As the memories of turkey, stuffing, cranberries and the Lions’ defeat fade, our gratitude continues to linger. As residents of Grosse Pointe Woods, we are fortunate in so many ways, but sometimes we forget to acknowledge the good will generated by public recognition of accomplishment and commitment. One thing that distinguishes GP from neighboring communities is The Beautification Awards Ceremony, which will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2013. The British poet Keats said “a thing of beauty if a joy forever,” and in these trying times, GPW residents are still spending hours and money to make their landscapes beautiful. The Beautification Awards Ceremony, which is underwritten by the BAC May flower sale, rewards such commitment and perhaps inspires others to keep GPW beautiful.
As co-chair of the 2012 BAC Awards dinner, I was extremely disturbed to see this worthwhile event wrongly characterized as “moronic” and a “lavish, taxpayer-financed food and booze soirée” by a November blog in the Grosse Pointe Patch. Your “hard-earned tax dollars” do NOT pay for this event. The hard work of the BAC volunteers and the annual Mother’s Day BAC flower sale fund an event designed to honor local residents and businesses whose landscapes contribute to the beauty of our city.
I would like to correct three erroneous impressions left by the previous blog.
1. First, to reiterate, this event is neither “moronic” nor paid for by city taxes as untruthfully stated in a recent blog. To make that accusation is to make award recipients feel guilty about being honored. Why would one want to do that?
In May, all fifteen members of the BAC volunteer their time over several days to unload flowers from trucks, to provide excellent customer service to GP buyers, and to deliver pre-ordered flats of flowers to homes. To clarify or state the obvious, as volunteers, we are unpaid. We don’t even get free “leftover” flowers from the Flower Sale in compensation. In fact, approximately 30 percent of the flower-sale profits may be attributed to BAC members who generously support the sale. While the city provides seed money to support BAC expenses for GPW holiday decorations, various plantings throughout the community in medians, around the City Clock, and even in Lakefront Park, the flower sale benefits Grosse Pointe North and underwrites the awards dinner.
2. Seeking to diminish the value of the awards, the blog indicted the mayor for handing out “a blizzard of awards." The event does NOT give out a “blizzard of awards.” Out of the 6500 residences in the Woods, 17 are chosen each year for recognition. That’s about one quarter of one percent of the residences, which metaphorically doesn’t even constitute a sprinkling of snow. Once you’ve won an award, you can’t even be considered again until a decade has passed. Current BAC members, many of whom possess beautiful gardens, are also eliminated from consideration—no nepotism tolerated.
If you’ve ever worked on a landscape, you've easily spent hundreds of dollars a year on perennials, annuals, weed killer, fertilizer and that expenditure does not even include paying for a lawn service if you’re elderly. So why undercut the value of a BAC award by implying someone's efforts are as meaningless as an individual snowflake in a blizzard? Starting in 2012, up to only eight businesses can be honored. This year, GPW business winners ranged from Detroit Custom Framing represented by Jeff and Sherry Allor to Friends’ Nail Salon represented by Theresa Lynn and Sarah Waldmeir.
3. The blog described the event as a “lavish” party in which we “spared no expense.” Such description conjures up images of a Jay Gatsby party, not a simple buffet dinner designed to recognize local residents and businesses for their investment in the community.
In light of cost cutting, we didn’t serve hors oeuvres, fish, carved beef, or any dessert except for cookies. A cake was kindly donated by the Chocolate Bar Café—a cake which was so scrumptious, one might be spared for thinking that we spared no expense. Floral arrangements were donated by the Dried Flower. The open bar was for a half hour before the dinner and briefly after the ceremony. Given that approximately 70 (not a 100) attended, the average cost of liquor consumed per person was around eight dollars—hardly enough to purchase ONE decent wine at Champs. Unless one was a raving alcoholic, it would be hard to take advantage of such a limited open bar. But once again, the city coffers did not pay for the event; the BAC raised the money through the annual flower sale.
Do we need this Awards dinner, the Lakefront Park, the little League parade, the senior citizen picnic, Cook Schoolhouse, and the annual fireworks? Such things are not necessities, but they speak to the spirit of a community, a spirit that defines Grosse Pointe and distinguishes it from neighboring communities. Such events--along with excellent education, great public services, and public safety-- are the reasons many of us agreed to move into a community that may charges higher taxes than others.
Are such amenities important?
The Tipping Point emphasizes how little thing make a big difference. Mayor Giuliani identified the power of the broken window; don’t underestimate the power of the landscaped picture window.
Recent research shows that experiences are what we remember, not slips of paper or certificates. From a business man’s perspective, what is more valuable—to be honored at a Council meeting with a certificate, a meeting attended by only a few loyal citizens or to be honored in front of 70 residents, who might shop at your store because of your commitment to Grosse Pointe?
After he received his award, James Orlando, the grateful owner of Aria, a new hair salon on Mack, said “I intend to plant another column of flowers/boxwoods next year.” His reaction is exactly the kind of publicity that money can’t buy
So let’s ask ourselves do we desire a community that honors residents with such an awards ceremony? Do we believe that the overall appearance of a home can inspire others to keep up with the Joneses? Do we wish to be surrounded by beauty as we walk our Golden Retrievers, Bernese Mountain dogs , Shih-Tzus, or Rescue dogs, a beauty that inspires us to clean up rather than sully the green?
If the answer is “yes,” a memorable awards dinner is a small investment.
Finally, I just don’t understand how someone who attended these events in the past can misrepresent the event. Does the blogger not understand his impact on a GPW audience?
I am loathe to blog, but could not allow slander to masquerade as truth.
Before I was appointed to this commission, I had met the mayor only once—that was in 2005 when I won a Beautification Award. Inspired by my mother, a lifetime gardener, I planted a commemorative, perennial garden in our front yard after her death. We also had the greenest grass on the block—thanks to my husband. When we won the award, we didn’t even know it existed. We almost didn’t make it to Lochmoor Club because of work commitments. But the event was magical—a lovely dinner and a PowerPoint in which our home was described as “meticulously maintained and a perennial wonderland.”
So years later, in 2011, as retirement loomed, I applied to join the BAC commission (fortunately, anyone can apply to fill a vacancy). Applicants are interviewed and recommended by the committees; the mayor makes sure that no scofflaw, who has not paid taxes or water bills, is appointed.
In the last year and a half, I’ve been amazed at the good will and dedication of my fellow commission members, who range in age from their mid-thirties to early eighties. All of them willingly give hours of time because they believe in our community. During this summer’s drought, our Chair Dennis Hyduk even watered the city flowers on the weekend-- when city workers are unavailable—despite his right arm in a sling as a result of a recently torn rotator cuff.
My fellow commission members are truly inspirational, but I am also strongly motivated to give back to the city because of the joy of being honored at the Lochmoor Club.
It is a joy I wish to share with others—that’s why I became the awards co-chair.
So please support your local community by buying your 2013 flowers at the BAC May sale—conveniently timed before Mother’s day. Our flowers are reasonably priced, of excellent quality, and the profits all support Grosse Pointe Woods. We even teach little ones how to sign accompanying Mother’s Day cards in cursive—if they so desire! Check the April GPW Update for updates.