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Romulus Relay for Life has raised more than $130,000 for the American Cancer Society since the first event in 2017. Created to bring the community together to raise money for a much-needed cure and support those who are currently battling cancer, the event has an even deeper meaning for local organizer and Romulus resident Shona Silvey-Baum, whose little sister passed away from breast cancer in 2015.
Shona was born and raised in Romulus. She graduated from Romulus High School before moving away from the city, though she eventually found her way home in 2013. Shona’s little sister, Cindia Hensley, worked as a bank teller at the Comerica downtown for many years. Cindia was well-known and well-loved, and her battle with breast cancer was one the community rallied behind.
In 2014, Shona and Cindia, along with nearly 60 others from the Romulus area, attended the Monroe Relay for Life. While they may have been new to the event, Shona and Cindia’s team made a showing and raised more than $20,000 for the cause.
“Our team was completely new to Relay for Life, but we showed up for my sister and for the cause by raising $20,000, which was a lot of money for a first-time team,” said Shona.
Tragically, Cindia passed away before the sisters could attend another relay together, but the team attended two more events in her memory.
Shona attended her first Relay for Life at the request of her sister, but Cindia had a bigger dream in mind: she wanted to bring Relay for Life to Romulus. Cancer ultimately prevented Cindia from doing so, but Shona loved her sister very much and was committed to bringing the event to their hometown in her honor.
Now in its fourth year, Romulus Relay for Life has raised more than $130,000 and is on track to reach $150,000 after this year’s event, on Friday, Oct. 9 at dusk. The event has partially transitioned to a drive-thru luminary ceremony in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The luminary event will be followed by virtual Relay for Life on Sunday, Oct. 11.
“The Romulus community has been phenomenal to work with over the years,” said Shona. “Despite our differences, we all have been touched by cancer in some way. Raising money for the cause is great, but what’s more important is bringing people together from all walks of life.”
To learn more about this year’s Romulus Relay for Life, please visit http://RelayForLife.org/RomulusMI.
Longtime Romulus resident and City Councilwoman Tina Talley is committed to three things: her faith, family and community. As a Romulus Christian Ministerial Alliance Member and committed public servant, Councilwoman Talley is combining her three biggest passions to help create a thriving community for years to come.
Communities across Michigan have until the end of September to fill out their census to receive critical federal funding over the next 10 years—yet census competition typically relies on significant door-to-door efforts that are difficult to achieve amid the COVID-19 pandemic. To keep census efforts moving forward, Councilwoman Talley immediately got to work implementing unconventional and creative ways to increase awareness and drive census responses in Romulus.
Tapping into a network of local resources, Councilwoman Talley and Jazmine Danci, Romulus’ director of marketing & community development, worked with the community liaison at Wayne County to obtain promotional census materials, such as banners, yard signs, bracelets, t-shirts and flyers. Reviewing census data, Councilwoman Talley then worked with the city’s media director, Roger Kadau, to place yard signs and flyers in areas of the city with lower response rates, with the goal of boosting responses. Roger distributed the yard signs and flyers and Councilwoman Talley drove around the community to identify drop-off locations.
Councilwoman Talley also worked alongside the Romulus City Council to establish “Census Mondays,” allowing city employees to sport their census t-shirts around the office and at Council meetings later in the evening. Councilwoman Talley, alongside the rest of the City Council, has worn her t-shirt and shared census reminders and updates at every Council meeting since August. Given the emphasis on census responses as demonstrated by Councilwoman Talley and others, city employees made sure to end every resident phone call with a reminder to fill out the census.
Combining her commitment to her faith and community, Councilwoman Talley—alongside leading pastors in the Romulus Christian Ministerial Alliance—has organized pop-up prayer events every Thursday in September. The events allow residents to gather in prayer and learn more about the importance of completing the census—all at a safe social distance.
Thanks to the creativity and hard work of Councilwoman Talley and countless others, Romulus’ census self-response rate is 72.8%, higher than the state’s average of 70.7% and the national average of 65.9%. Her efforts will help to ensure Romulus receives the federal funding it needs over the next 10 years to thrive and continue to be a Home of Opportunity for residents and businesses alike.
To learn more about the census and how to complete your response, please visit https://www.michigan.gov/census2020/.
David Paul and his wife, Nancy, have lived in Romulus since 1964. After looking for houses in the area, David and Nancy came upon a new subdivision in Romulus that had everything they were looking for: a good neighborhood, friendly neighbors and space large enough to eventually raise their two sons, Scott and Keith.
