Oakwood Neighborhood Association

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Neighbors Helping Neighbors Since 1947

Oakwood Holiday Party

Sunday, December 9th at 1pm

There will be treats, crafts, stories, music and fun along with Santa and Mrs. Claus!
Come and join us at the Neighborhood Center to share the holidays with your neighbors!

March 19, 5: P.M. - Open House / 6:30 P.M. - Board Meeting

April 14, 1 P.M. - Easter Party

April 27, Neighborhood Yard Sales

May 2, Marathon Water Station

May 18, 3-6 P.M. - Bowl A Thon

Annual ONA Holiday Concert With "Bell, Book and Canto"

Saturday, December 22nd at 7pm

  • Community of Christ Church
  • 2523 Amherst Ave.
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49008
  • A brief reception to follow
  • Asking for donations of non-perishable food items or personal care items to benefit the Oakwood Neighborhood Association.

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Contact Us

Do you have questions or concerns about the neighborhood or about ONA? If so, there are several ways to get a hold of us and we would love to hear from you and welcome any feedback.

Electronic Newsletter

Would you like to receive the newsletter in your email instead of your mailbox? We are offering the alternative to receive an electronic copy. We will contact you the first of the year each year to determine if you would still like to receive an electronic copy. If you are interested send an email from the address you would like to receive the newsletter to editor@oakwoodneighborhood.org with the subject of E-newsletter.

There is an archive of ONA newsletters just below.

Case Statement – Oakwood Neighborhood Association

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Imagine your community, vibrant and strong, with a central hub for community networking and services.  This is Oakwood.Through community improvement projects and connecting neighbors of all ages, Oakwood’s commitment is clear.
Through the years, it has been proven that people rely on each other to get them through both good and bad times.  Since the very beginning of the Oakwood neighborhood in 1908, we have found that the support of neighbors is what makes us a stronger and more vibrant community.  Having a neighborhood center for families, youth, and seniors to gather helps create that bond between neighbors.
Oakwood benefits the community at a great capacity.  Direct support is provided to hundreds of individuals on a monthly basis.  Seniors, youths and families benefit directly from the services provided by the association.  This is Oakwood.
The Oakwood Neighborhood Association provides a weekly senior drop-in program.  In this atmosphere, attendees naturally establish a social network for mutual support.  Seniors develop friendships with ample opportunity to discuss public safety and quality of life concerns, developing solutions to any issues at hand and knowing help – and friends – are nearby.
We offer a five day-a-week After School Tutoring program to provide a safe place for youth to reach their full potential.  This program offers parents a low-cost alternative to after-school child care.
Our Summer Youth Art Program provides six weeks of art and music enrichment for youths.  It also gives neighborhood teens an opportunity to give back and gain leadership experience.
The neighborhood center offers a food pantry and other resources for neighbors in need.  We also provide computer access for job searching and resume development.  Our knowledgeable staff provides neighbors a direct link for city and community resources.
We partner with Building Blocks of Kalamazoo to assist neighbors in beautifying and maintaining their homes while building neighbor relationships.
We work with the City of Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo County Land Bank, the Kalamazoo Nature Center, and local volunteers to maintain green spaces, including the native species management at Woods Lake, a neighborhood playground, a community garden, and more.
Our community center has served as a central hub for community networking & services since 1947.  This is Oakwood.
Oakwood Neighborhood Association, with its long-standing local community center, is uniquely positioned to support the community.
Our hands-on executive director works to ensure effective coordination of needs & services.  Oakwood focuses on community advocacy, from serving individual needs to providing a voice for the neighborhood’s expressed needs to the greater community, city, and county.
The center is available for classes, meetings, and gatherings of any type. Oakwood neighborhood association events and services are communicated via our ongoing neighborhood newsletter and social media.  Neighbors rely on our newsletter for the community calendar and new neighbors learn about the Oakwood Association offerings.
Individuals who decide to be volunteers play an important role in delivering positive results in our community.  In the past two years, our Neighborhood Association averaged 4,000 to 5,000 volunteer hours per year with over 100 people and groups contributing there time and services for Neighborhood Center events and in helping our neighbors.  This is Oakwood.
The Oakwood Neighborhood Association relies on individuals who volunteer to make our neighborhood a welcoming community.  Volunteers provide support cleaning up our Memorial Beach Park, keeping our recreational areas clean and safe for our youth, and keeping our neighborhood beautiful through programs such as Building Blocks.
Our network of community partners goes even further and includes many local business and organizations. Currently, and in the past, we have volunteers from Lakeside Academy, Building Blocks of Kalamazoo, Oakwood Business Association businesses, Fletcher’s Pub, Modern Woodmen of America, WMU’s Alpha Lambda Delta, local community churches, multiple neighborhood associations, and many neighborhood residents. We rely on our volunteer network in order to carry our mission of “Neighbors helping Neighbors”. 
The Oakwood Neighborhood Association responds to an increasing need and desire for services.  Our commitment to serving the community does not stop.  This is Oakwood.
To serve the community, Oakwood maintains an ongoing operation with a neighborhood center open 4 days a week.  Neighborhood residents can use the computer lab, check out books from the lending library, and attend classes like yoga. 
The neighborhood center provides a link to community resources when residents are not sure where to turn for help.  The food pantry provides assistance to all residents.  Our partnership with the City of Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation for after-school tutoring provides much needed assistance to children in the community on a path to college with the Kalamazoo Promise.  The Oakwood Neighborhood center also serves as a community gathering place for holiday parties and summer events to bring neighbors together for happy and joyful times. 
At Oakwood, everyone can help!  We hope that you – whether through volunteering, participating in programs and events, or by receiving help when you need it –personally enjoy the opportunity to appreciate how valuable the Oakwood Neighborhood Association is to the neighborhood and the greater community.  We have a pay-it-forward philosophy where all participants mutually benefit.  This is Oakwood.
At Oakwood, there is something that everyone can enjoy, be it through the satisfaction of donating time as a volunteer, sustaining our programs by monetary donation, or participating in programs.  As a volunteer, you can directly help neighbors.  As a donor, you can designate use of funds to areas of most need or interest.  As a participant, you increase the depth of our community’s network and social ties.  To continue providing critical programs and series to our community, we need your support.
    • Seniors.  Benefit our senior programs by attending and increasing the social network that Oakwood seniors enjoy. 
    • Youth and Parents.  Participate in after-school tutoring or summer youth art drop-in.  Meet your children’s friends at a neighborhood party.
    • Donors.  Benefit the community at large with a donation to our building campaign fund.  Ongoing operations and maintenance will reinforce our ability to continue offering all services.  You can also contribute general donations and voice your program of choice, be it senior programs, youth programs, food pantry, or habitat restoration (green spaces programs).
    • Food Pantry.  Our community benefits from your participation, whether you give or receive. 
    • Green Spaces.  Enjoy the outdoors?  Stewardship of our shared land?  Find your space in Friends of Woods Lake, Tot Lot, Kalamazoo County Land Bank, Oakwood Memorial Beach cleanup, and our community garden.
    • Oakwood Neighborhood Center Library.  If you enjoy displaying and preserving historical information and sorting reading materials, the Oakwood Neighborhood library could interest you.  There is a lending library for kids and adults and the Center has a growing collection from bygone days related to this historic Kalamazoo neighborhood, including old photographs from the Oakwood Amusement Park at Woods Lake.
    • Computer Lab.  Apply your skills by helping others with technical or job search talents, support our shared Internet services, or use our center to work on your resume and job search.
    • Building Blocks.  Interested in home improvements?  Volunteer as a site supervisor or participate with neighbors – on your block or theirs – as we continue to maintain and beautify the neighborhood with this successful program.
    • Network.  Other interests?  Have great ideas?  Leverage our network to extend your own.  Bring your talents to an existing program, recommend a new one, or just stop by as a neighbor among neighbors.  Anything is possible, with your show of support!
Oakwood appreciates your willingness to join our mission to provide a beautiful, safe, friendly, and vital neighborhood.  Neighbors helping neighbors?  This is Oakwood!
At Oakwood, neighbors recognize that our livelihoods are interdependent.  Our association’s offerings are designed to support the neighborhood’s longtime mission: providing a beautiful, safe, friendly, and vital neighborhood for the benefit of all residents and the greater community at large.
Oakwood welcomes you.  For more information…
We are pleased to meet you, and glad you’re interested!  To learn more about Oakwood, contact us:
Oakwood Neighborhood Center Phone: (269) 342-0129
Facebook: Oakwood Neighborhood Association
Web: http://oakwoodneighborhood.org


