When it comes to hometown heroes, Roberto Teran shuns the cape and leotards the Marvel Comic’s guys wear. Instead he wears a t-shirt and jeans and carries a hoe and a shovel to help transform Clark Park in southwest Detroit.
“We bring the task force to make repairs,” says Teran, a systems engineer in Ford Motor Co.’s Powertrain Division. For 14 consecutive years he has headed up a community service day in the 100-year-old Clark Park, drawing almost 200 Ford employees to work a day in June to make the park useful to residents and friends.
“The first time I visited Clark Park – in 2002 – it was spectacular,” he says. “Busloads of children came from multiple schools to compete in athletic competitions. But it got so much use but it was badly in need of repairs.”
He got a clean-up day logged onto the calendar for Ford employee and retiree volunteers, put aside funds for cleaning and painting supplies and started recruiting friends and colleagues.
“Last year we put new bumpers around the ice rink, replaced the glass and painted. We have the manpower to do a lot of good,” Teran says. “It was a worthy project because people in the neighborhood call Clark Park their town square.”
Clark Park provides four seasons worth of programming for more than 1,200 youth, operate the only regulation-sized outdoor ice hockey rink in Metro Detroit and provide free lunches daily to more than 100 youth throughout the summer, according to the park website. Thanks to a one-day blitz, the park sparkles in summer and beyond.
The Ford workers restored 15 park benches and numerous picnic tables and prepped an area for artistic bike racks. They also patched holes in gazebo roofs put up fencing and made raised garden beds for those who feed fresh veggies to the neighborhood.
Members of Ford’s Hispanic Network and others plan their summers around this work day. Some departments use the day for team building. The community rewards the Ford workers. Honeybee Market makes food and so do local restaurants.
Last summer Teran became a subject of a video about his activities in Clark Park. H notes his parents began their married life in the neighborhood. Conducting a wide variety of repairs helps sustain something of value to many locals.
“Roberto and the Ford group do tons of work that wouldn’t be able to complete without him. He is very committed, very dedicated,” says Kate Brennan, a neighborhood resident.
Yet Teran would like to do more. He hopes he can recruit volunteers in November or December to help prepare the Clark Park ice rink for winter sports. He will recruit more volunteers to host a senior citizen Christmas lunch at LaSed and raise money to help the center continue its helpful mission.
“For many of us volunteers, community service is the highlight of the year. We’ve kept it up, even during the recession. If an activity stops, it is that much harder to restart. The residents depend on us,” Teran says.
Ford has a corps of more than 27,000 employees and retirees in 41 countries involved in good deeds. They paint homeless shelters and orphanages, serve meals to seniors and veterans, build houses, tutor children, dig fresh water wells and plant trees, among other activities.
The next clean up day is June 22 and outsiders are welcome to join the effort.
— Photography by Jason Willis