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Posted on Mon, Jun 13, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

Ypsilanti community pitches in to help 97-year-old woman tear down garage, avoid city fines

By Tom Perkins

For several months, Helen Marshall received notices and citations from the city about the deteriorating garage behind her Harriet Street home near Ypsilanti’s Parkridge Community Center.

A blight court date came and went, but the 97-year-old resident didn’t understand what the notices meant. She has lived at the house for 68 years and has few relatives left in the area to help with the issue.

Finally, after receiving several letters and tickets from the city, she contacted her pastor at the Saint Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Ann Arbor.

The pastor alerted Washtenaw County Commissioner Ronnie Peterson and Ypsilanti City Council Member Ricky Jefferson to the woman's situation, and on Sunday, a team of volunteers tore down the garage and began removing debris from Marshall’s property.


Arm of Honor member and Eastern Michigan University student Adam Madar breaks up debris with a sledgehammer.

Tom Perkins | For

Jefferson said he and Peterson met with City Manager Ed Koryzno, ordinance officer Frank Daniels and several others to discuss how to resolve the situation and avoid a similar issue in the future.

“She wasn’t aware of how things worked and she never answered any of the notices of violation — she had no idea about it,” Jefferson said. “She was in a situation where, at her age, she didn’t have the ability to take care of it.”

Leonardo Christian contacted the Arm of Honor fraternity house, which is made up of Eastern Michigan University students. They offered their labor for a Sunday afternoon, and Ryan Williams, who arranged the plan with Christian, said his group simply wanted to help out an elderly resident.

“She didn’t seem to have a lot of money, and we knew she couldn’t do it. We’re a big group of young guys, and this is the kind of thing that we’re here for,” Williams said.

Leonardo also secured a financial donation that paid for an industrial trash container for disposal of the debris, as well as lunch for the Arm of Honor group. Ypsilanti resident John Brown also pitched in resources and helped pull down the garage with his truck.

The ticket ordinance officers wrote was for $200, but assistant city manager April McGrath said the fee and ticket would be waived upon completion of the garage’s removal.

“One of the strengths of our neighborhood is when we realize there’s a problem, we come together and address it,” Jefferson said.

Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for Reach the news desk at 734-623-2530 or



Tue, Jun 14, 2011 : 10:51 p.m.

Good that she reached out to her Pastor! I wonder how many elderly need to be connected to those of us who are willing to help?


Tue, Jun 14, 2011 : 12:22 p.m.

Young men that are frat members are usually good guys --- just crazy at that age-- good job guys!


Tue, Jun 14, 2011 : 10:57 a.m.

And another great story about Ypsilanti folks helping others...... <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

John A2

Tue, Jun 14, 2011 : 4:33 a.m.

Finally some good news from Ypsilanti TWP. I appraise the people that pitched in and did something God intended for us to do, and that is to care for everyone especially those who're in need. Good job and God bless you all.


Tue, Jun 14, 2011 : 12:34 p.m.

It was Ypsilanti City. Not the Township.

John A2

Tue, Jun 14, 2011 : 4:43 a.m.

OH, one more thing, have a drink on me.


Tue, Jun 14, 2011 : 2:01 a.m.

This shows the true meaning of the word &quot;neighbor&quot;. A hearty thank you to all who helped Mrs. Marshall.

Chandelle German

Tue, Jun 14, 2011 : 12:09 a.m.

Its nice to read about something nice in the news and to see there are still good people out there. :)

David Briegel

Mon, Jun 13, 2011 : 11:30 p.m.

The very same frat boys that are known to &quot;tear it up&quot; on a Fri or Sat night have now been responsible for &quot;tearin' it up&quot; on a Sunday for a good cause. Good on you Arm of Honor!! might wish to identify Leonardo Christian, and Ryan Williams.


Mon, Jun 13, 2011 : 11:08 p.m.

Though would never tell anyone this, Ypsilanti has a hundred times more good people than bad. It is sad that more stories in don't reflect this. Mr. Christian, a very caring person who does much to help the disadvantaged, is certainly one of these good and very special people. Come visit the stores, the restaurants, the festivals, the many organizations who do so much to promote Ypsilanti and see for yourself ... good people in Ypsilanti through and through!


Mon, Jun 13, 2011 : 10:46 p.m.

Great job by the frat brothers and other members of the community!! Very heartwarming indeed.


Mon, Jun 13, 2011 : 10:13 p.m.

That is a wonderful story. Thanks to the fraternity guys...very thoughtful! It is heartwarming to see that folks are helping out an elderly person instead of them being forced out of their home. The more we can do to let people stay in their homes in later years, the happier they can be. Thank you to all involved. Proud moment for Ypsilantians.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Jun 13, 2011 : 10:03 p.m.

Maybe they could take down the Thompson block next to help Mr. Beal avoid any more &quot;fines&quot;?