Not only are David and Nancy long-time Romulus residents, they have also worked in the city for many years. In 1965, when Romulus was still a township, David was hired by the Water Department as inventory control and eventually worked his way to system director then department director. In 1970, Romulus officially became a city and the Water Department was renamed the Department of Public Works. David retired from the department 37 years later. Nancy worked at the Community United Methodist Church as an administrative assistant for nearly 30 years.
“Nancy and I always loved working and living in Romulus,” David said. “Throughout the years, we were able to form lasting friendships with our neighbors and coworkers.”
Although David is retired from the DPW, his work in the community has not stopped. David has been with the Romulus Planning Commission for more than 30 years and he currently serves as the commission’s secretary.
The Planning Commission reviews and approves new development proposals to ensure they comply with the City Zoning Ordinance. When a new business wants to set up shop in Romulus, their first stop is to check in with the Planning Department, which then reviews and forwards the information to the planning commission. The commission is also responsible for adopting the City’s Master Plan and making recommendations to the City Council on zoning ordinance amendments. In addition to serving on the Planning Commission, David worked on the Tax Review Board, where he would review residents’ tax complaints and concerns.
When he is not busy with the Planning Commission, David and his wife enjoy going to events around the community, like the Pumpkin Festival and Sounds in Downtown. They are also members of the Romulus Athletic Center and are happy it has reopened to the public.
“Romulus is a great community to live and work in,” David said. “You can have a good life here, surrounded by even better people.”
Matthew Raftary has lived in Romulus for more than 30 years. Two things drew him to Romulus: his job as the city assessor and his love for a hometown girl.
Matthew and his wife, Sharon, live in the northwest corner of Romulus on a large acreage property. Although they are only minutes from I-94, I-275 and the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, they love the quaint, country feel of their property.
“I grew up in a subdivision, so I’ve always wanted to live somewhere that felt like the country,” Matthew said. “Romulus is the perfect mix of both—our property is quiet, and we get visits from a variety of wildlife. At the same time, we aren’t far from the city and major expressways.”
While Matthew has lived in Romulus for many years, he has served on the city’s Tax Increment Finance Authority (TIFA) for even longer. Matthew has been with TIFA since its inception nearly 40 years ago.
As a TIFA chairman, Matthew works alongside the rest of the board to encourage economic development, neighborhood revitalization and historic preservation in Romulus. TIFA is permitted to plan and propose construction, renovation, repair and improvements to public facilities through a TIFA Plan that is approved by the board and City Council. TIFA funds these projects strictly through taxes generated by new development as a result of its efforts.
In recent years, Matthew and TIFA have supported a number of infrastructure and revenue-generating developments for the City of Romulus, including the Romulus Athletic Center, the Vining Road interchange and lighting and signage updates on Whickham and Merriman.
“The infrastructure work encouraged by TIFA on Wick and Vining spurred new development and businesses to open shop near the intersection,” Matthew said. “As a result, additional taxes were generated and captured, allowing us to pay off money borrowed for the project and seek new developments.”
TIFA offers improvement projects, like that of the Wick and Vining project, with the goal of visually enhancing Romulus and creating an attractive community for businesses and residents alike. Thanks to the hard work of Matthew and TIFA, Romulus continues to remain a Home of Opportunity.
Nine-year-old Romulus resident Dylan Lowrey loves two things: animals and helping others.
When Governor Whitmer put her stay-at-home order in place, Dylan feared the animals at the Romulus Animal Shelter would be in need of food and supplies—like many of us are during these difficult times.
With help from his parents, Dylan gathered cash donations from members of the community and used the money to purchase an entire truckload of supplies for the shelter. His donation included wet and dry food, treats, toys, cat litter, cleaning supplies, 30 hand-sewn dog beds and pizza for the shelter’s staff.
“Dylan’s mom called the shelter to let us know they would be coming with donations, but we were shocked when we saw the entire truckload of supplies,” said Animal Control Officer Annie Hall. “His donation came at the perfect time. The animals and staff are so thankful.”
Dylan has always had a passion for helping those around him. Two years ago, he raised $900 by playing his guitar in the neighborhood and at local businesses. He used that money to help a single mother buy Christmas presents for her three children—dropping off the gifts, and a hot meal, to their house on Christmas Eve.