Oakwood Neighborhood Association

The Gems of Oakwood

People of Our Community

Patricia Balch Henry: A Pioneering Gem of Oakwood

by Karen Klein

“This is my television” Patricia (Pat) Henry points towards the windows in front of us as she leads me from the front door into her sitting room. Large, clear windows allow plenty of natural light to enter this wonderful picture room. Bird feeders, grass, trees, water and the numerous winged visitors who zip in for a brief moment and a bit of food all seem to be in the room with us as well. Flickers, cardinals, nuthatches, woodpeckers, grosbeaks, and orioles all alight while we sit and chat. The orioles, in particular, delight both of us; the brightly painted male and muted female appear and chug grape jelly like two teenagers at a pie-eating contest. It’s a pleasant room with the windows, the creams and greens of the furniture, and a wicker chair. Behind the sofa upon which we sit is a long, dark wood Jacobean dining table with chairs and a sideboard to match that Pat and Bill, her husband of 69 years, picked up “years ago at a rummage-type fundraiser for Kalamazoo College.” The delicious meals and family gatherings that the table and Pat have seen over the years still hold a strong presence in this room. It’s a truly welcoming place to visit.

Pat has lived in her present house since 1989 but has been a part of the Oakwood Neighborhood since 1938 when her parents moved into the large house on Adams street when she was ten years old, the “one with the long back yard running down to Madison.” It was an active community for children. “When I stop and think about it,” Pat says, “Oakwood was a playground for children. There were lakes, hills, swimming holes, tobogganing at the golf course, and Monkey Hollow. The community center was always active, and we even had our own sports teams. Almost every child in Oakwood learned to swim at Woods Lake where the American Red Cross taught swimming lessons (see P. Henry article).” Pat particularly remembered that before Oakwood joined the city of Kalamazoo, “kids seemed to have closer associations, have closer friendships to one another. Church was an important part of our world. It was a really bonded community.”

