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Urban Neighborhood Initiatives highlights “Heroes of the Neighborhood”

When you think Southwest Detroit, you might assume “Mexicantown.” But the folks at Urban Neighborhood Initiatives in Springwells Village are quick to point out the diversity of their residents… and the diversity of tactics they’re all taking to turn their neighborhood around.

UNI is celebrating their 15th anniversary of service to the community this October, and the transformation of this neighborhood that time has been incredible. It all started with the All Saints Neighborhood Center that opened in a closed church building in 1997. Since the building’s re-opening, UNI has started a Head Start preschool program for children, after school and summer programs for older school-age children, bilingual GED programs, English as a second language classes and computer literacy services.

Outside the building, Springwells Village has seen a renewal of several structures with murals. The Southwest Arts Mural and Apprenticeship program hires artists to come in and teach local students the ins and outs of painting and mural design. UNI was also instrumental in turning vacant lots and a former drug house into a green playspace … complete with a walking track, playscape and lush plants.

This year community input was paramount in UNI’s quality of life survey. One of the main concerns of community members was crime, so the redevelopment of an empty social hall into a community court has emerged as one of UNI’s main projects. It’s more than just a court. “This project will be supplemented by educational and social services, such as adult literacy programing housed in the same facility” says Kate Solis, Community Relationships Coordinator.

This year, the organization also worked with the JP Morgan Chase Apprenticeship Program and placed more than 260 local youth at local businesses and organizations for short-term work experiences. “This apprenticeship program provides access to both a variety of professional development workshops and on-the-job work experience for neighborhood teens,” says Solis.

In this vein of community outreach and participation, it’s celebrating residents and organizations that have really made a difference in the lives of their fellow citizens. These include Springwells Village Girl Scout Troop Leader Anneccia Davis-Dunson, Detroit Southwest Pride, Detroit City Fire Dept. Engine 33/Ladder 13, Irwin Danto of Danto & Company and more.

On Friday, October 5 guests can attend UNI’s premiere fundraiser “for an evening of recognition and celebration,” Solis says. The event will be held at the Salon El Bosque, a former Masonic Temple located right in the neighborhood. All attendees receive valet service, a strolling dinner catered by local Detroit-based restaurants, beverages and home-grown entertainment with their ticket. Guests have the option to attend both the program and the afterglow or just the later. For more information or to purchase a ticket visit


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