Chelsea Salame first came to GRDC at a University of Michigan intern in 2020. For a year, Chelsea scheduled all the programming for the Northwest Detroit Farmers’ Market, worked on a beautification grant on behalf of the Vacant Property Task Force, and helped homeowners in danger of losing their home to foreclosure complete the Property Tax Exemption application. A native Detroiter, Chelsea already had her Bachelor’s of Social Work from Wayne State University in hand when she came to GRDC as an intern. During her year here, she finished up her Master’s of Social Work with a concentration in Community Change and Leadership at UM. When the position for Economic Development Manager came open, soon after she graduated, Chelsea jumped at the chance.
INSPIRED TO HELP OTHERS BUILD COMMUNITY
Chelsea’s innovative ideas, her readiness to do the work necessary to create an event to benefit the community, and her willingness to knock on doors inviting others to share their input or join her on community projects all reflect her pre-college days growing up without much money. Like many immigrant and Native American families, Chelsea’s Lebanese and Cherokee family struggled. “I didn’t see a lot of support for families in poverty, and so I knew that in order to get out of poverty I had to advocate for myself, and education was the tool I used. I knew I wanted to work in the field of helping others with needs similar to mine.” Hard work and scholarships got her through school, and so did waiting tables and tending bar. While she was an undergrad, Chelsea knew she wasn’t alone in her struggle, so she set out to help others. She volunteered at a GED program, and organized two events for homeless youth and those at risk of prostitution. She even started her own non-profit to organize more fundraiser events for other non-profits. “I knew early on that this is what I wanted to do. Really, I was a social worker before I knew what social work was,” she says.
MOVING FROM INTERN TO EMPLOYEE
At UM Social Work interns are able to list organizations that they would like to be paired with. Chelsea was looking for a non-profit that focused on project and community development. She got her first choice: GRDC. “I didn’t know how large Grandmont Rosedale is,” Chelsea recalls. “and I didn’t realize how strong the connections are here. I was so impressed with the grass roots movement that is GRDC. The organizing comes from the people who live here.” Chelsea established relationships with man residents, Farmers’ Market vendors, and small business owners, and now, as a GRDC employee, Chelsea has the opportunity to build those relationships and the chance to form new ones. Since starting as the Economic Development Manager, Chelsea has begun collecting data on our small business community, including small businesses that are hoping to open shop here and those that are hoping to grow. She has come to know the individual needs and wants of the small business owners, and has collaborated with several on community events and initiatives.
Chelsea is always willing to work with co-workers and residents on new events and continuing traditional events. No stranger to hard work, Chelsea’s enthusiasm for building community is matched by her willingness to put the time in.She brings great energy to GRDC, and she’s very happy in her new role. “GRDC is such a solid organization,” she says. “We’re able to keep our momentum, and keep the community in the forefront.” Chelsea knows first-hand the importance of a strong community, and what is lost when community is absent. Look for Chelsea at upcoming GRDC events and the Farmers’ Market. She’ll be busy, but she’d be happy to stop for a moment to chat.
To reach Chelsea, email email@example.com or call 313.387.4732, ext. 104.