She met Bill her first year in Oakwood and reminisced that, “he started taking the route to school down Adams street after I moved in” to walk to school with her each day. “I guess Bill always thought of me as his girlfriend, but we really weren’t officially a couple until my senior year in high school. Bill went to Old Central, but I attended State High.” Bill was right at the tail end of the draft for WWII and missed being called up. They both “graduated high school in 1946 and were married in 1948.” Bill “drove truck” and eventually “went to work for James River.” Pat stayed home and learned to be the “best housewife she knew how to be.” She raised their children, a son and daughter, baked cakes, canned, and put up food.

When Pat and Bill married they moved into their first house on Madison “across the creek and bridge.” Their house was close to where the swimming hole used to exist. We can see the outlines of that hole through her window. Pat explained that the creek wound “all the way up and under I-94 and 131 but to go under them you had to go through culverts.” Bill and she would take a canoe and go all the way up to I-94 but usually turn back at that point because, “I didn’t like going through all the cobwebs in the smaller of the two culverts.” They lived in that house until 1980 when they moved over to Parkview Hills for nine years. From that location they could see the lake and the backyard of what became Pat and Bill’s present home, which they purchased in 1989. They fixed it up and added on the beautiful dining and living room in which we sit.

Pat’s interest in Oakwood reaches far back. Her mother collected and knew, “all sorts of things about Oakwood.” Pat kept thinking she might put it all together one day, but it wasn’t until 1995 that she decided to actually write a book. Pat used much of her mother’s knowledge through Community Life, a publication by the Oakwood Methodist Church, when she began researching. The book covers the time period starting with 1828 and begins with the founders of the Oakwood area. It’s rich red cover is entitled The History of Oakwood. Pat knows much of the history of Oakwood, not only from her research and writing but also from her own live experience. This, after all, has been her home for 80 years. She is a link to our past and our understanding of Oakwood. She does not seem to consider herself much of a writer, yet while we talk she tells me several stories and poems that she has written. I ask her if she turned them into books, but she makes it clear, “that one book was enough because I wasn’t college educated or anything...” but I hear and see a writer in so many things she tells me.

For example, Pat relates a story of how Bill and she came to have two little chicks in their house when a friend, Cheryl, asked her to take care of them after they had fallen from their nest. No one knew what kind of birds they were until they lost their baby down and grew feathers. They were robins. She eventually wrote their story to share with her family and called it, Raising Peepers. She used a “heating pad, fed them Iams kitty food and nursed them until they were ready to fly.” At that point they opened the cage and the birds would “follow her around” and only “messed in the house once.” When they began to fly, Bill and she would leave them outside, so they could come and go as they pleased. “The birds would sit on the high wire and then fly around to the deck and call to us.” They always returned until one day Bill told her, “I think the birds have gone,” and in her story she wrote that the robin came back a final time, landed in its cage, and talked to Bill chirping to him, “thank you for everything you’ve done for me, and raising me, but I have another robin waiting for me up in the tree and I have to go.” Sounds like a writer to me.

Bill and Pat may have remained in Kalamazoo their whole lives, but they loved to travel. They especially enjoyed, the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick area and Mexico. Pat still has a cabin in Bear Lake. “It’s an old timey place. Wives and children used to go there for summer holidays and it still has that feel. It’s not busy like Manistee.” For the last 20 years they spent six months of each year in Texas, where they eventually bought a place. Once there they also traveled to Aruba, Belize, Honduras, and even went through the Panama Canal. Every year she returns to Texas where she has a whole other community. This year, however, Pat had to go alone. Bill died in June of 2017. “Plans changed,” she said quietly, but she still had a wonderful visit to Texas, recounting that she, “had a gorgeous group of friends” there and that she was included in all the social events. “We’re mom and dad down there, but up here we’re grandma and grandpa” she smiles. The one trip that stands out vividly for Pat is the train trip to Glacier National Park. They had “a train cabin and once they had seen the park they switched to busses and drove through Jasper and Banff.” She said it was amazing to see that part of the world.

I mention to Pat that she reminds me of my own mother who is also named Pat. They are of the same era, and I reflect that her generation was made of strong stock. “You all seem so resilient and able,” I state. “Why is that, do you think?” Pat answers, “We had to be self-reliant. We knew how to grow and put up our own food. You made do with what you had. We weren’t free spenders; we lived on what we had and set some aside for when it was needed.”

This question leads naturally to Pat’s cordial. Pat makes her own by mixing half sugar and half fruit, plus a fifth of vodka, then “I bounce it once a day for 30 days and it’s done. You want a taste?” She offers me a delicate glass of her strawberry cordial. It’s red, fragrant, and just the right mix of fruit and sugar and vodka. It tastes like summertime.

