Meeting Notes for Feb 14: Tiny Houses

The luncheon meeting opened with a gentle ringing of the Rotary bell by President John. A lusty “Star-Spangled Banner” followed, after which Amy Goodman came forward to deliver the Inspiration. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” Amy began. “This is the day when one billion dollars’ worth of chocolate is sold world-wide; a billion Valentine’s cards are sent through the mail, and at least that many long-stemmed roses are given to loved ones. Everyone here is a valentine!” asserted Amy, taking in the whole room. She concluded with a direct, fundamental truth: “Love that’s not expressed doesn’t really exist.”

Dueling maestros then took the podium: Jim Irwin as song leader, and President John, smartly dressed in a textured crimson vest and bow tie, on piano. “Two years ago, President John, wearing the same outfit, flew to Washington to propose to Ruthie,” Jim explained as John acted the tableau on bended knee before Ruthie – “and she accepted!” Much cheering and clapping followed, filling the room.

Jim then provided a humorous prelude to the first song. “We’re going to sing Dean Martin’s signature song, which, if you remember, Dean would often sing while (seeming) drunk, when you could do that sort of thing.” He began the first verse: “When an eel lunges out, and grabs you by the snout, that’s a-moray!” After the typical groans and laughter, Jim and John began “Rotary Valentines,” a blend of Deano’s 1964 mega-hit, “Everybody Loves Somebody,” with rap lyrics composed by Jim. Here’s the second rap verse: We’re in this Club called Ro-ta-ry, and it’s a las-ting co-ter-ie, Of men and wo-men friends that do just fine. We’re lov-in’ what we do here, and love is co-min’ through here, Let’s say we’re all each other’s Va-len-tine!

John, shifting from piano bench to podium, declared: “We have so many visitors today that I can’t ask them all to stand up individually.” By way of compensation, the full Anderson Room welcomed the guests by erupting in lusty applause.

Survey Committee chair Amy Kilbourne then announced the imminent release of the next flash survey. “Later today you will receive the next installment of the flash survey, began Amy. “It’s just a few questions. Please answer them. We’ve been getting a very good response to the flash format.” Members showed Amy their appreciation for the new, shorter version (and pertinent questions) by cheers and clapping.

John reiterated his call for a host family for a Huron High School student athlete. She will need a new situation by March 1. “Mary Jean Raab is leading our search in this, so please contact her if you are interested in hosting this student.”

Burt Voss reminded the members that the next Rotary meeting at Glacier Hills will take place this Friday, February 16. “If you come by 9:45 a.m., you can get coffee and cookies,” Burt added cleverly; cookies and coffee being, of course, the universal clincher.

Marsha Chamberlin spoke next. Representing the Branding/PR Committee, Marsha urged members to submit announcements and other timely information for publication in the new online website: “I need the practice [of posting], so send me stuff!”

Speaker: Ed Wier on Tiny Houses

President-elect Greg Stejskal delivered a great introduction to Ed Wier, our speaker: “Rotarian Ed Wier will be sharing information on this innovative low income housing development in Detroit that utilizes the ‘Tiny House’ design concept. Working with Cass Community Social Services and Rev. Faith Fowler, Ed will share how Rotary helped connect him with the project, the design philosophies of the Tiny House movement, and provide a behind the scenes look at this creative approach to affordable housing in Detroit.”

Greg went on to describe Ed’s background at the U-M: “[He] graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Architecture in 1983 and continued on earning a Master of Architecture in 1985.” At one point, Ed worked for a firm with offices above Pizza Bob’s, a popular restaurant. “We had that in common,” Greg explained, adding “because I arrested Pizza Bob.” The laughter was so spontaneous, it shook the window panes. “He also built a home for Brady Hoke, which didn’t work out that well as a long-term house.” After describing Ed’s fabulous reputation as an architect specializing in new homes, home additions, and small commercial and municipal projects, Greg mentioned that Ed came to Rotary through sponsorship by his friend, Al Storey.

“It’s an honor for me to be here to describe the Tiny House project in Detroit,” Ed began. His initiation into the project came last spring, at the World Peace Conference: “Norm asked me to be a room monitor [for one of the break-out session speakers]. All the speakers seemed great, and I would have been happy to act as monitor for any one of them, but I chose the Rev. Faith Fowler…Beth Fitzsimmons introduced us, saying that I was an architect.” That was all it took, for the next thing Ed knew, he was assisting Rev. Fowler in the planning of Tiny Houses for people getting back on their feet. “She knew what she wanted, and asked me to design in the Victorian style,” Ed pointed out. This immediately presented a design challenge. “Normally we think of the Victorian style as large houses – like Queen Anne, with wrap-around porches, shingles, and plenty of gables.” He described how he pared down the style to fit the 250-450 square foot range while maintaining its essential aspects, like peaked roofs and bay windows.

“The houses are located at the intersection of Richton and Monterrey, near the Lodge [Rt. 10] Freeway,” Ed stated. He emphasized the commitment of Rev. Fowler and her organization, Cass Community Social Services, to providing affordable single-family housing to people who “are formerly homeless, senior citizens, young people just out of foster care – the people are employed and also volunteer at Cass, and also serve on the neighborhood watch.” They must abide by the ‘rent-then-own’ agreement, which is the way Fowler prefers to describe it. “It’s great to see a neighborhood created,” as she says in a video Ed played, which also featured his fascinating interview with PBS.

“Why Detroit?” Ed asked rhetorically. “It has a lot of land, and it isn’t expensive. It’s a pilot program, and it will be tweaked as time goes on.” New house models are being built, with architects from around the country contributing designs, observed Ed. But the overarching goal – “Creating home ownership for people as a way to escape poverty!” Bravo, Ed.

After the tumultuous applause, John thanked Ed, and reminded us of JET: “Join leaders; Exchange ideas; Take action. The meeting is adjourned!”


Administrator’s Notes by John White

Weekly Meeting Statistics

On Valentine’s Day, a total of 95 “Hearty” Rotarians learned about “Tiny Houses” from architect extraordinaire and all-around sweetie Ed Wier. We also one two visiting Rotarian (B. Yawson of Ann Arbor North) and thirteen guests. Before lunch, there were meetings of the STRIVE Committee and a subset of the Membership Committee (a total of eight Rotarians).

Makeup Cards for Roving Rotarians

None this week.