Detroit parish breathes new life into community center

St Suzanne The former Don Bosco Hall on Detroit’s west side was rededicated July 21 as the St. Suzanne Cody Rouge Community Resource Center, a nonprofit community center to be run by St. Suzanne/Our Lady Gate of Heaven Parish. Mike Stechschulte | The Michigan Cathlic

Detroit — For nearly a decade, the Don Bosco Hall has been a staple of the Cody Rouge neighborhood on Detroit’s west side, providing families, youths and residents a place of hope and community six days a week.

Operated through a grant from the Skillman Foundation’s Good Neighborhood Initiative, the center has been home to a wide range of services, from early childhood education to economic development and athletic programs, in the 50,000-square-foot, two-story former school building of St. Suzanne/Our Lady Gate of Heaven Parish.

With funding from the Skillman Foundation expiring in 2016, the center recently faced the possibility of closing — taking a vital community resource with it — until parish leadership and a host of community partners stepped up with a plan to save it.

Thus was born the new St. Suzanne Cody Rouge Community Resource Center, which will serve the same mission as the Don Bosco Hall, focusing on creating learning and growth opportunities for children and families centered around the principles of healthy living, sustainability and holistic services. The center will be operated directly by the parish, with support from various community members.

In addition to being home to neighborhood services such as the Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance, Developing K.I.D.S., a City Council District Office, Ready Set Grow 4-H Club, Peeps, and basketball leagues administered by the Barney McCosky organization, the center will add programming for child care, employment training and a touchdown space for social entrepreneurship for those working in budding fields such as green infrastructure.

“Central to all of this is the amazing intersection of the parish’s long-time mission statement ‘to use time, treasures, and talents to serve the residents in this community at this time and place’ with the vision enunciated in numerous community stakeholder documents as well as city and corporate partner planning,” said Steve Wasko, the parish’s minister of Christian service and project director for the center.

In addition, the community center will be the first in the city of Detroit to be part of the Green Light Detroit initiative, which will provide closed-circuit high-definition video monitored by the Detroit Police Department.

Parish leadership, in consultation with various community partners and the Archdiocese of Detroit, developed a business plan that will draw funding from a multiple sources, including grants, gifts, fundraising and leased space, ensuring long-term sustainability.

Deacon Chris Remus, president of the new center’s board of directors, which also includes members of the parish, local businesses and schools, nonprofits and residents, said the center aligns with St. Suzanne/Our Lady Gate of Heaven Parish’s mission to “unleash the Gospel” in the Cody Rouge community.

“It has been an amazing collaboration between a dedicated parish, a loyal neighborhood community, and an ever faithful effort to continue to spread the ‘good news’ and be a witness in the St. Suzanne/Cody Rouge neighborhood,” Deacon Remus said. “What better way than to see our school building filled and bring folks together as the Catholic Church in Detroit has done and continues to do?”

The former 24-classroom St. Suzanne School opened in 1946 and closed as a Catholic school in 2002, yet continues to be an epicenter of activity in the community, Wasko said.

A ribbon-cutting celebration for the newly repurposed center took place July 21, during the parish’s annual outdoor Mass, choir concert and cookout next door.