We sit and watch the birds, sip our cordials, and I think about Pat’s anecdote about her trip to Hawaii last year with her granddaughter and daughter. They decided to treat themselves to dinner at Benihana’s and were seated with another family with two children. The seven of them had an excellent time together and at the end of the meal when Pat prepared to pay the bill, she was told by the waitress that her meal was already covered. The family had told the waitress that they wanted to pay for Pat because, “she was so special.” It touched Pat, but it all makes sense to me. Pat is full of warmth and joy. As she tells me, “I never had the word ‘can’t’ in my vocabulary. I was always willing to try anything once. Until I try it I don’t know if I can’t do it.” And that sums Pat up eloquently.

She lives a full and rich life, wrote a history of our great Oakwood neighborhood, shared a 69- year romance, raised children, suffered through the loss of her son and her husband, but through it all has retained her joy in life. She became an integral part of the fabric of this community. “Can’t” isn’t in her vocabulary because it appears that Pat Henry can do just about anything she puts her mind to.

Tyler Williams: Another Gem of Oakwood

Tyler Williams’ Used Vacs and Repair Shop sits on the corner of Parkview and Barnard in the Oakwood neighborhood of Kalamazoo. It opened in June of 2017. When a customer first enters his shop, he or she will be greeted with a colorfully assorted display of vacuum cleaner brands on either side of the aisle. Each has been cleaned, tuned up, and repaired by Tyler himself. There are Hoovers, Orecks, Dyson, and Dirt Devils. Each has a price tag dangling from its handle, is available for purchase, and range in price from 30-80 dollars.

Just behind the showroom is Tyler’s shop complete with a workbench and more vacuum cleaners waiting for service. When I enter the store to meet him, he is seated at his work bench energetically taking apart an old trickle charger. He is friendly, busy, gracious and welcoming. He pulls all the copper and metal pieces apart and places each salvageable item in the appropriate bin for recycling. When he finishes, he flattens the housing into a neat rectangle and throws it into the general metal scrap bucket all while speaking to me about his passion.

Tyler is a collector, a fixer, a historian, an entrepreneur, a scrapper, and an industrial artist. He collects all sorts of things, but his real interest is anything to do with plumbing, boilers, electric motors and, of course, vacuum cleaners. It’s likely you’ve seen Tyler pulling a wagon around Oakwood neighborhood filled with old vacuum cleaners, nozzles, valves, scrap metal and other odds and ends.

His first vacuum was an old burned up Hoover that one of his Millwood Elementary teachers gave him when he was in the 3rd or 4th grade, “He gave it to me to take apart. I learned a lot about how they worked. Then I started noticing lots of them in the garbage and started finding out that there were usually simple problems with them and easy to fix.” He began to collect the vacuum cleaners he found that were thrown out.

After he graduated from Loy Norrix high school, he first went to work for Vac World as a service technician, but he didn’t really like that job because he felt that mainly the salespeople tried to talk customers into, “buying a new one [vacuum] that’s worse rather than fixing a better one.” After he left them, he joined D&G Vac, and his former employer is still his “parts guy.” In his own store, Tyler sells used, reconditioned vacuum cleaners, repairs and tunes up broken ones, and accepts failing ones by donation.

If he can’t fix a vacuum, then he takes it apart for parts and scrap metal. However Tyler collects more than just vacuum cleaners. Brass faucet handles, pipe fittings, and galvanized pieces fill a series of stacked red and blue milk crates behind Tyler’s workbench. As he is showing me around, he begins to sort through the top bin and pulls out an odd-shaped piece of metal and asks me if I know what it is. “Don’t know? It’s an electric horn. I found it in the dumpster at the school next to the Oakwood Neighborhood Center.”

“Look at these,“ he says as he holds up a classic 1950’s drinking fountain that also had been thrown into the dumpster. “See, these were made at the Chicago Faucet Company. I looked them up online to figure out if I can get a new canister for it. They’re still around.”

He holds up another one of the many treasures he’s collected, “Look at this electric motor dated January 31, 1899. The patent date is July 16 1907. So it’s neat. It has carbon brush caps which transfer the energy to the coils so electricity can flow into the armature to create a magnetic field. It has an alternating current motor. Could have been industrial, probably for a vent fan.”

“See and here’s an 1820’s gas valve for a steam boiler.” Tyler sets one bin aside pulls out another and holds up an old Crane valve. I learn that Crane is an old plumbing company from the 1800’s and used to have a large factory in Chicago. He also tells me that, “Lunkenheimer made gas and steam valves and carburetors for all kinds of stationary engines. It went on a stand alone engine set up with pulleys and belts and so at farms that’s how they used them to run whatever machinery the farmers were using at the moment. Lunkenheimer began in the 1800’s.”

So not only does Tyler collect these items, but he learns about them. Looks them up, reads the history of the companies, and can relay what they made when, how the companies changed, and if they are still in existence today. I ask Tyler, how do you know all this stuff? He tells me simply, “old books”. He has read through the reissues of Sears catalogs circa 1800 and “every product is listed there.” He also found a lot of cast off plumbing and furnace books. He acquired a Honeywell service book one time and “read all through it and it showed how the furnaces worked, what each valve or faucet did and how to fix it. The old books show how to do it all.” He explains that you can learn a lot from those old manuals.

