Thinking, acting green to help inner-city youths from Bloomfield

The Green Visions Program got its start helping inner-city youths learn career skills and obtain paying jobs with a simple question for Ionia native Michael Philipson, who co-founded the Rochester-based nonprofit Greentopia that runs the program.

How can Greentopia be a good neighbor to the JOSANA neighborhood, which is in the area of Jay and Ames streets in the city of Rochester?

That question eventually led to the formation of the workforce development and training program in 2013 and today is still going strong.

Students of the program tend to a garden growing a variety of flowers in empty lots around the Rochester neighborhood, which are then bundled into bouquets and sold at the Public Market and area Wegmans stores.

It’s an example of community problem-solving that led to the formation of the West Bloomfield Knit Club, which organized the lecture. Hosted by the West Bloomfield Congregational Church off Routes 5 and 20, the lecture was the first in a four-part series designed to spark discussion among members of the community, according to Hank Stone, a member of the group.

The discussion group first started up after the 2016 presidential election, in response to tensions between members of the congregation. A series of meetings soon began to bridge the divide.

“We wanted things on which we could agree,” Stone said.

West Bloomfield also used to be a “hot bed of discussion,” according to Stone, recounting a conversation he had with the church’s pastor, the Rev. Cory Keyes. As a result, the Knit Club began to have a series of conversations in the hope of revitalizing that spirit of community debate.

And that led to the presentation on Greentopia’s workforce program.

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