“It’s literally tears of joy. These parks and neighborhoods have been neglected for a long time, and now they are no longer an eyesore. It shows that someone cares, and for the kids, they are playing on a field that never existed before.”
Premier Group Associates
For Brad Byarski, chief operations officer at Premier Group Associates in Detroit, being involved with Project EverGreen has been a perfect fit, both personally and professionally.
The energetic Byarski is a cut in the cloth Detroit guy, with deep family roots in the community and an abundant sense of pride in the Motor City and its rebirth.
“I grew up in Grand Blanc outside of Flint, and my grandfather worked for the Detroit Board of Education as a boiler operator,” said Byarski. “My mother was part of a home health care company, and my dad worked for General Motors. We have many layers of connection here.”
In late 2016, he joined forces with Premier Group, then a property maintenance company, bringing his more than a decade of property development and management experience to expand and enhance the company’s scope. He also found similarly civic-minded leaders in Premier Group owners Andrew Housey and Elizabeth Belenky-Housey, who had given back significantly to the City of Detroit.
“Andy started mowing lawns in the neighborhood as a kid when Coleman Young was mayor,” explained Byarski. “His mom was a teacher in the Detroit school system. He cut grass at her school for no charge. His connection to the city started then and has been in place for 30 years. He’s donated so much.”
A Motown State of Mind
Project EverGreen had already facilitated two significant community projects in the Detroit area – Pingree Park in 2017-18 and Warrendale Community Park in 2019, when Project Evergreen board member Scott Bills of Sports Field Solutions was working with the city on a series of soccer field renovations brought the organization to Byarski’s attention. He was quickly on board with volunteering.
“Project EverGreen’s commitment to the city was impressive,” said Byarski. “I saw what they did with Pingree and Warrendale, and it was a good fit. We’re always looking for a way to contribute.”
Premier Group is heavily involved in numerous Detroit public space renovations, including projects within Chandler and Riverside Parks, and Spirit Plaza, Henry Ford Plaza.
The company is also a volunteer for Project EverGreen’s GreenCare for Troops and SnowCare for Troops. These nationwide initiatives provide free lawn, landscape and snow removal services for active-duty military families with a deployed servicemember.
Working with Project EverGreen, Byarski and Premier Group provided project management leadership on the ground for Detroit’s latest GreenCare for Communities project, the renovation of Antonio McDuffy Park, which was completed this summer.
Byarski looks at it now and fully understands its powerful impact on the city but more importantly the Piety Hill neighborhood residents.
“I was at McDuffy recently cleaning up some leftover dirt, and what I saw was impressive,” he says. “To see a vacant corner become a vibrant part of the neighborhood is incredible. The colors of the playscape, the green space, it is all welcoming. It is a bridge to bring people out of their houses and connect with each other.”
And the community reaction to completed community projects like McDuffy provide their own satisfaction.
“It’s literally tears of joy,” said Byarski. “These parks and neighborhoods have been neglected for a long time, and now they are no longer an eyesore. It shows that someone cares, and for the kids, they are playing on a field that never existed before.”
“Professionals like Brad are instrumental to the success of our park revitalization projects,” said Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen. “Brad’s knowledge and generosity help these projects run on schedule and make an immediate difference for neighborhood residents.”
Taking A Leap of Faith
Byarski encourages all green care professionals to step up to the plate and volunteer through Project EverGreen.
“Just do it – take a leap of faith. Get yourself involved and the rest will take care of itself,” said Byarski. “You’ll like what you find, and everyone will be better off for the work you do.
“Passion breeds more passion with people,” he continued, “and Project EverGreen is a driving force to do good work in our communities. There are lots of people out there who want to contribute and need something to be attached to. Project EverGreen allows people to be the catalyst, and the McDuffy Park transformation is a fitting example.”
Learn more about GreenCare for Communities