Tyler tells me several times that he is always in the market for older galvanized parts. He particularly likes to find new, old stock, “Once I was coming back from a scrap run and stopped at an estate sale. First there wasn’t much there, but then the woman took me to the basement and her husband had been a plumber and there was tons of plumbing and electrical parts from WWII that was new, old stock. I took a lot of it.” It troubles him that so many of these items end up in dumpsters, “It’s horrible what the world has come to. That’s why landfills fill up. They need more fix-it shops. Terrible what we’re doing to our world.”

Tyler looks at all the parts he has organized into his bins and tells me, “I think if someone wants to scrap something old, he shouldn’t be allowed to. That’s what happens to all of our history. I think it should be turned into art, not scrap.”

I ask him when he first started making art out of the cast offs he collects and he tells me, “First thing I ever made out of all the things I collected was an art sculpture. I made it out of a cardboard box and I covered it with circuit boards, and I made a piece of art. It even had a phone on it, too.”

A more sophisticated and recent example of his artwork is the industrial style lamp in his shop. One of the first things that you can’t help but notice, right after the of vacs is this wonderful lamp made out of galvanized plumbing pipes, elbows, handles,and petcocks. It consists of a three sturdy feet that builds up about 48 inches and culminates with a lamp base, bulb, and shade. It’s quite a feat of engineering and has a historic, industrial feel that makes it both modern and retro all at the same time. It is striking and unique. He’s also has made large yard art in the form of Christmas decorations, which he has put out every holiday season for neighbors to enjoy.

Tyler is passionate, able, and a whiz with vacuums and industrial materials of all kinds. It is worth coming to his store just to look around at all the fascinating things he has accumulated for sale. You can get your vacuum cleaner fixed, buy a new used one for a great price, and chat about the things that Tyler has collected. He is also going to start fixing lamps. His shope is open Tuesday through Friday from 12-6.

Tyler’s curiosity and excitement is both infectious and delightful. He is one of the many interesting and innovative residents of our neighborhood. And if you have any old galvanized plumbing parts, Tyler is in the market.

Another Gem of Oakwood: Julian Borst

Julian Borst sports a brown plaid newsboy hat, and a red t-shirt with a large Bob Marley outlined in black on the front. When I enter his small house on Madison, in the Oakwood neighborhood, the first thing I see are a half dozen running shoes neatly stacked on a small rubber mat in the corner of his entry way. Each shoe has its liner pulled partway out to cool and dry. Just inside his dining room on a window seat is a pile of brightly colored ribbons attached to medals won at numerous races. I can already tell that I’m in the presence of a real runner.

Julian was born in Kalamazoo and raised right in Oakwood; in fact, across the street from his current home where his parents still reside. Julian attended Oakwood Elementary, Woods Lake Elementary, Maple Hill Magnet School, and Loy Norrix High School. He particularly enjoyed drawing at the magnet school and is still an able artist amidst his other talents. Julian is also a wonderful athlete, but his first love is running. Julian started running when he was ten years old because, “I got too fast to bike along with my mom when she ran, so she had me run with her.”

When I ask if he took to running right away he smiles and says, “well let’s say it was a gradual liking of it.” He ran in middle school at Maple Hill Magnet School and then for Loy Norrix, “all four years.” His coach was Greg Savicke and Julian still counts him as one of several wonderful mentors he’s had in life. I observe to Julian how exciting it is that he is representing Kalamazoo at the Special Olympics. He pauses and responds, “I’m really representing both because I’m from Kalamazoo, but involved in the Michigan Special Olympics team.”

After Julian graduated from Loy Norrix, he began a program through K-RESA called Project Search where he completed different work experiences including one at Bronson hospital. That program worked out well because Julian is currently employed at Bronson Hospital in housekeeping, and he also works for Walmart one day a week.

During the time he was in Project Search, he made a friend who was competing in the Special Olympics. Julian thought it sounded “cool, and decided to call up Special Olympics to get signed up.” He really enjoys the time he spends with the coaches and other athletes. “It’s a good organization. Everybody is really wonderful.” They “get together once a week” depending on the coaches’ schedules. The Special Olympics is an “all volunteer organization funded by donations.” They also meet throughout the winter to prepare for winter Special Olympics. Julian joined in the fall so he was told he “should do a winter sport to stay active.” He decided to try “snowshoeing the first season and liked it because I could be on top of the snow and move fast.”

Every winter there is a big competition in Traverse City at the Grand Traverse Resort Hotel at the end of January for three days. This past year Julian switched to cross country skiing which was “a little harder than snowshoeing, but I like the challenge.” In the summer the big competition is held in Mt. Pleasant at Central Michigan University. Julian will be competing again this year at the end of May.

A year ago, his first year that he competed in the summer games, he placed first in the 5K, which qualified him for the drawing to, “have a chance to be selected for the national games” to attend the United States Special Olympics in Seattle, Washington.

