Volunteers improve the view on Junction Street

By Travis Marmon

Southwest Detroit residents who travel Junction Street will undoubtedly see something new the next time they pass by—a visible sidewalk. For years, piles of trash that had mostly likely been dumped, made the sidewalk un-walkable. Graffiti on the walls and fences also made the view unpleasant t. But a group of volunteers recently reclaimed the sidewalk, clearing the area from Fort Street to Michigan Avenue.

“It’s amazing how many families, how many kids, how many moms with strollers walk up and down Junction, and sometimes they can’t get through the sidewalk,” said Jim Saucedo, one of several dozen volunteers who turned out for the cleanup. “… Now, cleaning up that viaduct, you can actually see the sidewalk.”

The clean-up was organized as part of General Motors’ GM Cares Week, the third annual event in which GM employees, as well as contractors such as the Ideal Group, dedicate a week of service to a joint community project. This year, GM teamed with Detroit Cristo Rey High School and several local non-profit groups to make Junction a safe passage for the school’s students, as well as the entire local community. Volunteers spent eight hours a day from Monday to Friday picking up trash, sweeping away debris and scrubbing off graffiti instead of spending that time at the office or school.

“It’s GM’s responsibility [to improve the community],” said Cadillac Global Marketing Manager and GM Cares Leader Sabin Blake, adding that the area has special significance to GM, as the old Clark Street Cadillac Plant was just around the corner. Blake estimates that the event drew between 50 and 60 volunteers per day between GM employees, contractors and Cristo Rey sophomores.

Volunteers from General Motors work to clean up a stretch of Junction Street in Southwest Detroit. Photo: T. Marmon.

Volunteers from General Motors work to clean up a stretch of Junction Street in Southwest Detroit. Photo: T. Marmon.

While good weather added to the experience, many of the volunteers said they were driven by the mission behind the event. “Anything that can help bring the city back,” said volunteer Brian Guerin, a contractor who works with GM’s Cadillac division. He added that attitudes toward Detroit have improved in recent years, as his Westland-raised children want to move back to the area that their grandparents grew up in.

The effort held special meaning for volunteer Saucedo. He was raised in Southwest Detroit. Today, he’s also a State Farm Insurance agent whose office sits on the corner of Vernor and Junction. “I thought it’s the least I could do,” he says, “to show my responsibility to spruce up Junction and make it walkable and livable, and quiet honestly to make it a friendly place for people to do business.”

The investment of time is already paying dividends for Southwest Detroit says GM Director of Asset Services Russ Brewster. “GM Cares Week is about making Junction a safe passage,” he says. “I saw the first family using the sidewalk under the viaduct in several years.”

Saucedo says he is hopeful that the cleanup will pave the way for an added sense of neighborhood pride. “This is one of the main arteries that go through Southwest Detroit,” he says. “…If you leave something nice, the people will follow up on it.”

About Travis Marmon

Born and raised in Clarkston, Travis is a recent graduate of The College of Wooster in Ohio, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the student-run newspaper, The Wooster Voice. A lover of sports and music, Travis has also served as a Sports Intern at The Oakland Press and an A&E Writer at The Good Men Project. In his spare time, he writes album reviews at SputnikMusic.com. Travis started working for Detroit143 in May 2014, on the morning after his graduation.

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