This is a story that almost didn’t happen.  Sometimes having even the best of intentions isn’t sufficient…not enough to get the job done.  My grandmother used to say something like…”If the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise”…all things in life are a possibility.  And on Friday, April 29th, 10:00a.m at Remus Robinson Academy, I was lookin’ for a willin’ Lord and a creek that was slow to rise!

The Detroit Public School System has been all over the news lately with a lot of attention focused on some school closings and teacher layoffs.  It is a very difficult and complex time.  The emotional and mental state of everyone…from the students to the principals to the janitors…there is a high degree of uncertainty in the air.  Questions are asked and the answer is the same for all of them…“Keep On Pushing!”  There could only be one answer.  This is not the time for the weak or faint hearted.  Motivation has to be found…it needs to be re-ignited so that plans, promises, commitments, wishes and prayers of so many can be fulfilled.

I had been in contact with Principal Sharon Lee and it was easy to sense the stress that she was going through.  Though not on the immediate closing list, there were several unsettling issues that remained to be addressed.  Morale was, as anybody would expect, kind of low.  Not to say that people were just going through the motions, people just needed time to react…absorb…bounce back!  And that’s what they got.  They got the best thing that could have happened for them, the school and the garden project…SPRING BREAK!

On the day after Easter, students returned to class and teachers returned to work.  The weather projection for the week didn’t look promising initially, but as the week progressed there were small but positive signs that the weather on Friday just might turn out okay or be just good enough.  I had a brief conversation with Principal Lee, mid-week and a conversation with Beverly Outland, Co-op Services Credit Union, providing her with an update on the groundbreaking.  Yes, it was still going to happen, but to be honest I didn’t know what to expect.  I was hopeful but something just didn’t feel quite right…and it wasn’t the weather.

So Friday morning my sister (who is responsible for most of the photography you find on my blog) and I packed up some gear and headed off to the school.  When we got there I had my personal “WOW” moment when I saw, for the first time, the sign that Co-op Services Credit Union made for the garden.  You know the satisfaction you get when you get that first forkfull of strawberry cheesecake, the last tug on the straw of a cold black cherry phosphate or your first banana split of the summer…well that’s how I felt when I saw the sign. SWEET!

Another pleasurable moment of this day was the turnout of significant others related to the program.  The ultimate “significant other” that showed up for the day’s ceremony was Lisa Fawcett, the Marketing Director of Co-op Services Credit Union. 

Lisa Fawcett, Marketing Director, Co-op Services Credit Union (l), Beverly Outland, Product Development Coordinator, Co-op Services Credit Union (r)

Lisa’s presence clearly underscored the strong commitment that the credit union has made to the school and the community that surrounds it.  She had an “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world” look of joy and pride as she witnessed and heard the appreciative banter of the kids, the teachers and a small group of parents (“more significant others”) that showed up for the event.  It was like now she, too, was a member of the Remus Robinson Academy family.  Welcome to the village!

Lisa Fawcett (l), Principal Sharon Lee, Remus Robinson Academy (r)

As we watched the kids march out of the school, I thought I heard one of the teacher’s aides say “If the good Lord is willin” and I thought again about my grandmother and her use of the phrase.  Here we were on a chilly and damp morning that still held a threat of rain, out on the former baseball field that was now going to be a garden…a new field of dreams if you will.  In spite of the week’s rainy weather, Kristopher Hoemke, the teacher that is managing the program, had gotten out and turned over a considerable patch of land, with the assistance of the father of a leader of the LSCO (Local School Community Organization) a certain Ms. Taylor.  Hmmmmmm…“was the Lord willin?”

"It's A Start!"

As the kids surrounded the initial plot, I noticed that each kid was armed and ready to work in the garden.  They all looked so cute wearing gloves, caps and holding hand tools.  Kindergartners and up, wearing big smiles on their faces, each without a clue as to how much work there really was to be done.  I am glad that through a little hard work, they will ultimately know, understand and appreciate the knowledge and the character building that this empty plot will give them as it transforms into a bountiful garden.  Good things do come out of hard work.



So now comes Principal Lee.  Marching from the school to the plot, she has time to shake the hand of every parent out there while at the same time making sure that no kid acts out and embarrasses the school.  She stands at the garden site and looks over the rows of kids like Generals Patton or MacArthur surveying their troops.  She is proud…very, very proud! 

Lisa Fawcett (l), Principal Sharon Lee (r)

Principal Sharon Lee (l), Beverly Outland (r)

Principal Lee must have gone to the “James Brown Communication Academy” because like the singer every gesture…arch of a brow…wiggle of a finger or wave of the hand had a meaning or a message for the throng standing there.  All eyes, young and old were on her and it was a joy to watch her radiate in the moment.  This was a church meeting and standing over the new garden sign like it was her altar, Principal Lee began a call and response routine with the kids.

Principal Lee facing the crowd!

She introduced Misses Outland and Fawcett to the kids.  There were cheers and applause.  She talked to them about the Rock Star Savers program that the credit union was executing on their behalf.  More cheers and a louder applause!  Once again she had the students thank them for the donation that the credit union made in support of the program.  And as she spoke you could see it in the eyes and in the smiles of each and every kid out there, and their parents too.  You could see that they felt important enough for someone to care about them.  On this day they believed that someone believed in them.  That someone that matters showed that they mattered too.  It was my turn to cheer and applaud!

Ribbon Cutting with Principal Lee, Student and Beverly Outlandfrom the left, Beverly Outland, Lisa Fawcett, Principal Sharon Lee and Kristopher Hoemke (Teacher/Remus Robinson Academy)

There are only a few times in ones life you don’t need a picture to hold and capture a moment forever.  I will remember this day for the rest of my life.  Friday, April 29, 2011 was the day that the “good Lord was willin’ and the creek surely did not rise!  Remus Robinson Academy will have their community garden.  Hallelujah and Amen to that!

Do you want to be part of all the fun?  Remus Robinson Academy could use a small group of dedicated volunteers to assist with the gardening program.  Contact the following:

The office of:

Principal Sharon Lee

(313) 866-5500


Kristopher Hoemke

(734) 717-5859


To learn more about the services and programs of Co-op Services Credit Union click here.  Let them know how you feel about this and the other community programs they have embraced.

Project Sweet Tomato, a Nine Below Zero program.  Contact Arthur Littsey at (313) 369-1710 or