This week I had the honor and privilege of touring the Durfee Innovation Society in Detroit. Built in the 1920s, Durfee was a large middle school that was the feeder for Detroit Central High School. It’s HUGE, despite being only a middle school it would be the biggest high school I have ever seen! The material and craftsmanship which Durfee was built have stood the test of time. For me personally, the woodworking throughout the building is what really stood out.
“My name is Michael Lucy, welcome to our blog and my journal. My goal is to write EVERY DAY and share experiences in the field and introduce the world to some of the INCREDIBLE PEOPLE I MEET!” ~Michael Lucy
So, I arrive at Durfee Innovation Society at 3 pm for what I believe is a 3 pm appointment and tour (please note the word believe). Well, as it turned out, I never sent the email to schedule/confirm the tour, the email was still in my draft folder. Needless to say, this was very awkward for everyone when nobody was expecting me. I really felt like crawling into a corner with my tail between my legs, very embarrassing to say the least – BUT;
Thank you to the DIS Director Denise Lyles for GIVING me a 2nd chance and the opportunity for the tour. Despite the awkward and embarrassing situation and her busy schedule, she gave me the FULL TOUR.
The tour took a good hour+ and I met more people in that hour, shook more hands in that one hour, and had more hugs in that one hour than probably the entire calendar year of 2019 (note, I am not a “hugger” – ask my wife, but at Durfee hugs are mandatory!!!)
Durfee Innovation Society is unlike any other operation I have ever seen or read about. On the surface, it’s a business incubator, a consumer advocacy organization, and a community support center all rolled up into one. It’s WAY more than that though, it’s a city within a city, a community within a community, it’s AMAZING!
BACKSTORY – The US Housing Department and Ben Carson designated Durfee as the first of it’s kind, an “EnVision Center“. Funding comes from a variety of sources, both public and private sources including the federal government, the Gilda Radner endowment, contributions from the Durfee Jewish Alumni Association, and many other sources.
To read the full story about Durfee, click the link at the bottom of this article, there is a link to a Crain’s Detroit article.
There is plenty of info about Durfee around the internet to research, I want to share some of my experience with the PEOPLE!
As Denise and I were walking down one of the hallways, a lady was frantically looking for a mop; “Where is the mop, where is the mop?” Denise and this lady exchange hugs, some words, and then I was introduced to (drum roll please) Theresa.
There is more to the mop story, I will share that at a later date however let me share a few words about Theresa.
As she mentions in the video above, Theresa is a retired Detroit firefighter for the city of Detroit and now a small business owner with a heart as big as the Durfee building itself.
Theresa and I spent a few minutes talking about her clothing line, her passion for helping young adults being prepared and looking professional for job interviews, and child seatbelt safety (from her days/experience as a firefighter.)
Theresa thank you for GIVING me a few minutes of your time and sharing your wealth of wisdom!
Okay, admittedly I was confused when I saw the banner in front of The Lawn Care Academy space. It IS what one might imagine however in many ways it’s NOT what you would imagine.
The Lawn Academy is an assembly line for building responsible and life-prepared young men and women. The concept of helping the community by providing lawn care service, free of charge, for senior citizens, disabled people, and veterans – IS JUST THE BEGINNING. Outside of their charitable donations of time and resources, they offer tutoring and after school assistance to help with literacy and math.
I had the privilege of meeting Chris and Ezra.
Chris is a 14-year-old young man and when we entered the room, Chris was asked to stand up and give me the pitch; “Chris, please tell Michael what we do here.” This young man was so proud of himself yet I could feel he was a little bit nervous and anxious. I felt his determination to give a solid pitch, not only for me but to earn the respect of his peers, tutors, and Denise. It felt like a young boy preparing a school project and can’t wait to get home and impress dad, wanting and needing the acceptance of dad, just wanting dad to say; “Great job Chris.” – EXCEPT – Christopher was doing that among peers. It was very powerful, thank you for GIVING me that experience Chris.
Ezra is a little older, do not know exactly his age, he is one of the tutors. Shaking hands with a fellow Detroiter is a spiritual experience. There is a secret handshake that all people know when shaking hands with someone from Detroit! The handshake says; “I am strong, we are strong, you have a friend for life.” That is what Ezra’s handshake said to me and I say to Ezra, thank you for GIVING me the opportunity to shake your hand.
I could write forever about my experience and the people, young adults and even the children I met (trust me, I left out some REALLY special stories and really special people).
Durfee is a community within a community. The godmother of Durfee is Denise Lyles. She is like that loving yet assertive (strict would be too harsh of a word here) mother that everybody knows, everybody loves and everybody respects. Fast forward in the video to 1:45 to see and listen to Denise for a few seconds.
It took a little effort to find a picture or video of Denise and I think that encapsulates who Denise is. She is the eyes and ears of Durfee, the protector of EVERYONE at DIS and her community. She is too busy being “Denise” and taking care of her “children” and simply does not have enough time for pictures, videos or media. She is the heart and soul of Durfee! Thank you again, Denise, for GIVING me the opportunity.