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Delores Bennett, pillar of Detroit’s North End, dies

The youth advocate and mentor is one of the few to have a city park named after her while still living

Photo courtesy of Tyson Gersh

Almost every neighborhood has at least one resident who has been around forever and seems to hold the community together. In the North End, many will attest that person was Delores Bennett, who passed away earlier this week.

Known most for her love for her neighborhood’s children, Bennett founded the North End Youth Improvement Council over 40 years ago. The organization uses mentorship, educational assistance, recreational activities and other methods to improve the lives of children in the neighborhood. Through this organization, she founded the Adopt-A-Child Christmas program which afforded holiday gifts to many of the neighborhood’s kids.

A leader in the North End, Bennett was said to be the only person in Detroit to have a park named after her while she was still living. The former Smith Park served as a place where Bennett organized and reached out to many in the community for things like serving free lunches to the kids in the summer.

Tyson Gersh, friend of Bennett and president and co-founder of the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, a nonprofit located in the North End neighborhood, refers to Bennett as the single most important person in the modern history of the North End

“Her priorities were always the well-being of the kids. That was her life. The way that she inspired, mobilized and created a community was really incredible,” Gersh says. Many in the community felt a kinship to her. “I’ve probably met about 100 people that have introduced themselves to me as ‘Mrs. Bennett is my grandma or Mrs. Bennett is my mom or my aunt.’”

Others from the community took to social media to share their memories of Bennett, paying homage to her love for the community.

There will be a public candlelight vigil for Bennett at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12 at Delores Bennett Park on Smith Street. The wake is scheduled for 5-9 p.m. on February 15, and a funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. on February 16, both at Greater New Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Detroit.

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