Julian explained that after the winners of the drawing were selected, ten of the volunteer coaches for the Kalamazoo Special Olympics “came to Walmart in August where he was working that day to tell me as a surprise. They showed up in the parking lot.” Julian smiles as he remembers, “I was speechless! He adds, “If I win in Seattle, then I am put in another drawing for the world games.” He also competed in the 10K, 3K and the relay at the meet. Not only does Julian run but he competes in “basketball, flag football, and soccer, all for Special Olympics.”

Julian runs nearly every day. He loves to run because “it makes me feel free and it can be good transportation too, sometimes.” He likes that it makes him feel physically fit and healthy.

Many positive things have come Julian’s way due to his running. He met his girlfriend Rose, who is also a runner, through his involvement with Special Olympics and last summer at the end of August, he was able to run “up the Mackinac Bridge. It was a law enforcement torch run benefiting Special Olympics. They asked me to do it because an athlete canceled and because I was selected to go to the national games. They thought I was a perfect replacement. It was like a relay, but not a race. The officers had me run slow so they could keep up. I didn’t get to hold the torch during the run, but I got to hold it before we ran.”

Besides working and running, Julian enjoys going to the Farmer’s market with his mom, attending the First Congregational Church on Sundays, listening to all kinds of music, and spending time with Rose. He also sees a fair bit of his parents still and is lucky enough to get many of his meals from them.

Julian likes Kalamazoo. He enjoys his jobs and the Oakwood neighborhood. “Everything is walking distance, and I really like my neighbors. They are good people."

Julian will represent Kalamazoo and our very own Oakwood at the end of May in Mt. Pleasant and then in Seattle at the end of July. If you happen to see Julian walking, or more likely running by, greet him and wish him good luck. After all, he will make Oakwood proud as he is another gem of the Oakwood Neighborhood.

Our Purpose

To provide a better place for all persons in which to live and to generally act for the good of the community

What We Do

  • The Oakwood Neighborhood Association provides many services including:
  • Provide information on community resources,support networking,and assist in referral for various needs.
  • Publish and distribute our neighborhood newsletter,The Oakwood Times.
  • Improve the overall appearance of the neighborhood with programs such as Adopt-A-Park,Building Blocks of Kalamazoo,Fall &Spring Into The Streets,Oakwood MemorialPark and Springmont James McDivit Tot Lot.
  • Plan community social events and holiday theme parties.
  • Organize activities for youth,family and seniors.
  • Offer after school tutoring and computer IT help drop in.
  • Access to a free library and food bank assistance.

Our Goals

  • Provide a beautiful,safe,friendly,vital neighborhood and to improve the quality of life of its residents.
  • Represent and further the interests and needs of Oakwood and its residents.
  • Promote leadership,responsibility and civic interest among its members.
  • Sponsor events and programs designed to improve the quality of life for the residents of the Oakwood neighborhood.

Automatic Membership

Open to any resident, renter, business manager/owner, or property owner over the age of 18 within the Oakwood Neighborhood.

Board of Directors

Names are starting on the left: Ellie Heacock, Karin Larsin, Alfonso Espinosa (VP), Cheri Norton ( Treasurer), Renee Ruple (President), Ellen Tober, Rachael Grover, Marcia Wallace (Secretary), Jan Sneddon, Barry Wade Jr.
Missing: Frank Dawson and Sue Mark

Get Involved with ONA

Anyone who has walked through the doors of Oakwood Neighborhood Association and felt the warm welcome of those inside will attest that the organization would not be where it is today without the generous love, support, and contributions of its many volunteers. We are always looking for flexible, proactive, energetic, and compassionate people to become a part of the ONA family.

There are numerous ways to get involved with Oakwood Neighborhood Association. From assisting in the office, to helping out a holiday party to writing grants or becoming a member of our Board of Directors, we will work to help you find a perfect match!

For a description of our programs, click here.

If you are interested in volunteering stop in anytime to talk to our Executive Director Cheryl Lord. You can also email her at center@oakwoodneighborhood.org.


We need your help to help keep the neighborhood center going to and to continue our programs. We are looking for volunteers to:

  • To help mow the Oakwood Memorial Beach
  • To coordinate the Halloween and Christmas parties
  • New members to the Board of Directors
  • To assist or coordinate volunteer efforts at our Memorial beach park
  • To care for and weed plants to beautify our neighborhood center area.

If you are interested in any of these positions, contact Cheryl at the center at 342-0129.

Our Programs

The Oakwood Neighborhood Association offers many programs for seniors, at-risk youth, and families. These include:

