Worth more than words

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Storytelling WORKS. Social media WORKS.  The combination of the two presents an opportunity to dramatically amplify the stories of the best your community has to offer. 

The Kid's Got SWAG

“My original dream was to be the next Steph Curry, but my mom told me just in case that doesn’t work out, I needed a Plan B.
Then I thought that maybe I could do something in sports journalism…so I could talk about how good Steph Curry is.
But then I realized there’s a lot more than basketball going on in the world and that I have more to talk about than just sports, and that’s when I decided to create my own magazine.
First, I had to choose my name. It was either ‘Someone Who Admires God’ or ‘Students With A Gift’. From the beginning, I knew that I wanted other kids my age to help with the magazine because I think it’s important to get our voices out there – kids have a lot to say, too, so “Students With A Gift” fit perfectly.
After I picked my name, I got an EIN, applied for an LLC, set up my business checking account…and then The Swag Magazine was born.
The magazine talks about things like sports, politics, COVID, entertainment, and money tips (so kids can get out of their parents’ pockets). We talk about things adults talk about, but it’s all from the perspective of a teenager.
To me, a great magazine is one with writers who are honest, put their voices out there, give opinions and tell great stories. I write most of the articles myself, but had Pastor Elvins write the chicken nuggets article and the health tips were written by Dr. Marche’ T. Smith. I recently brought Carly Anderson on board as a writer, too, because I know her and what she’s good at, and she’s very capable of what I want to do with SWAG.
Next month, I have a story on my great-grandfather, Pastor James Dorsey, and his escape from the South to go to the North to better provide for his family. Even though there was a bounty on his head, he still went back to get his family so they could all have a better life. Along with his story, we’ll have other stories of unsung heroes in Black history so they can get the recognition they deserve.
In the future, I see SWAG as a network with something like ‘Sandy’ over here talking about politics and then handing things off to ‘Jackson’ with the sports.
To be a good journalist, you have to know your facts, have an honest opinion, and try to be unbiased. But overall, I just want to show people that no matter what you look like or how old you are, you can get your voice out there.”
– Julian Morris, age 13, The Swag Magazine

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More Than Haircuts

“I’m a Saginaw guy, born and raised. Graduated from Arthur Hill in 1980. Spent two years at Delta, was accepted at Jackson State University, then went back to SVSU to get my Masters in Organizational Leadership and Administration.

I worked 10 years as a district court probation officer in the City and then became a mental health administrator for Saginaw County Mental Health. Eventually, I retired from Saginaw County Mental Health after 20 years at the age of 55.

About a month before I retired, I walked into this building to buy a hat. The woman who owned the store told me she was looking to sell. So I put all my other post-retirement plans away because I saw something that I could do here that would actually benefit my city, my community, and the neighborhood I grew up in. My mom still lives right down the street, you know?

I thought about her store closing and the clothes people couldn’t get. Then the barbershop idea popped into my head. So we shut the store down, put in the shop, and started looking for barbers.

I wanted to provide an opportunity for young barbers here in this city, just starting out in the game. You know, they’re young, they’re hungry, very talented barbers.

The barbershop is in the front, the clothes are in the back. We call it “grab and go urban wear.” So you can come in and get a cut, grab some clothes, and go.

When I started to formulate this idea, I heard all the time, “Man, I don’t see what you’re trying to do here.” But moving down the road, it became clearer to everybody.

I wanted to sell more than haircuts and clothes. All these sports pictures on the walls? These are all local guys. Everybody on these walls is from Saginaw. They went to Saginaw schools, lived in our neighborhoods. When kids come in, it starts a conversation that shows them all the talented people that have come out of this city. They grew up in the neighborhoods our kids are growing up in now, and that with hard work, focus, and determination, that kind of success is possible.

In the back, I’m collecting pictures of people who aren’t in sports but are excelling in their professions. Lawyers, judges, entrepreneurs, entertainers, trade workers.

Hard work, determination, and a plan breeds success. When kids come in here and see these individuals on the wall, an ideal gets planted. They can say, ‘I can be a doctor. I can be that CEO. I can be the owner of a successful business.’

We’re selling more than haircuts and clothes – maybe we’re selling dreams.”

– Greg Carter, owner of 

Thread 128

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9 to 5

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“A long time ago, in 1933, I was born in Tokyo, Japan. I told you the year I was born because that means I experienced World War II. I was a little girl, but I watched. There was no television, no computer, just radio, and the city was all taken over by the military.

I was in fifth grade when the bombing of Tokyo happened. They knew it was going to be bad, I guess, we were warned, and the Empress ordered us to evacuate all the elementary school children. I had to leave for about one year. About a year later the war was over. I came back to Odawara because my family moved while I was gone. Odawara was my mother’s hometown and that’s where the rest of my education was done.

After my schooling, I applied for a job in the American Army because I had to work. My parents died when I was really young but I liked to study English in school. So, I applied, had an interview and I was hired. I was working in the United States Petroleum Depot Headquarters. I was stationed as the Secretary to Captain Ash at the Quality Control Department.

I was very young and I’m sure a lot of the things I did were inadequate, but they were very kind. I did have an awful time on the telephone because I never talked to Americans before, but it only took about one year and I was comfortable.

My husband, meanwhile, was brought up in Saginaw and graduated law school. As soon as he graduated, he was drafted. He was sent to Japan and came to our building. We met and got to know each other. He proposed and brought me here to Saginaw in October 1957. I have been in Saginaw since then. I’ve never lived in any other place, besides Japan. Saginaw is my only home here in the States.

