Timing is everything. As I struggled with a topic for this monthly note, a gift dropped into my lap (actually my laptop): a Detroit Free Press article by Rochelle Riley about a former metro Detroit resident who recently donated $750,000 to help the city.
What caught my eye was that Jeff Adler, who lives in California, used to stay in my neighborhood of North Rosedale Park. Part of Adler and his spouse’s generous donations — including $100,000 to Detroit Waldorf School and $250,000 to Wayne State University’s College of Nursing — is $50,000 to help renovate our neighborhood Community House.
Of course, our association president, Cheryl Buswell, is thrilled — as is my spouse and the other volunteers on the campaign committee. They have a bit less of a mountain to climb as they strive to get the 1930s-era Community House “off the grid” to become a model of green technology — with geothermal applications, solar panels, and the like.
Apparently, part of North Rosedale’s appeal was Adler’s involvement with Park Players, who bill themselves as Detroit’s oldest community theater. They hold performances in the aging Community House.
The arts and education have long spurred generous donations, and Detroit has a rich history of philanthropy (see story on page 55). Buildings like the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle are named for benefactors. There’s the Max M. Fisher Music Center, home to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. And, of course, there’s the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.
Let’s not forget Maggie Allesee, whose name graces Wayne State’s Department of Theatre and Dance as well as the Center for Innovation at the Hospice of Michigan.
Not every donation comes with a name attached. The Detroit Jazz Festival thrives largely through the generosity of Gretchen Valade, granddaughter of the founder of Carhartt, the apparel and work wear company.
The Detroit Opera House, led by David DiChiera, recently faced down some financial challenges, too. But through dogged fundraising and cost cutting, they’ve risen above the red ink to thrive, even as opera in other major cities has seen an untimely demise (see page 49).
For every Peter Karmanos and Gretchen Valade, there are people like Sandi Reitelman and Allan Nachman with smaller, but equally noteworthy efforts. They recently started a nonprofit called Cabaret 313 — where actors and singers perform in an intimate setting. Detroit’s version will be vagabond, visiting different locations. Cabaret 313 held its first public performances at the M@dison Building in late October. On Dec. 14, they migrate to the Jazz Cafe at the Music Hall with iconic German singer Ute Lemper (see Arts & Entertainment Spotlight page 47).
We know it’s the holiday season … a traditional time to give gifts. And while our Gift Guide (page 102) offers suggestions for you to show some love to friends and family, you might consider lending a hand, as well. Donate blood, pledge $5 a week to support public radio, or — if you’re able — give big. Maybe they’ll name a building after you.