freighthouse helper

The Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse have applied for a $15,000 grant through Hamburger Helper’s My Hometown Helper program. The funds, if they’re awarded, will be used to make repairs to the once vital Freighthouse, which has been closed for the past several years on account of safety issues. Since the inception of the My Hometown Helper program, Hamburger Helper has aided 53 communities, awarding over $232,000. In hopes that our project is among those selected this funding cycle, Ypsi residents are being encouraged to leave notes of support on the Hamburger Helper site. At last count, we had 233 comments. The deadline, in case you would like to leave one, is March 31.

Even if you don’t sign, I’d recommend that you go over and read what your fellow Ypsilantians have to say about the historic railroad building, and what it’s meant to them. The stories of attending dances and weddings there, going back several generations, are quite touching. If there was ever any question that the Freighthouse was an integral part of our local community, this should erase any doubt.

The $15,000, if we get it, is only a fraction of the $300,000 in repairs that have been estimated, but it would be a fantastic step in the right direction, and, hopefully, it would encourage all of us to do more. I know there are a lot of good people working on this, but it’s frustrating that we can’t seem to make any real headway. The last big fundraiser that I’m aware of was the Preservation Ball, which took place on February 19, 2005 — over three years ago. We can’t, as a community, allow this to go another three years. I know it might sound like hyperbole, but the success of our town hinges on this beautiful, old community gathering space. When it’s up and running, it illustrates all that’s good about our City, and we can’t afford to lose that now.

And, lest anyone worry, I’ve been assured that, in the event that we receive this money, we will not have to change the name of the building to the Hamburger Helper Freighthouse. We may, however, have to nail a smiling, white, four-fingered oven mitt to a rafter somewhere.

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  1. Ground Chuck
    Posted March 24, 2008 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    Just tell me how much ground chuck I need to buy so I don’t have to listen to five hours of fucking banjo.

  2. Ed
    Posted March 25, 2008 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    I don’t know why they call it Hamburger Helper. It does just fine by itself.

  3. Kirk
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    The FOYF website seems to not have been updated since 2005 or 2006. It is still talking about 60K to re-open and 45K to renovate. Where does the 300K estimate come from? Is it for enough safety repairs to re-open or to also renovate? Anyone know?

    I sent an e-mail to the FOYF asking this same question but have not heard back yet.

  4. egpenet
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    As an historic property (the Freighthouse is in the HDC and listed on the Michigan Register of Historic Places), an independent and very thorough C.A.R. (Condition Assessment Report) was paid for by the FOYF in order to have the Freighthouse issues detailed and budgeted. The entire report is available at the following link:

    The FOYF website is down and being revised. More information than you can imagine will be available at the April 5 “Fullfreight Banjo” Freighthouse Benefit at the CB (5P-10P). Be there or not.

  5. Kirk
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I’m sure all reading your comment will feel welcome.

  6. schutzman
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    The FOYF website is down


  7. Ted
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Where did the money go that was raised at the Preservation Ball?

  8. schutzman
    Posted March 27, 2008 at 6:15 pm | Permalink


  9. mark
    Posted March 27, 2008 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Was that the sound of this thread running someone over?

  10. Posted March 27, 2008 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Depending on the speed of the thread it would either sound like:

    bump bump




  11. egpenet
    Posted March 27, 2008 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    The mission of the FOYF since its formation is to fund and direct the restoration of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse. Once opened, the city or some othwer civic organization will manage it. And the FOYF will continue to raise funds for a longterm endowment, if you will.

    I’ve been told that most of that $17-18K went to partially match a grant to pay for the C.A.R. (Condition Assessment Report) which was performed under the direction and guidance of the Seate of Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Office … a good deal went for other building repairs … electrical, security system, utilities, etc. Any balance went into savings.

    In the meanwhile, other expenses have been met to maintain the building, even as it is closed. For instance, volunteer help (with some expenses) served to replace a failed beam, remove clutter and trash and to scrub the interior … all of which was done prior to last year’s Heritage Fstival.

