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MAN Network

4777 East Outer Drive
Detroit, Michigan 48234

Marcell Copeland

By Matthew Lewis
September 11, 2013

Marcell Copeland was sitting in church when he heard the call. Bishop Tony Russell, founder of the MAN Network (Maintaining a Neighborhood), gave a presentation to the congregation to which Marcell belongs about how the Osborn Neighborhood, the rough but engaged community where Marcell lives, did not have to be the way it was. The status quo was not set in stone. "I joined the MAN Network as a volunteer because the presentation was so inspiring," says Marcell.
It was around this same time that Marcell and his family fell victim to one of the big issues that has been destabilizing Osborn over the past five years. "When the foreclosure crisis hit, my family was part of the first wave to be affected," says Marcell. "We had to move into the apartment building across the street from the Matrix Center." All the while, Marcell watched how foreclosure was transforming the neighborhood and reflected on Bishop Russell's words as he volunteered with the MAN Network as a community patroller.
Four months later, he heard the call again. Actually, he read it in the church bulletin. The MAN Network was hiring. He applied for and got the job, where he does a little bit of everything including working as a patrol coordinator, dispatcher, and office administrator in the MAN Network's physical location within the St. John's Providence Hospital building in Osborn.
The MAN Network is an organization of volunteers dedicated to making Osborn a safer place. Community volunteers patrol the neighborhoods in which they live in vehicles and on foot, wearing black t-shirts with the word RESPECT printed on the back. "MAN Network looks like a typical neighborhood patrol, but we take a very community-minded approach," says Copeland.
Part of this community approach is achieved through the MAN Network's participation in the Safe Routes to School program, a national initiative that encourages kids to be healthy and walk to school by stationing adults along the way to ensure a safe passage. MAN Network coordinates with multiple schools in the Osborn area, including Osborn and Denby High Schools and Brenda Scott Academy to patrol those routes.
The MAN Network isn't just for men. "MAN stands for Maintaining a Neighborhood, and everyone plays a role in that. We've got some great women in the MAN network. We want to be inclusive. We figure, wherever there's women, men will follow. When recruiting volunteers, we tell women you'd make a great MAN. They get a kick out of that."
One of Marcell's primary duties is building and maintaining the wide network of residents and organizations that make the MAN Network work. This includes the recruitment and coordination of volunteers like Donald and Robin Hudson, a husband and wife patrol team who live in the Mohican-Regent area of Osborn and are motivated to participate in the MAN Network by the desire to keep the neighborhood safe for their ten grandkids who all attend schools in Osborn.
Copeland must also maintain relationships with grantmakers who fund the MAN Network (patrollers are strictly volunteers, but they are provided with stipends to pay for their gas) and grassroots community organizations, such as the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance, who inform the MAN Network about areas that require special attention from patrollers, as well as steer new volunteers Marcell's way.
The MAN Network also does simple things to build community, such as provide assistance to drivers who break down in the neighborhood. Marcell also runs a summer youth program through the MAN Network that provides mentorship and tutoring to neighborhood kids to keep them sharp while they are out of school. They also feed the kids and host fun activities.
It's simple actions like these that Marcell hopes will do wonders for long-term crime prevention. Policing can only respond to crime, whereas community development can help to ensure that it never happens. "In five years, I see Osborn as being more economically stable and safer as a result of our initiatives," says Copeland. "In ten years, hopefully we can take things a step further and get more innovative with our land use and encourage more diversity in the area."

All photos by Doug Coombe. 

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