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Detroiter helps foster relationships to improve her community

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Shirley Burch said "when people come together... you've got a win-win situation."  (Credit: Fox 2 News) Shirley Burch said "when people come together... you've got a win-win situation." (Credit: Fox 2 News)
DETROIT (WJBK) -

A woman connected her local businesses with the community they serve, and together they're making a difference in her Detroit neighborhood.

"How I grew up, everybody cared for their property. Everybody knew one another. It was more vibrant with businesses," said Shirley Burch.

She is determined to bring that back to her Detroit neighborhood, and she has started by focusing on its assets.

A shopping center at Eight Mile and Dequindre is a big one. It has a full-service grocery store, plenty of retail and is undergoing a transformation to become more inviting to shoppers and retailers.

Belmont Shopping Center has been in Tom Petzold's family for 55 years.

"Ms. Burch called me to ask if... she could meet because... she wanted to... host a festival," said Petzold.

Together, they're doing what the City of Detroit cannot. Petzold and business owners partnered with the community and raised half a million dollars to renovate the city park right behind the shopping center.

That sparked even more investment. The Kellogg Foundation donated a state of the art playscape. Miguel Cabrera kicked in $20,000 so the neighborhood's little leaguers would have a quality field. Downtown Detroit powerhouse Quicken Loans helped fund a walking path.

"We wanted to continue to grow where people can come outside, get out of their house, and not be afraid," Burch said.

Belmont Shopping Center donated a space to the Detroit Police Department so it could open a mini station. Burch also created a community partnership with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office. Their hard work has led to a drop in crime and is drawing new businesses like a Coney Island, one of the only sit down restaurants in this northwest Detroit neighborhood.

"Most definitely this is a model for success," Petzold said.

A model that other neighborhoods may want to try, and it all started with one woman determined to build relationships to make a difference.

"Without Ms. Burch, I honestly wouldn't have ever gotten to where I have in terms of understanding the community, respecting the community, and wanting to provide a better property for the community," said Petzold.

"When people come together, build a relationship with business, schools, churches and the police, then you've got a win-win situation," said Burch.

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