After World War II, President Eisenhower said he’d seen enough destruction and misery through the war. That we should never have war in this world, and in order to do that we have to understand each other, get to know each other, then we can prevent war.

He came up with the Sister City and People to People program. Communication directly, from people all over this country to people all over that country without going through the government. The whole world, and people everywhere would want the same thing because all people are human beings.

I think if you don’t understand, you will have fear. Thinking “What are they doing? Why do they do that?” But, if you understand why, and understand what kind of thinking they have, you could create better relations and that’s much better than war.

President Eisenhower said, I’m a five star General, and I want to tell the people that I want peace. So he says, I would like to be remembered as a man of peace, not the five star general.

The People to People and Sister City programs laid the foundation for the garden and the tea house and still exist today.”

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Little Jake

“My first job outside the family business was in sales. I sold shoes and men’s wear from Toledo to Saginaw.
One day, I got a call from my father who said he wanted me to join him in a venture. I did, and took a 70% pay cut. But with the anticipated success of that venture, I then would have the capital to start my own business.
That was 1973 in the days of disco. The air was dirty and it was a very unique time. We had a nightclub called The Fortress which is now currently the Panda House restaurant. Then in 1975, I opened my own nightclub in Bay City called The Fortress North.In 1975, there were seven nightclubs in the area. By 1978, there were 17.
By 1980, there were two, and I wasn’t one of them.
When you lose everything, you get a wake-up call…and then you can either be a victim or get up and do something.
I went to work for a remodeler and my job was to sell kitchens and cabinet refacing. I didn’t know a doggone thing about kitchens or cabinet refacing, but I had a family to feed. I was a straight commission salesman which is almost like being unemployed, so I decided to venture out on my own.
We started a cabinet shop and it became successful. But then the bottom dropped out again. Once again, I got a call. My father had a little bar on the South side of Saginaw that was damaged during the demolition of an adjacent building. The city demanded that he be vacated and they were going to give him nothing for his building or his business.
So I negotiated. We didn’t get a lot, but greater than they initially offered because we promised we would take that money and reinvest it back into the city.
In my search for properties, I ran across an old fire station on the corner of Bay and Court. We bought it and opened a pub called “Nines”.
In the language of the firefighters, they called their building the plural of the station number. So Station #5 was “Fives”. This building was Station #9.
It was also the ninth business my father and I had started in the City of Saginaw. The license plate issued to me randomly was “NYN 909”. The antique art deco mirrors from the bar that was demolished had nine rays of sun on them. There was only room for nine barstools and the building could fit 69 people.
It was a small place, but extremely successful. I shared in that success with my father and found a new love. I had big dreams. The building Jake’s is in now came up for sale in 2001. I purchased it and then the events of September 11th happened. The world changed. In this business, there’s a substantial failure rate and banks don’t like restaurants in good times. Those weren’t good times. The money wasn’t available and we had to pause the project.
I used that time to really think about what I wanted to do. I wanted to respect the historical value of the building, so I started doing research at the Saginaw News and the Historical Society about the buildings, the district and the community.
I kept running across the name “Little Jake”.
He was 4-foot-11, 110 pounds. A Jewish immigrant that came from Germany to Detroit, then Flint, then Saginaw where he became very well known. A consummate entrepreneur, a marketing genius.
There was no historical significance to calling it ‘Paul’s’, so we called it ‘Jake’s'”.

– Paul Barrera, Sr., Co-owner

Jake’s Old City Grill

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The Lee Mansion

How does a 28-year-old start begin the journey of redeveloping a 131-year-old mansion in downtown Saginaw?
“It really began with me hating Saginaw, and wanting to get away from here,” says Alex Mixter, the man leading The Lee Mansion Restoration Project. “So I moved away.”
Mixter says that the impulse to “get out of town” and move 300 miles away came from feeling disconnected from his hometown, and so he began working on the documentary Re: Saginaw.
“I was trying to find the good things because I was tired of hearing all the bad things,” he says.
During the project, Mixter then moved another 1000 miles away to Denver but was becoming even more connected to Saginaw.
“I met Bill and Kevin who did the amazing restoration of the Wolfarth House Landmark & Historic Home,” he says, “and just being there does this kind of thing to you – the inspiration of ‘Wow, these houses can be incredible.’”
That’s when Mixter found out there were plans to tear down the Lee Mansion.
“There’s a real beauty to historic places, an intangible element,” he says. “There’s a mythology around this house. To see the community response to the project, to see the way that people have reacted to and supported the project – it’s something the people of Saginaw wanted to see happen.”
After the demolition of the house was proposed, around 25 volunteers went to the Mansion on a Saturday to paint plywood, pull weeds, and cut the grass – doing anything to make the property more presentable to the city.
“Then we thought, ‘What if we let them inside?’” says Mixter.
From near-demolition to near-completion, Mixter’s goal with the Mansion to create a place to celebrate all things Saginaw.
“Growing up, there were two Saginaw t-shirts I remember,” Mixter says, “One of them was a soccer shirt that had the Saginaw logo on it, and the other was a shirt with a smoking gun and a couple of bullet holes that said, ‘Come back to Saginaw, we missed you the first time.’ We’re beyond that now and it’s time to have pride in Saginaw again.”

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