Neighbors Building Brighmoor began through the creation of the Brightmoor Youth Garden in 2006. Started by Sheila Hoerauf and Riet Schumack as a strategy to fight blight, drug trafficking and prostitution on Grayfield and to provide a healthy space for local children, it evolved into a youth market garden starting in 2007 and 2008. This enabled long term relationships with a group of 12 local youth which in turn kept the kids in school, taught them life skills and gave them their own source of pay. The size of the garden increased from one city lot in 2006 to six lots by late 2009.
In the meantime, through the help of an ever-increasing amount of volunteers and involved neighbors, cleanup of different areas started making a noticeable difference in the neighborhood. New families moved into the neighborhood, new gardens and farms were established and neighbors regained hope and started to take an interest in the renewal.
In 2009, the families involved in the Brightmoor Youth Garden started a non-profit neighborhood organization called Neighbors Building Brightmoor and applied for 501(c)(3) status which was finally granted in January of 2011.
The year 2010 saw a substantial increase in the number of active neighbors and by the Fall of 2010, NBB held their first neighborhood meeting. About 12 households were represented and it was decided that we would have our first annual Harvest Fest at the newly established Curtis Green Pocket Park. On a budget of $80, with in-kind donations from residents and local organizations, we hosted 200 people, 150 from the immediate target area, 100 of those children.
The presence of all the children set the tone for 2011. We were unaware of the number of children living in our neighborhood. This showed how many youth were staying indoors and we set out to change that.
During the summer of 2011, 43 youth from the neighborhood were employed to build the Edible Playscape, the Treedome Park, butterfly and bird gardens, a nature trail connecting Eliza Howell Park and our neighborhood and a walking path joining over 20 existing parks and gardens in our 14 block Brightmoor Farmway target area. We hosted a petting farm and outdoor play day every other Wednesday for six weeks and Art in the Park weekly art projects for younger kids. We continued Brightmoor Youth Garden with 14 kids in attendance, twice a week and once a week taking turns selling produce at the Northwest Detroit Farmers’ Market. We built an outdoor stage and had music performances at our midsummer neighborhood party and at our second annual Harvest Fest.
We organized nature walks along the Eliza Howell Nature Trail for kids and adults and as a crown on the summer a beautiful Kaboom! playground was constructed.
In 2011 we logged over 16,000 volunteer and youth employment hours and forged numerous collaborations with organizations and individuals without whom this level of success could not have been achieved.
NBB has evolved out of these efforts to become a unique organization with a philosophy and strategy different from any other organization in the City of Detroit. We think therein lies our success.