Monday, April 25, 2016

Lending a Helping Hand at Focus: HOPE

Volunteers at Focus: HOPE
"Recognizing the dignity and beauty of every person, we pledge intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty, and injustice. And to build a metropolitan community where all people may live in freedom, harmony, trust and affection. Black and white, yellow, brown and red from Detroit and its suburbs of every economic status, national origin and religious persuasion we join in this covenant." --Focus: HOPE Mission

Since its founding in 1968, Focus: HOPE has striven to fulfill the above mission. It offers the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, career training programs, and the HOPE Village Initiative (a collection of community-based programs to help children, families, and neighborhoods succeed) to the Detroit area.

Focus: HOPE established the Commodity Supplemental Food Program in 1971. The program serves nearly 40,000 seniors and about 5,000 mothers with small children in the Detroit area each month with canned and packaged food. Most of the program's participants pick up their food from one of its four food centers, but Focus: HOPE also delivers food to homebound seniors.

On Saturday, I played a minuscule part in fulfilling Focus: HOPE's mission by taking part in a volunteer event through the University of Michigan Club of Greater Detroit. We met at the food warehouse on Focus: HOPE's main campus on Oakman Boulevard. The main campus has several buildings covering three city blocks, including the warehouse, training centers, a children's center with childcare programs, and a food center.

Rows and rows of food.
When I entered the warehouse, I was astonished by the volume of packaged food that was waiting to be delivered to the food centers and homebound seniors. Rows upon rows of pallets of boxes containing rice, canned goods, juice, and more were a sad reminder of how many people still need help to put a decent meal on their tables.

The Focus: HOPE staff was friendly and efficiently showed our group how to pack the boxes of food using an assembly line. A few other volunteers and I were at the end of line and had the job of loading the boxes onto pallets. Even though I literally had the heavy lifting, I figured a couple hours of hard work was only a small act to help others.

Boxes of much needed food for seniors
In the end, we loaded more than 1,400 boxes of food for delivery. Despite providing only a fraction of what is needed to feed those in need in the Detroit area, it felt good to be a small part of the solution to our metro area's problems. We all have our own lives to live and our own problems to deal with, but I hope we all take some time throughout the year to take ownership of our communities' problems by lending a helping hand.

Friday, April 15, 2016

An Afternoon in Plymouth

Downtown Plymouth
It's easy to stick to the familiar, to not venture outside the vicinity of our hometowns, to eat at the same restaurants, to shop at the same stores. But Michigan is full of smaller towns and cities that are perfect for a day trip or even a quick stop for a bite to eat and stroll around town.

Despite growing up in Metro Detroit and spending my college years in Ann Arbor, I had never been to Downtown Plymouth until this past weekend. It's about half an hour from my home, so my family and I decided to make a short visit to walk around the downtown and have dinner.

The downtown is surrounded by single-family homes on quiet-looking residential streets. Unfortunately, the weather was cold for April (and hopefully it was the last cold weekend of this year), so we did not walk around the downtown as much as we would have liked.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Fork n' Pint: Dining on the Shores of Cass Lake

Fork n' Pint
Fork n' Pint in Waterford opened in December 2015 and offers a large menu of comfort food, including burgers, barbecue, fish and chips, poutine fries, and pizzas. Located on Cass Elizabeth Road, the restaurant overlooks Cass Lake's Coles Bay.

The interior of the restaurant has ample seating, and its wooden tables and large fireplace give it the cozy feel of a ski lodge. Its large patio overlooking the lake will be a great spot to unwind with good food and drink on a warm summer's night.

Outside seating with a view of Cass Lake

With only one visit under my belt, I cannot speak for the entire menu, but the food definitely satisfied. My family and I started with the poutine fries as an appetizer. They were good, but I have had better poutine, and I actually found the plain fries that came with my burger to be tastier.

It might be obvious from its name, but Fork n' Pint has a large selection of draft and bottled craft beer, including many Michigan brews. They also have a good wine selection, as well as cocktails and spirits, including several from Michigan distilleries.

The delicious grilled caesar and cheese soup
For our main courses, I ordered a ridiculously heavy, but delicious, Muenster Monster burger. This 10-ounce Angus beef burger is topped with grilled house sausage, muenster cheese, haystack onions, coleslaw, and Fork n' Pint's tangy barbecue sauce, and it comes with a side of fries. I had been craving a burger for a few days, and the Muenster Monster delivered.

My wife Allison ordered the broccoli and beer cheese soup and a grilled caesar salad. The soup is made with Newcastle Nut Brown Ale and Swiss and roma cheeses. The soup was superb; the beer flavor was subtle and did not overpower the cheeses. As for the salad, Allison and I both love grilled caesar salads and found this one to be quite tasty. Our kids also enjoyed a burger and pizza from the kids menu.

The wooden interior gives the restaurant a cozy atmosphere
With its satisfying food and relaxing atmosphere, Fork n' Pint was a good experience. We definitely will be visiting again and look forward to warm summer nights dining and watching the boaters on Cass Lake.

Fork n' Pint. 4000 Cass Elizabeth Road, Waterford, MI 48328. 248-791-3256.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Freep Film Festival

I finally made it to my first Freep Film Festival. This annual Detroit event is presented by the Detroit Free Press and, and various theaters in Detroit and Royal Oak.

Unfortunately, I was only able to see one film because of my schedule and because a couple of films I wanted to see were sold out. However, I luckily had seen and reviewed two of the films before, Superior and Exported From Michigan.

Although most of the films have a Michigan connection, I wanted to see one that specifically focused on Michiganders, so I chose Accidental Activists. This film explores the journey of two women, Jayne and April DeBoer-Rowse, who tried to challenge Michigan's adoption laws so they could have equal parenting rights to their children. When U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman told their attorneys that Michigan's adoption law wasn't the problem, they then found themselves challenging Michigan's same-sex marriage ban and ending up on the winning side of last year's U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

The film was directed by Mandi Wright of the Detroit Free Press, and she does an excellent job getting inside the everyday lives of the DeBoer-Rowses and the whirlwind of becoming unwitting but unwavering champions of a crusade that they initially had no intention of undertaking.

Following the film, Free Press columnist Brian Dickerson led a discussion with April and Jayne DeBoer-Rowse, their attorneys, Dana Nessel and Carole Stanyar, Judge Friedman, and Wright. The discussion shed light on the filming process and each panelist's feelings about the film and the lawsuit's path through the justice system.

The Detroit Institute of Arts hosted the film and helped make it a great experience. Next year, I hope to attend more than one screening at this fantastic festival.

For more information about Accidental Activists, click here.

For my previous reviews of Superior and Exported From Michigan, click here and here.