Since word got around about Dylan’s first donation, he has raised an additional $1,200 for the Romulus Animal Shelter and is currently planning to drop off another truckload. When Governor Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order expires and more businesses reopen, Dylan plans to place donation boxes at stores around Romulus in order to collect more supplies for the shelter.
During these uncertain times, it’s important to remember that every person has the ability to make a difference in their community—no matter their age. Dylan’s giving heart and love for his community make him the embodiment of ‘Romulus Strong.’
“When I grow up, I want to be a veterinarian or a fire fighter,” Dylan said. “I just want to help everyone around me as much as possible.”
Brian and Michelle Major
Lifelong Romulus residents Michelle and Brian Major embody the phrase “Romulus Strong.” After three long weeks battling COVID-19, Michelle and Brian have fortunately recovered from the virus and are leading healthy lives. Now, they are thanking first responders for their unwavering dedication to the community during these challenging times.
Brian and Michelle have spent the last three years volunteering as chaplains for the Romulus and Westland police and fire departments, along with the Detroit Metro Airport Fire Department. As chaplains, Michelle and Brian are trained to help first responders cope with the stresses of their job. When a department reaches out after a first responder is experiencing stress or trauma, Brian and Michelle show them ways to cope mentally, physically and, if requested, spiritually.
When Brian and Michelle fell ill with the coronavirus, they still found a way to thank and encourage the first responders in the communities they serve: creating 13 hand-made “thank you” signs.
In the throes of COVID-19, the couple would spend time making the signs until exhausted from the virus and forced to take a break. This process repeated itself for several weeks until Michelle and Brian finally recovered from the virus and were healthy enough to spend a day putting up 13 signs throughout Romulus and Westland. The signs were strategically placed near the entrance of the stations, so their words of encouragement are the first thing the police officers and fireman see on their way into work each day.
“We made these signs because we weren’t able to physically be with them during these hard times,” said Michelle. “We also send notes and emails of encouragement to each of the departments.”
Michelle and Brian know how lucky they are as seniors to have both overcome the virus, and they hope their story will encourage others in Romulus to stay positive and remember to thank first responders—those in our community who are often on the frontlines and exposed to COVID-19.
In addition to volunteering as chaplain, Michelle manages Romulus Flowers & Gifts and has plans to join her husband in retirement at the end of the year. Both Michelle and Brian are looking forward dedicating all of their time to their duties as chaplains.
“These first responders are a part of our family,” said Michelle. “I gained brothers and sisters when I became a chaplain for the police and fire departments.”
Mark Lewkowicz’s favorite thing about living and owning a business in Romulus?
“The small town atmosphere and how people in the community members look out for each other. The way Romulus residents care for each other can’t be matched.”
Mark has lived in Romulus since he was nine years old. If you ask him about his favorite memory growing up, he finds it hard to pick just one.
Mark fondly recalls playing in the woods with other children in the neighborhood and enjoying a frozen Coke from Walter’s Drug Store. Mark spent a lot of time browsing model cars at the dime store, L&M Variety, while his mother would shop for items like socks or needles and thread.
But Mark’s favorite memory was watching Merlin Lemmon work the day shift at the interlocking tower that served the Norfolk & Western and Chesapeake & Ohio railroads. He would sit and observe Merlin manually controlling the levers that would switch the railroad tracks, and send telegraphs back and forth to other towers.
“A guy my age shouldn’t know what it looks like to send and receive a telegraph. Maybe my grandparents, but not me,” said Mark. “The interlocking towers were one of the few places still using that method of communication and it was neat to witness. I’ll never forget that, or Mr. Lemmon.”
Mark is a graduate of Romulus High School and went on to earn an associate’s degree in automotive mechanics from Washtenaw Community College, as well as a bachelor’s degree in vocational education from the University of Michigan. Fast forward to 2020 and Mark is married with two adult children. He owns Landis Machine Shop, the oldest continually operating machine shop in Romulus. The company was founded in 1928 by Cleland B. Landis and recently celebrated its 91st anniversary. Mark has worked at Landis Machine Shop on and off since he was a young boy. The shop was purchased in 1979 by Mark and his family.
Mark has also actively served on several city boards and commissions, including the Romulus Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the Romulus Historical Commission. Mark was the Chamber’s Board President from 1992 to 1994 and again from 2014 to 2016. He is now the acting chairman of the Historical Commission.
Mark credits his passion for leading and giving back to his father, John, who believed in community service. John was a member of the Romulus Kiwanis and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), a leader among the Cub and Boy Scouts of America, served as Treasurer and as council member for the Romulus City Council.