    FYI there has been an almost 100% turnover of the volunteer FOYF Executive Board … and in the process … all of the records, financial and otherwise, have beeen reviewed and spreadsheets of all transactions tracked and balanced with the banking account. All seems to be in order.

    Thanks to ongoing donations, the savings has grown, although it’s nowhere close to the total needed to completely stabilize the exterior, the foundation, drain the site, rebuild the decking, and renovate the interior.

    Most, if not all, board members will be at the April 5 benefit, and will be happy to answer any questions.

  12. schutzman
    Posted March 27, 2008 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    mark- i apologize for the possible breach of nettiquite; A “bump” is more typically found in discussion forums, and its purpose is to bring an old thread back up into visible range.

    john on forest- comcast thinks i’m a spammer, so i’m unable to email you, but your wife’s site has been added to the links page. thanks.

    egpenet- website?

  13. egpenet
    Posted March 27, 2008 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    With more important things to do than maintain a pretty picture website with no ongoing schedule of activities … the board has let the webpage to go down. The domain name has been paid for and can be resurrected at any time.

    With any luck, we’ll have the site up and running again this Spring or Summer heading into Heritage Festival. There are plans in the works to do just that.

    It would be ideal to win the two grant applications that are out there, snag a few more grants, corral a major foundation or donor and get going on the primary tasks at hand.

  14. schutzman
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    You have two scheduled events that could be listed, a mission statement, modern and historic photos, past news items, general F.A.Q., specific plans for renovation, grants you’re applying for, who the board members and officers are, and how to contact them.

    Most importantly, the FOYF have a need for money. The existing site had a functional paypal interface for the purpose of making donations. Instead, you’re leaving comments on mark’s blog and telling people to send checks to your wife. What percentage of those people who ‘would’ have made a donation since the site went down do you honestly think are reading your comments here? How much money has FOYF potentially lost as a result?

    Following the long stall of the last umpteen months, it would seem that things– like 1) Letting the public know the FOYF even still exists, 2) what their plan is, and 3) How John and Jane Doe can help– would be rather fundamental first steps towards success.

    NOT maintaining the existing website (for which code was already written, everything was put in place, and (as you said) the domain is still registered) seems frankly bizarre and suicidal to me.

  15. Posted March 28, 2008 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    Ground Chuck,

    The next fundraiser we have planned is Fullfreight Ukulele, I leave it to your musical tastes to decide which to support.

    I understand that Sidetrack is also organizing a May 13 benefit for the freighthouse.

    Given the choice between ground meat or the banjo, I’m conflicted. I find both, delicious. I think your tastes may run to one, but I hope many in town will find an appetite for both.

  16. Ol' E Cross
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 1:35 am | Permalink


    In one sense, of course, you’re right. Things could be better done than they are by a group of volunteers. (In theory, of course, anybody could do anything better than it’s being done.)

    Although my tendency is to recoil at such sentiment, the light something vs. curse stuff is beginning to find resonance. What I’m saying is, if a fellow as tech-able as you or myself offered to help a less-tech FOYF crowd get their stuff online, it’d be online today. Problem solved.

    From my experience, they are, all in all, good folk. None of them will get a dime from the effort they expend. They pour what they can into the Freighthouse effort. They welcome help. If you see a problem, raise your hand, take a step, and mend it.

  17. egpenet
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    OEC hit the spike into the tie … so to speak.

    The past board members and those there now are into the brick and mortar and financing, plus grant writing and volunteer staffing.

    We blog here and can see all kinds of possibilities. As I said, the plan is to resurrect or create a site that can function, as you recommend. Right on, bro’!

  18. schutzman
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Ol’ E Cross,

    The main point with the website is that it was already done – for free – by just such a competent volunteer, and only needed to be maintained.

    It doesn’t sound like technical issues were preventing such from happening, incidentally, but rather that it was looked at as a “pretty picture website” that someone(s) decided was not worth maintaining. I disagree strongly with that opinion.

