Warming Up to a Concept

Letter from the Editor

Perhaps being an editor is somewhat like being a parent. You’re probably not supposed to play favorites when it comes to stories. But at times, it’s hard not to.

So as we prepare to weather February — the sometimes shortest, yet seemingly longest month of the year — we offer a few stories that may warm your heart.

Associate Editor Monica Mercer came to me last year with a story idea. She proposed going to Africa with a group of Detroit health care providers to document their work for Kenya Relief. Taking a page from the health providers, she offered to use her own vacation time on the trip.

Last September, Mercer joined 24 medical professionals from metro Detroit on a three-day mission (see page 68) to a remote part of Kenya. For me, the interview Mercer had with Dr. Lamont Jones, the vice chair of otolaryngology at Henry Ford Health System, sums it up: “We all go through a metamorphosis with these trips,” he said. “It helps us re-energize our practice here and at home, and it helps us remember why we wanted to be doctors in the first place.”

Then there’s Alexa Stanard’s piece on the Empowerment Plan, which employs homeless women to make weather-resistant coats that transform into sleeping bags.

Like many great programs, the idea started small. Veronika Scott, then a product-design student at the College for Creative Studies, had an assignment to design a humanitarian item. Then Mark Valade, CEO of Carhartt, the Dearborn-based apparel and work wear company, started providing funding, equipment, and guidance — and the program took off.

The good work hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2012, Scott received the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award. And this past December, the nonprofit got a visit — and a surprise — from NBC’s Today and Walmart … but don’t let me spoil it. See for yourself on page 36.

Not all great works get the recognition they deserve. So we try to remedy that with a focus on a little-remembered Detroit artist, the late LeRoy Foster (page 53) whose most visible work, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, was painted in 1971 for a branch of the Detroit Public Library. As George Bulanda reports, Foster may have lived more like a pauper, but his art projected a regal quality.

As for the rest of the issue, we honor the month of romance with our annual take on bridal fashion (page 74), some Valentine’s Day gifts (page 48), and some of our favorite romantic getaways (page 88).

Admittedly, like stories, what’s “best” is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. So for a really unique place to go on a date, check out the “drag queen bingo” piece on page 45.


Want to have a say in your favorites? Our “Best of Detroit” ballot has been posted at hourdetroit.com. We’ve added some new categories (Best Food Truck, Best Realtor, and Best Fine Artist, to name a few). So get voting.