and inviting environment that attracts both residents and visitors.”
Some 1,500 people attended the award ceremony, which also recognized organizations in such areas as excellence in real estate development, exemplary neighborhood, and extraordinary economic development.
Sister Janet Stankowski, OP, said Voices for Earth Justice had received a grant from CDAC, and, during an on-site visit, members of that organization saw the impact that Voices was having on their neighborhood. Sister Janet is co-founder of Voices with Adrian Dominican Associate Patricia Gillis, executive director.
Voices for Earth Justice was founded in 2001 out of a need to bring a faith perspective to environmental efforts. “Voices is a faith-based network whose mission is to pray, educate, and act on behalf of Earth,” Sister Janet said.
In 2011, the Board saw the need to help low-income people in Detroit – to walk with the poor, Sister Janet said. They brought property in the Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit and, with an eye to sustainability, deconstructed and reconstructed a house on the property. The materials in the old house were recycled or re-purposed to create Hope House.
Currently, half of Hope House is used as the home of two young men who work for Voices in outreach and gardening. The second half is being set up as an agro-ecology center to educate the public. Through a grant, Voices has purchased microscopes and other equipment and materials. “We look at insect life and plant life, and grow in our understanding of our interconnectedness with all species with whom we share our land,” Sister Janet explained. The agro-ecology center will be completed in the new year.
In the mean time, Sister Janet said, Hope House has already made a positive impact on the people in and around Brightmoor. “People stop by to chat because they see that progress is being made, and they’re curious,” Sister Janet said. Some have already commented on the improvement that Voices has made in the area. Hope House has already influenced the neighbors. “Some neighbors have asked us to help them plant flowers to make their homes look nice,” Sister Janet noted.
This year, staff and volunteers have planted a vegetable garden and have shared the harvest with neighbors. In addition, groups have attended walk-throughs of the property to learn organic gardening methods. “We’re developing credibility,” Sister Janet said. “We’re trying to be good neighbors and show the value of caring for all of creation – from the buildings to the insects – and model some sustainable practices.”
Sister Janet expressed gratitude for the Ministry Trust for the grant that Voices received from the Adrian Dominican Congregation. “We are truly grateful that the Adrian Dominican Sisters walked with us, and they are very much part of our achievements and this award,” she said.
Feature photo: From left, Sisters Janet Stankowski, Janet Traut, Annette Desloover, and Virginia (Ginny) King pause in the task of raking leaves to pose with the Detroit Community Development Award.