  • Building Blocks – Is a collaboration between WMU and six Kalamazoo city neighborhoods. This program brings together neighbors to build a sense of community through working together on projects that improve the look of their houses and the blocks participating in the project. Check out the Building Blocks web site for more information.
  • After-school Youth Tutoring Program – Is sponsored by the City of Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation Department, This program offers a safe place for school-aged youth to receive tutoring with their homework and a healthy snack with computer time and reading.
  • Senior Activities and weekly drop-in - The seniors meet once a week on Wednesdays at 1PM to play cards, talk, make crafts, play BINGO, and once a month take a field trip to a local destination.
  • Free bread for seniors and those in need - Beginning on Wednesday at 2PM of each week free bread and sometimes produce and pizza are available to those in need in the neighborhood. These items are available through Friday.
  • Weekly Computer Tutoring and Repair - Volunteers are available on Friday afternoons at 1:00 P.M.to help set up email, teach you how to use a computer, look for a job, set up a smart phone, etc. or to repair your computer.
  • Food Bank – We provide food to residents in need, and work with local churches and resources to supplement what we cannot provide. If you are in need of food, contact  us for more information.
  • Community Garden and Related Workshops - Every year, at 2529 Springmont, we run a community garden. Plants and seeds are donated by local greenhouses and residents. The entire weeding, watering, planting, and harvesting are done communally with everyone involved contributing to the welfare of the garden. For more information or to get involved start following the garden Facebook page.
  • Holiday Food Baskets for those in need are coordinated with Local churches. Contact us for more information.
  • Annual Reunion/Neighborhood Picnic is held the last Sunday of June. It usually starts about 1 P.M.
  • Adopt-A-Park - The association maintains the Springmont Tot Lot which provides a small park for youth to play.
  • Free Book Exchange Library. We have a free lending library with up to date books.
  • Friends of Woods Lake  (FOWL) - The Friends of Woods Lake meet monthly to discuss projects to work on to improve the Woods Lake and Oakwood Memorial beaches.  They also coordinate work days to remove invasive species, plant native plants, and finish other projects. For the spring and summer of 2016 the work days are the third Saturday of each month at 10:00 A.M.
  • The Oakwood Memorial Beach is a green space owned and maintained by the ONA on Parkview Ave. It includes a small swimming beach, areas for fishing, a small trail, and memorials to our neighborhood heroes. Contact the center if you would be interested in helping to maintain this historic green space.
  • ONA World Cafe - The ONA World Café is your chance to tell us what you want to see happen in the neighborhood. This community feedback meeting poses questions to participants and allows them to meet new neighbors and share their ideas in a small, intimate environment.
  • Holiday Parties are provided for Easter and Christmas.
  • Summer Youth Drop-in begins the week after school has ended. It is geared for youth ages 5-13 and goes from 3-5 P.M. Monday through Friday. A small registration fee is requested, however, scholarships are available. Youth 14-18 may volunteer to asset the younger youth.
  • Community Room Use - Our community room is available for birthdays, weddings, and other family events. Contact the center for more information
  • Oakwood History-We maintain and store historic information regarding the Oakwood neighborhood founded in 1908.

Oakwood History

Here is a brief history of Oakwood and a link to our Facebook Gallery.



Oakwood Neighborhood actually became part of the city of Kalamazoo in 1957. Since then, the Oakwood Neighborhood Association has been actively involved in serving members of the Oakwood Neighborhood and members of the city of Kalamazoo. This page highlights some interesting pieces of Oakwood's history.

In 1829 Enoch Harris settled on the Genesee Prairie and planted the first apple orchard in Kalamazoo County. The Gibbs, Barnard, and Stevens families contributed greatly to building up the area with log cabins and a hotel.

The first school, known as Toad Hollow School House, was built at the end of Knox Street in 1834. In 1860, the Woods lake area had six houses and a school house within a square mile radius (Gunn, "Your Community Life," 1954).

Around 1895, the Oak trees were cut down to become railroad ties.


In 1893, the Oakland Drive Trolley ran 2.5 miles from the Asylum Hospital to the Oakwood Park.

The grand opening of the Oakwood Amusement Park (then called Lake View) on the south shore of Woods Lake,occurred in July of that same year. People called it "Kalamazoo's Coney Island." The park featured a roller rink, concession stands, shooting gallery, penny arcade, merry-go-round, band stand, dance hall, casino, picnic grounds, beach, boat marina, and balloon launches. In 1907 a roller coaster was built at the park. With the advent of the automobile and the beginning of World War I, the amusement park lost popularity. In 1925, the coaster was dismantled and the coaster cars were rolled into the lake (Henry, The History of Oakwood). Today, homes occupy most of the site around Woods Lake.

There are some great old shots at the Oakwood Amusement Park Postcard Collection with the Kalamazoo Public Library.

An Oakwood area slide show, made with help from the kind folks on the Vanished Kalamazoo Facebook page


Oakwood Memorial Beach

The Oakwood Memorial Beach is nearly two acres of beach-front property located on the southeast end of Woods Lake. Access is available from the stairs off of Parkview Ave. or via a drive off of Oakland Drive next to Romantica Jewelers. The property includes a connecting walking path to the City of Kalamazoo's Woods Lake Beach Park, a walking path through the "wedge", a swimming beach, fishing spots, a picnic area between the sets of stairs, and a memorial for veterans and other neighborhood heroes at the top of the park on Parkview Ave.

Policies of the Oakwood Memorial Beach:

  • Beach is open from sunrise to sunset.
  • No lifeguard on duty, swim at your own risk.
  • No camping No alcoholic beverages or glass containers.
  • Dogs are welcome but should be under their owner’s control at all times. Dog owners will yield the swimming beach to those swimmers without pets. Pick up after your pet and dispose of waste in the receptacle at the top of the hill.
  • Fishing is allowed along the area in front of the condos. Fishing is not allowed on the swimming beach.
  • Swim with a buddy
  • Burning is prohibited
  • No Fireworks
  • Place litter in the receptacle at the top of the hill
  • Walk on trails to protect native plants. Please leave signs in place to mark native plants.