    As for raising my hand and helping, I should probably clarify that I already did, as did a lot of other people with MUCH more valuable skills than mine (most of whom wisely jumped ship before the “almost 100% turnover of the volunteer FOYF Executive Board” egpenet inscrutably mentions), and (if I may speak generically on their behalf), we’re not interested in touching the FOYF with a ten foot pole, if it’s being run the way it was.

    “Everybody loves the Freighthouse.”

    With the possible exception of Dennis Dahlmann, I think that statement is pretty much universally true, and so any criticisms or questions I, or others, might raise are an extension of that very fact, and shouldn’t be dismissed as vitriol if the community really wants to see it reopen.

  19. egpenet
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Hey, Shootz:

    Disagreeing with your own assumptions about the FOYF website is very healthy.

    100% turnover of a volunteer Executive Board since 1995 is nothing to be ashamed about. There are many others who have remained and beeen of great and consistent help.

    I am sure the Board will welcome geeky volunteers to mount a new website. What they don’t want are pretty pictures, or a site that isn’t actively managed with activities. To date, no one has stepped forth to maintain a truly active site on a volunteer basis.

    Most importantly, there is a communication issue about what the Freighthouse will be, how it will serve the community, etc. that needs to be decided before some “cute” marketing message can be put up.

    Watch out for those assumptions, Shutzy.
    The board is working on that.

  20. schutzman
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    egpenet, I’m not quite sure who, exactly, you think I am, or what assumptions you think I’m making.

    It is 2008.
    No website = No credibility.

    In this case, also,

    No online payment method for accepting donations = No donations.

    As I said above, you already had the existing website, and the amount of static content which it could and/or did include is very important to the community, and I can’t understand why it seems like you’re discounting it.

    I know nothing of geeks. The only possible local equivalent that comes to mind is Peter Thomason, but I doubt he dispenses with his fowl in that singular manner.

    Now, your statement that “there is a communication issue about what the Freighthouse will be” has a definite ring of truth to it, and perhaps bears closer scrutiny.

  21. egpenet
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Hee. Hee.

    Well said. And I agree.

    But all of the above takes volunteers, time and maintenance.

    There is some truth in all of this.

    Your interest is appreciated.

  22. egpenet
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    See’ya on April 5.

  23. schutzman
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    “And I agree.”

    It doesn’t appear that you do, per everything else you said prior to that.

    the FOYF had volunteers, who spent time and energy on its maintenance. If you are now in need of the same, I think it’s important to know what happened to the ones you had previously and why they are no longer involved.

    Nothing is true, and everything is permitted.
    Do what thou wilt shall be the hole in the Freighthouse Floor.

    My interest, and the interest of others, was not appreciated. That’s precisely why the current situation exists.

  24. Quietly Outraged
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Well intentioned or not the handling of the Freight House has been bungled from the beginning. I don’t know that it does a lot of good to vent now that previous incarnation of the Friends organization has disbanded, but I want to second a comment made by Schutzman. Volunteers put in a lot of effort across the board, and were treated like garbage by a clique of Deciders who made their decisions in private. I appreciate those who have stepped in to clean up the mess and hope that they are able to learn from the mistakes of the past.

  25. Kirk
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I have had no involvement with FOYF beyond buying a coffee mug a few years back at the Farmer’s Market. It is something I have thought of getting involved with, which is why I asked about the website, the 300K estimate etc. It sounds like the organization may have become a bit disfunctional, but maybe not. Hopefully new members and volunteers are still welcome. I’ll definitely stop by the fundraiser on the 5th and check it out. It sounds like a fun event.

  26. egpenet
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I agree with what (still) needs to be done and with all that is possible. Getting the “community” on the same train at the same departure time (I will now make the assumption) has not been easy.

    No sense crying over spilled engine oil (which should be cleaned up, by the way).

    Thanks Kirk. I new here, too.

    All aboard!

  27. Ol' E Cross
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 11:51 pm | Permalink


    It is informing to know you and other folk you know had been snubbed by the original group. And, as I completely lack background, I can’t say your misgivings aren’t justified. I haven’t the slightest idea who the original group was or what their issue may have been. But, what we got now is what it is. I’ve only met a couple of them, but I’m hopeful that the current FOYF crowd can get the job done, in time, with our community’s collective help.