David Jones has lived in Romulus his entire life. His parents first moved from Alabama to Detroit. David’s father didn’t like the city life, so the close-knit, rural atmosphere in Romulus’ Jones Sub neighborhood was the perfect place to raise a family. By 1949, David’s family called Romulus home.
“Back then, Romulus was mostly farm land,” David said. “My father raised chickens and planted gardens, and some of our neighbors also gardened and raised other livestock.”
One of David’s fondest memories about growing up in the Jones Sub of Romulus were the community softball games. On Sundays, residents of all ages would gather outside of the TJ Coleman Community Center to play a few afternoon games.
David’s parents have since passed on, but he and his three sisters all still live in Romulus. A lot of classmates and friends still live in the city as well. David likes being able to drive around town and wave to familiar faces – something he feels he wouldn’t be able to do elsewhere.
His wife Joyce has always called Romulus home, too. David and Joyce have been married for 38 years, but they have known each other much longer. They first met in kindergarten at Beverly Elementary School and started dating several years after high school. David and Joyce have three adult children and 10 grandchildren.
Although he is retired now, David remains active in the community. He is president of the Romulus Athletic Boosters, runs the concession stand at high school basketball and football games. For many years, he coached little league and high school football. David volunteers through St. John’s Lodge #44. He is also a member of Mount Olive Baptist Church of Romulus where he servers as co-chairman of the Deacon Board, a member of the male chorus, and part of the transportation ministry.
He volunteers at events such as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Walk and Celebration and helps stuff backpacks with school supplies in August for St. John’s Lodge #44 Youth Day.
“Whatever Romulus needs, I’m always happy to help,” David said.
We are grateful to have passionate residents like David spend their entire lives in the city we call home.
Taylor Johnson not only lives in Romulus, she helps others find their dream home in our community, too. Taylor is a REALTOR® at RE/MAX Cornerstone and she enjoys selling homes in Romulus because she knows firsthand the type of small-town, welcoming community Romulus offers residents of all ages.
“I tell interested homebuyers that living in Romulus is one of the best decisions they could make because our city has so much to offer when it comes to affordability, land and community activities,” Taylor said. “A lot of people who move to Romulus spend their entire lives here, and I think that speaks to it being such a great city and place to live.”
Taylor attended Romulus Public Schools through middle school before moving to Detroit in 2003. In 2009, Taylor and her mom moved back to Romulus because they wanted to be close to family. She says moving back was an easy decision.
When Taylor isn’t working, she spends her time giving back to our city. Taylor has been a member of the Romulus Garden Club since 2017, and through the club she has played a vital role in the beautification of the community. The garden club plants garden beds at the Romulus Senior Center, works with Boyscouts of America and assists the Parks and Recreation Department with upkeep of the city’s many parks. Taylor was appointed to the Beautification Committee in 2019 and volunteers with the Romulus Housing Commission’s Resident Engagement Committee.
Growing up, Taylor’s favorite pastime was sitting on the hood of her parents’ car with friends to watch the fireworks from Romulus Middle School.
Meet Jessica Workman, a 25-year Romulus resident and a Romulus Community Schools graduate. Jessica grew up in a military family and when her dad retired from the army, her family moved back to Romulus to live closer to her grandparents.
After graduating from Romulus High School, Jessica went on to study political science at The University of Michigan-Dearborn. When it came time to taking the next step in her life and purchase a home, Jessica knew Romulus was the city where she wanted to plant her roots.
“Affordability is an issue with people my age and that’s why many of us live with our parents or rent instead of buying a home. After looking in surrounding communities, I quickly learned that home ownership is possible for young people in Romulus and that’s a big reason why I moved back.”
During work hours, Jessica is the vice president of member experience at Advantage One Credit Union in Brownstown. In her spare time, Jessica gives back to the city of Romulus through leadership and service. Jessica sits on the Planning Commission, where she helps bring new business to the city and is a voice for current businesses. She also works with Director of Fire Services & Emergency Management Kevin Krause and Director of Public Services Bob McCraight to help local veterans with the Romulus Veterans Outreach Coalition.
Jessica embraces the slogan “Home of Opportunity” at her core and we are proud to have a passionate, young professional like her living in and giving back to our community.
“There is so much opportunity for young people like me to get involved in the community and enact real change. People in Romulus are willing to listen to the younger generation and I don’t think that’s always true in other cities.”