Over the past year numerous volunteers have been diligently working on the Oakwood Memorial Beach to reduce erosion, remove invasive plant species, and plant more native plant species. You will now notice walking paths are outlined with branches and lined with wood chips in many areas. Native plants have been planted along the hill side and at the beach front to stop erosion.

Kalamazoo Area Links

Helpful Telephone Numbers to Have

  • Animal Control - 383.8775
  • Area Agency on Aging - 373.5173
  • Auto Park (Central City Parking) - 342.6383
  • Boys & Girls Club - 349.4485
  • Child Protective Services - 337.5046
  • City of Kalamazoo Emergency - 9.1.1.
  • Public Safety Non-Emergency - 337.8994
  • Anti Blight (abandoned houses) - 337.8229
  • Housing Inspections - 337.8026
  • Junk Auto’s - 337.8994
  • City Manager - 337.8046
  • Noise Violations - 337.8994
  • Parks & Rec - 337.8191
  • Roads & Sidewalks - 337.8601
  • Tall Grass/Weeds - 337.8847
  • Trash Violations - 337.8221
  • Water/Sewer - 337.8149
  • Disability Network - 345.1516
  • Edison Neighborhood Association - 382.0916
  • Fair Housing Center - 276.9100
  • Family & Children Services - 344.0202
  • Family Independence Agency - 337.4900
  • Hispanic American Council - 385.6279
  • Kalamazoo Public Library - 342.9837
  • Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes - 343.3663
  • Legal Aid - 344.8113
  • Kalamazoo Silent Observer - 343.2100
  • Youth Development Center - 337.800

A Commentary by Pat Henry

Bits and Pieces - March 2016

By Pat Henry

March has arrived  can Spring be far behind –What a joy to see the daffodils’ poke their green shoots above the ground –Snow drops out with the melting of the snow  –Adding green space to Oakwood and the Nature Center--a special gift from Jon Stryker -the land south of Angling – such a pristine piece of nature --- Thank You, Jon.

Our neighbor hood settled in the 1800’s by the Barnards and Stevens-- has seen many businesses - Thomas Barnard advertised lime for sale --- An ice house stored ice from Woods Lake – Oakwood as a community in 1908 added many businesses in the years - the amusement park started in the 1800”s to the beautiful mall and stores of the 21st century---  Some business early  in the neighborhood –the corner of Parkview and Barnard – have been updated but the buildings remain from the early 20’s –On the corner of Parkview and Oakland --where many homes stood in the 50’s - moved to other spots in Oakwood—first a “Karl’s Market - replaced by Hardings and now the current  D & W ---Oakwood  Methodist Church acquired the open field on Kent and Parkview , a gift from the Rev. Irving Minor, pastor of the  church on Amherst - the new church built in the early 50’s - decline of parishioners saw the sale to others and finally the parking lot for D &W  --The NW corner of Parkview and Oakland Dr. in the early 40’s—A dry cleaners – Shand’s repair shop for cars  - later to become the start of the WL Molding Company -  than a bank --Parkview did not go across Oakland – it was the farm land and a produce stand of the Love family – later Parkview went across  and Vine’s  gas station arrived –then the new Junior High School was built on the S W corner on the new Parkview /  Oakland Dr.

In the 30’s and early 40’s Beatties drug store was on the east side of Oakland Dr. snack bar, gas station and a couple of other stores including Bestervelt’s Market ---gas station on corner of Whites Rd. and Oakland – all gone now ---across the Street another gas station that became  the Octagon restaurant serving hamburgers and hotdogs – on the west side still another gas station -  Carrols Variety story was on the  on NW corner of the “trail” that led to the amusement park in the late 1800’s and early 20’s-- belongs to the Oakwood Community –

Into the 50’s the open fields in back of the Octagon restaurant and on Whites Road  to become  the beautiful mall that it now is –starting  first with -- National Foods  grocery store and then Kramers –
Many businesses have vanished from Oakwood – hopefully a book can get published before we run out of time ----

What sad, sad news I am hearing as I write this from my Texas winter home --- our sympathies for this needless slaughter of our Kalamazoo friends and neighbors---

Bits and Pieces May 2016

By Pat Henry

The city has spent the last summer and fall renovating the City Park on the North-East side of Woods Lake – it will be dedicated on the 26th of May 4:30 to 6:30 – it is now complete with a new bathroom facility and a covered pavilion— the path leading to the Oakwood beach dates back many years and has been cleaned up and Michigan native plants and trees have been introduced –Many Kalamazoo residents and friends have many fond memories of the lake from the early 1800’s to now – the dating of their grandparents at the amusement park on the South side of the lake –the swimming at the “City” beach always on the bus line – it was a nice ride from the city – The city of Kalamazoo has owned the park since 1949 and Oakwood side since 1945.