    They help needed may not come from you or I, (or, a little could come from both), but I think the current FOYF folk are willing to accept donations of cash (albeit personal check) and assistance (with whatever familiar human complications).

    Given how people, everywhere, interact, that may mean we all may or may not have to swallow a little to make it work. But, I’ll swallow some banjo and some pinkish boiled noodles and a few pints at Sidetrack for the chance to buy farm-raised, hand-knit, toilet paper coverings again.

    There may be good cause to spit, but, for me, there’s better cause to gurgle, gag and gulp the whole thing down. I realize I have the luxury of talking without history. But, I still hope I’ll see you and yours next Saturday. For beer, for banjo, and for a little communal “twang.”

  28. schutzman
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Ol’E Cross,

    If you really want to see an end to the Iraq war, you should support President Bush, as he’s the leader in power, and thus the only one that can make it happen.

    Does that make sense?
    Doesn’t It?

    No former versions of FOYF succeeded in their goals, despite overwhelming community support. Asking why that was, and how the newest incantation will be different, are perfectly reasonable, and I would even say necessary, questions that should be asked.

    Quietly Outraged- Congratulations; You are the first commenter in the history of this blog to spell my name correctly. If my grandfather were alive, he would shake your hand, and then proceed to kick everyone else’s ass. Thankfully, I only inherited certain portions of his temperament.

  29. Brackache
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 1:32 pm | Permalink


    1) what’s your theory?

    2) to whom should you ask those questions?

  30. schutzman
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 2:25 pm | Permalink


    1) Theory in regards to what, exactly?

    2) There’s no website, so there’s no public list of board members or officers, thus I don’t really know who one should be asking. Do you?

  31. Brackache
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    schutzman, my questions are related.

    1) I figured you had a theory about why no former versions of FOYF had succeeded in their goals — possibly a theory that includes the current manifestation. Like they’re conning people or just stupid. If you want to save us all from being ripped off, just spell it out and dispense with the Socratic method already.

    2) I’m pretty sure that we’re not the ones who can help you figure these things out. Again with the Socratic method. Just tell us.

    Nothing personal, I just find the Socratic method insulting when it sure seems the asker has already made up his mind.

  32. schutzman
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Brackache, I believe that I’ve already addressed a number of specific points involving the website, which was my primary concern as it related to this thread.

    Why did they fail? For the same reason that every other thing in this city fails- A small group of people has a narrow view of what “Ypsilanti” is, and tries to force their agenda on everyone else.

    I can’t be any plainer than that.

    I could go into detailed specifics, of course, but this isn’t my blog, and I’m not interested in spending my time writing essays here.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “We’re not the ones to help you figure these things out;” I didn’t say that you- or mark’s readership in general- was in a position to do so. I personally addressed egpenet as he identified himself as being involved with the group.

    Did I answer your questions this time?

  33. egpenet
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Progress Is Our Most Important Product

    Slow & Steady

    Once A King, Always A King,
    Once a Night, Is Enough!

    – G’Knight

  34. schutzman
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Ed, I’m having a particularly hairy night, and have spent the last two hours inside of a dumpster. I only mention this because, despite the sundry distractions which put me in that position, I made a point to check this thread before lying my aching body down in bed, and wanted to say thank you- that is, technically speaking, a website, and is definitely better than nothing at all.

    So again, thank you for taking that first step, and goodnight.

  35. Posted April 2, 2008 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    This thread is what “community” is all about. It makes me smile. Thanks again Mark.

  36. egpenet
    Posted April 2, 2008 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    All of you dumpster divers are very wlcome.

  37. Sally Poltergeist
    Posted April 2, 2008 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Can someone please start a blog dedicated to the interpretation of comments left here by egpenent?

  38. schutzman
    Posted April 2, 2008 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Sally, I think you’d need to have a pair of special glasses, or perhaps a decoder ring.

  39. egpenet
    Posted April 2, 2008 at 1:27 pm | Permalink


    Such a decoder blog won’t stand a “ghost” of a chance.

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