By Danielle Horvath
They say it takes a village to raise a child. So what does it take to
raise a village? Thats the question being asked in Honor, a hamlet of
less than 300 people just a stones throw from Platte River in Benzie
County. Long-known as a sportsmens paradise in 1999, it was voted
Michigans top outdoor sports town by Sports Afield Magazine Honor has
fallen a victim of the economy and is suffering from rural blight, with
empty storefronts, closed businesses, and abandoned buildings.
Doing something about it is Shantel Sellers, who grew up in Honor and
returned home last year to the house once owned by her family after
serving in the military, getting married and having three children.
I have the best memories of growing up in Honor and we decided we wanted
to raise our family here, she says. We have travelled through many small
towns that are doing well and they all face challenges like we have here.
If we can bring people together and provide a place for them to voice
their concerns, their ideas, where we can work together on common goals,
real change can and does happen.
Last year, a grass roots effort started when Sellers and a small group of
residents went to the village council with concerns and ideas for
improvements. Within a few months, they formed the non-profit group HARP
(Honor Area Restoration Project.) They were able to secure a grant from
Rotary Charities to begin the process of bringing the community together
to consider some long and short term goals to help restore Honor to the
bustling, vibrant village it once was, while protecting the natural area
that surrounds it.
In April, the HARP group and the Village of Honor held the first of a
series of Envision Honor Community Vision Workshops which brought
together over 160 people who spent time brainstorming ideas, sharing
concerns and thoughts that could help to revitalize the town. From
preserving the history of the area, to encouraging informed growth and
development to improving streetscapes and organizing paint blitzes, there
was no lack of ideas.
Sellers says the support for their first community workshop surpassed all
our expectations, and it was overwhelmingly positive.
Sellers admits to the many challenges involved in any revitalization
effort and many feel a sense of being overwhelmed and many people are
concerned that their taxes will be raised to pay for the efforts.
That is an absolute detriment to any revitalization effort, she says.
We are in a very fragile economy that is service-based and seasonal; the
last thing anyone wants is higher taxes.
We are working to coordinate benefits, fund-raisers, volunteers, grants,
etc., and increase the tax base through attracting new residents and more
businesses, she adds. We have a USDA grant to extend the sidewalk from
downtown to the shopping plaza, which is a great starting point to make
Honor a walking community, MDOT will be working on US 31 this summer with
highway improvements. Last summer, the township donated space for a skate
park that was built with all donated materials and a small army of
volunteers. Its all about small steps that add up to big improvements.
The HARP group meetings are the first Thursday of every month and open to
anyone interested. For more information, check them out online: