By Molly Tippen
For The Macomb Daily
Salam Yousif, a caseworker at the Chaldean Community Foundation, assists a young man at the foundation’s Sterling Heights office. (Macomb Daily photo by Molly Tippen)
In an office tucked away in a nondescript strip mall on 15 Mile Road, new residents are crowded into a waiting room planning their next steps.
At the Chaldean Community Foundation, which opened its Sterling Heights office in 2012, clients who have fled the chaos of war are working toward making a better life in Southeast Michigan; each hopes that what they find in the United States will be the ability to lead a good, prosperous life.
But getting to that point is a daunting task. Not only do most Chaldean refugees not speak or read English; they often face challenges finding employment, adequate shelter, access to services and other necessities because of the language barrier, and the fact they are taking in a completely new culture.
The CCF, which was created by the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce as its nonprofit philanthropic arm in 2006, aims to address the needs of a growing refugee population after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The foundation began serving clients at its Southfield office on Northwestern Highway, but in 2011 decided to add a Macomb County office after securing grant funding for its new Refugee Acculturation and Stabilization Training program, or RAST.
“The reason we opened up in Macomb is to be close to the people we serve,” said Sharon Hannawa, a program manager at the foundation. “We found out that a lot of the people we help live in Macomb County, and when we secured funding for new programs, we thought it would be best to have an office that is close to those we serve.”
Since opening its 15 Mile Road office, the foundation has boosted its government funding by $1 million, and hired five additional team members.
On the first full day of operation, 15 Chaldean refugees stepped through the door. Today, 30 to 40 people file in each day to seek assistance and support during what is a turbulent and difficult experience — living in a foreign country.
A new land
A refugee is a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her native country due to a well-founded fear of persecution or because the person’s life or freedom would be threatened. Economic status is not considered a valid reason for refugee status.
To apply for refugee status, the applicant must be physically located outside the United States. A refugee is provided special legal protections that allow them to reside here legally.
Chaldeans are Eastern Right Catholics, mainly from Iraq, though some also live in Syria and Turkey. They differ from the Iraqi majority because they are Christian, and they speak Aramaic, not Arabic.
Southeast Michigan is home to 121,000 Chaldeans, which is the largest cluster anywhere outside of the Middle East, according to data collected by the foundation.
That number is only expected to grow — there are still refugees arriving in Michigan from Iraq, and continuing unrest in Syria will likely add to the number of Chaldeans seeking refuge.
The people who are assisted by the foundation are in a situation where they had to leave everything they knew — family, friends, professions — when things were stable, but not ideal, in Iraq.
“One of the misconceptions about the people we help is that they wanted to leave,” said Eric Younan, the director of Strategic Initiatives for the foundation. “It was not their decision. They had lives, and many were professionals.”
Once they are on U.S. soil, many refugees find it difficult to navigate a new culture, Hannawa said.
“Learning the language affects everything, from being able to communicate with others to obtaining work,” she said. “If they had a job and were a professional in Iraq, they can still do that work, but to function in the United States, they must learn the language.”
Other aspects of everyday life in the United States — such as using credit for purchases — are completely foreign for Chaldeans new to the country.
“In Iraq, if you don’t have all of the money to buy something, then you don’t buy it,” said Hannawa. “We try to teach people the importance of credit in our programs; it’s something they need to know to begin rebuilding their lives.”
The CCF is funded mostly through grants; some programs are funded entirely through donations by individuals and businesses. Other sources of funding include an annual golf outing and the Chaldean Festival.
In October 2010, the foundation was awarded a grant from the Michigan Department of Community Health fund RAST, which is a multipronged program operated out of the 15 Mile Road office to remedy many of the issues refugees face.
RAST offers refugees assistance in obtaining housing and transportation, and accessing a wide range of services.
The initiative includes comprehensive job placement services and maintaining a job bank, guidance through various government programs, translation assistance, legal assistance and language instruction, which is offered through a partnership with Macomb Community College. The goal is to help refugees limit their dependence on social services and establish new lives.
The foundation has established a loan program through RAST that makes loans of up to $5,000 to refugees who need to buy vehicles. The program is offered through a partnership with the Farmington Hills-based Bank of Michigan and the foundation; loans are backed up by a certificate of deposit by the foundation. The loan program is funded by donations from the community.
Anyone who takes out a loan must be employed, have a co-signer and be current on their resettlement loan, which is provided by the International Organization for Migration when a refugee leaves their country of origin. The loan program is closely modeled after the Hebrew Free Loan Program.
In its first year, 400 to 500 people were served through RAST, Hannawa said.
Other services offered by the foundation include Project Bismutha, which offers free, donated medical services to refugees; the Waad Murad Advocacy Fund, which offers $10,000 rewards to people who provide tips that lead to the arrest of a person or persons who commit a crime against a Chaldean businessperson; and Refugee Mental Health Services, which provides mental health services to refugees having trouble adjusting, or suffering from other personal problems.
Wasan Wartan, 33, left both Iraq, then Lebanon, in 2009, and settled in Boston before coming to the Southeast Michigan area. Because she came to the United States alone, the foundation has provided her a meaningful connection to others in her situation.
“The hardest thing was learning English, and the different culture,” she said.
“The American people were welcoming; they were very patient with a person who cannot speak English that well.”
Wartan was the first applicant approved for the car loan program. She purchased a 2003 Rendezvous, which eliminated one of her biggest issues: transportation to and from work and school.
It was the first car she owned since 2003, when it became too dangerous for a woman to drive alone in Iraq.
“Now my life with the car is completely different,” she said. “I can do anything I want to do. I’m so happy.”
January 27, 2013 8:00 PM
Chaldean foundation to offer housing, loans to meet growth
By Sherri Welch
But last year, 9,500 Chal-dean refugees who had fled religious persecution in their
native Iraq showed up at the office, seeking immigration aid or help to speak English
or find a job, car or health care.
“A lot of what we do … is to help solve some of (their) long-term issues,” said
foundation President Martin Manna, who is also president of the Chaldean
American Chamber of Commerce.
Refugees are given eight months of federal assistance when they come to the U.S.,
he said. The Chaldean Community Foundation focuses on helping them assimilate
to U.S. culture and systems so they can apply for permanent residency after a year.
The foundation, which provides services rather than grants, works with a number of
other organizations to help meet clients’ needs. For example, St. John Providence
Health System donates medical supplies for the free health care provided by
volunteer Chaldean doctors and nurses, and Macomb Community
College provides English-as-a-second-language classes. Now the foundation is
looking to build a home away from home for the refugees, in the form of new housing
in the West Bloomfield Township area.
“We’re looking at developing community,” Manna said.
A lot of the refugees are living in crowded apartments, some of them subpar, in the
Sterling Heights area, he said.
“We know we could make an impact by helping them find long-term housing … it’s
part of our strategic plan to get something announced by Sept. 30,” Manna said.
The foundation is operating on a budget of $2.6 million, up from $1.6 million last
year, thanks to a near-doubling of its contract with the Michigan Department of
Human Services. The foundation also does an annual appeal and annual golf
outing to raise funds.
The organization is negotiating the purchase of several acres of property in the West
Bloomfield-Bloomfield Hills area on which it plans to build long-term housing and
incorporate other supportive services, Manna said. The foundation is consulting with
the Michigan State Housing Development Authority as it looks at launching longterm
housing and studying the efforts of nonprofit housing developers
like Southwest Housing Solutions.
Serving as the developer of long-term housing can be a good source of income, said
John Van Camp, president and CEO of Detroit-based Southwest Solutions, the
parent of Southwest Housing Solutions. In tax-credit projects, there’s an allocation
for a developer fee: 15 percent or $1 million, whichever is lower.
But it can take years to line up financing for projects, and it takes a certain skill set
that wasn’t natural to Southwest initially, Van Camp said. It took Southwest a couple
of years to line up the 14 levels of financing it took to aggregate $23.9 million to fund
its Piquette Square veterans housing and supportive services project in Detroit, he
Van Camp said he’s encouraging the Chaldean Community Foundation to take a
long-term view on the housing development and hire a development consultant to
line up financing. Then the group could access its ability to handle financing for a
housing development on its own..
As the nonprofit arm of the Chaldean chamber, the foundation has leaders who are
used to running businesses and startups, and looking at spreadsheets and business
plans, Van Camp said. That will help, he said.
While it develops a strategy to move into long-term housing development, the
Chaldean foundation is looking for a larger location in Sterling Heights to replace its
2,500-square-foot offices, which connect with the bulk of the people it serves on a
walk-in basis. The new site will house its growing staff, which has expanded from 11
a year ago to 20, and soon will add three more as the foundation fills positions for
two case managers and a transportation coordinator.
Ideally, the new east side location will also be large enough to host the 800 to 1,000
Chaldean refugees who come for quarterly town hall meetings hosted by the
In addition, the foundation has started programs to help community members with
other basic needs.
Following its 2008 launch of Project Bismutha, which provides free or reduced
primary health care and discounted medication for the uninsured in its community,
the foundation launched the Chaldean Loan Fund in October.The fund provides
low-interest loans of about $5,000 toward the purchase of a used vehicle. Both programs
were modeled after similar programs in the Jewish community.
By the end of March, the foundation also plans to launch a microenterprise loan fund
to help Chaldean entrepreneurs. Members of the Chaldean Community put up
$50,000 for the fund, and the Chaldean American bishop, Ibrahim Ibrahim of the
Southfield-based Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, the diocese for Chaldean
Catholics living in the eastern half of the U.S., matched it, Manna said.
It will grow further based on fundraising. Since Chaldeans are highly enterpreneurial,
efforts are focused on helping people find their niche.
Two-thirds of local Chaldean households own at least one business, and 39 percent
own two or more, Manna said. Those businesses include supermarkets, cellphone
stores and franchised food establishments.
“One of the challenges we see with these refugees is … some of these women work,
but at the same time they can’t find day care,” Manna said. “So we’re working with
some of these women to start a day care.”
Chaldeans, who were Iraq’s indigenous population, are Eastern Rite Catholic.
Over the past 30 years as it has fled Iraq, the Chaldean population of the U.S. has
grown from roughly 20,000 to about 220,000, with about 150,000 of those living in
the territory of the Southfield-based diocese, according to a recent report in The
About 8,000 to 10,000 Chaldean refugees have come to metro Detroit since 2005,
Manna said, increasing the number living in the region to about 121,000 by 2008,
according to a survey by United Way for Southeastern Michigan and Walsh
There are 10 Chaldean Catholic churches in the Detroit region, making it one of the
largest dioceses for the church in the world.
The Chaldean Community Foundation expects the number of Chaldean refugees
coming to Southeast Michigan to rise even further, as they continue to flee Iraq,
Syria and other parts of the Middle East, he said.
“One of the most gratifying things to me has been the opportunity to help people
understand … these (refugees) came here because they had no choice. They were
being persecuted,” Manna said.
“Immigration … will be a net gain for our state for years to come. The places around
the country that are flourishing are welcoming to immigrants.”
Sherri Welch: (313) 446-1694, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @sherriwelch
May 16, 2012
By Jennie Miller | C & G Staff Writer
SOUTHFIELD — Southfield’s richly diverse population will be celebrated, and one culture in particular
lauded, during the seventh annual Chaldean Festival June 8-10 on the front lawn of City Hall.
The widely popular event draws from not only the 120,000 Chaldeans currently calling metro Detroit
home, but also residents of the surrounding communities who wish to celebrate and learn about the
“Southfield is a pretty diverse community, so it’s an opportunity for the Chaldean community to
showcase and share with other residents traditions and ethnic festivities,” said Sharon Hannawa,
program manager for the Chaldean Community Foundation, the charitable arm of the Chaldean-
American Chamber of Commerce, headquartered in Southfield, which hosts the annual event.
“I think we take a lot of pride in our community, so this is an excellent opportunity to showcase
that and introduce it to the rest of the world.”
The festival will include a full carnival with rides, games and children’s activities, as well as food and
merchant booths. It runs 5-10 p.m. June 8, noon-10 p.m. June 9, and noon-10 p.m. June 10.
“What’s most cherished (in our culture) is family, and this is definitely an opportunity for families to
come together,” Hannawa said. “There’s also a love of music — Chaldeans love music and … traditional
dances like line dancing. People can watch and observe, and then those that are brave enough can join
the line as well.”
Chaldeans are a significant part of metro Detroit, and many are business owners in local communities.
“Chaldeans have made a lot of investments here in terms of the impact they make on the local economy,”
said Eric Younan, director of strategic initiatives for the Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce. “We
are heavily invested in the southeast Michigan community. … We are committed to the communities in which
we live and work, and we contribute to the local economy. We think it’s important for people to understand
who the Chaldeans are (despite many misconceptions). One of the things that separates us from other Middle
East ethnicities is that we’re Iraqi Christians. Even though there’s such (large) numbers here, not a lot of
people understand that. The Chaldean and the Arab communities — we’re two distinctly different communities
with a different dialect and ancestry. We’d like to gain appreciation and awareness.”
The Southfield municipal complex is located at 26000 Evergreen Road. Evergreen will be shut down for the
event, from Civic Center Drive to 11 Mile/I-696.
For more information about the festival, or for details about how to get involved as a volunteer or as a
sponsor, call the chamber at (248) 996-8340 or email Lisa Kalou at email@example.com.
You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jennie Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (586)279-1108.
That $5 million spent luring Whole Foods drives city’s independent grocers crazy
By Jack Lessenberry
There was a fair amount of excitement in the press and, presumably, yuppieland, when ground was broken this week for Detroit’s first-ever Whole Foods Market, at Mack and John R.
Some of the coverage was positively breathless. Wow! Will wonders never cease? Whole Foods, which bills itself as “the world’s largest natural and organic grocery store” is coming to Detroit!!!
How wonderful. Yes, at last poor Detroiters will be saved from the “food desert” in which they have been languishing. It was hinted that Detroiters will now be able to see and even buy lettuce, tomatoes and oranges for the first time in their lives. That is, if they can survive scurvy until the store actually opens next year.
That’s a little exaggerated, but there’s been a lot written that would give you the impression that unless Detroiters can somehow get themselves to Royal Oak’s Holiday Market, they are now doomed to spend their lives eating nothing but overpriced and likely expired cans of tuna and spaghetti from the shelves of their local party store.
Well, guess again. The other day, I once again heard the assertion that Detroit doesn’t have a single supermarket.
That kind of thing drives the Detroit Independent Grocers Association crazy. Know how many full-service grocery stores there are in the city? (By full-service, I mean at least 10,000 square feet of aisles, and dedicated meat, dairy, produce and frozen food sections.)
Eighty-three. That’s right, 83. “Our members are the grocers who are truly committed to Detroit,” Eric Younan told me. He is director of strategic initiatives for the Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce, the parent group of the grocers’ association.
While most of those stores are Chaldean-owned, not all are, Younan told me. They are truly small, independent operators; while a few people have more than one store, there are 53 different owners.
They include University Foods over by Warren and the Lodge Freeway; two Glory Supermarkets, and lots of others; there is a complete, easy-to-navigate list at mydetroitgrocers.com.
“You know, our grocers are the people who have remained loyal to the city. Most of them have been around for 30 years or more, serving communities that chain stores have long ago abandoned,” Younan said, after conferring with John Loussia, who heads the grocers’ association. “Many of these stores are in underserved communities, such as Farmer John’s at Gratiot and Harper and Pick & Save at Seven Mile and Van Dyke,” he told me.
“Think national stores will open in these neighborhoods?”
What bothers the independent grocers is not that Whole Foods is trying to come in to Detroit. The independents acknowledge that they have every right to do that. What the independents hate is that Whole Foods is getting millions of dollars in incentives to do so, when they get nothing.
According to an analysis by Crain’s Detroit Business last year, Whole Foods asked for more than $4.2 million in federal, state and city incentives before opening a Detroit store. They also planned to apply for brownfield incentives. All told, the Chaldeans put the final price of luring Whole Foods to Detroit at close to $5 million. Michigan and Detroit development officials had no comment.
Eric Younan says we’ve seen this movie before, “time and time again. A name brand chain store is provided with significant tax incentives to open within city limits.”
After a short time, “the store fails and is ultimately purchased and run successfully by an independent grocer (usually Chaldean) sans credits, abatements or incentives of any kind.”
The problem, Younan explained, is that many of those in the communities they serve are dependent on assistance checks. They shop when the checks come early in the month. But for the last two-thirds of each month, business falls off. That doesn’t work for the chain stores, he said. “Our members have been able to discover creative ways of coping with that and staying in business.”
However, aren’t these small grocery stores vastly overpriced, compared to the big chains? Younan acknowledged that for some items that can be bought in enormous quantities, such as Campbell’s canned soups, you’ll see cheaper prices in chain stores.
But he challenged me to walk the aisles of a few independents and compare a wide range of prices, and check out the produce.
Much of the fresh meat and produce in many of them comes from Eastern Market and the efficient Spartan Foods chain. Besides, he asked me, does anyone think Whole Foods prices are cheap?
He makes some compelling arguments. But the Detroit grocers’ own website admits that one-third of the money city residents spend on food is spent in the suburbs. One Saturday afternoon a few years ago, I saw three Detroit council members separately shopping at Royal Oak’s aforementioned Holiday Market. Why is that, if the city has so many great grocers? Younan paused.
He’s never been a grocer himself. But as a boy, he used to go help his father, a butcher at a small market in one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods back in the ’70s and ’80s.
“I think people shop in the suburbs largely to get away from the crime and blight around them, and to be somewhere they can drop their kids off for an hour and know they are safe,” he said.
Whole Foods may do better than he expects, especially if members of the Wayne State and Detroit Medical Center communities take to shopping there on their way home.
Possibly it may even spur surrounding stores in a good way. But I have an uneasy feeling that the odds are against it. In any case, Detroit’s independent grocers may not have served their communities perfectly. But they have been there when nobody else has been.
And they also deserve to be heard.
Health care they can’t take away: One of the area’s more amazing health care stories has been the FernCare Free Clinic, which opened less than two years ago after a group of friends spent years planning and raising money to make it happen.
After starting in a temporary location, they finally got a permanent clinic last fall, in a renovated building at the corner of Paxton and East Nine Mile roads.
They have done their best to do everything right. They treat only uninsured adults between the ages of 19 and 64. They don’t treat children or those eligible for Medicaid. If you have a venereal disease, they send you to the health department; if you are in anything like critical shape, they pack you off to the nearest emergency room.
Even so, they never run out of patients. Ann Heler, an amazing and dynamic woman who is the president of their board, says there is always a waiting list, which is not surprising given that there are at least 50 million Americans who lack any health care at all.
Nor is that need ever going away. Even if President Obama’s health care law survives our basically right-wing Supreme Court, Heler estimates there will still be about 20 million uninsured without care. Next Thursday, May 24, the rock band Mostly Static is hosting a fundraiser for FernCare, starting at 8 p.m. at the Berkley Front on 12 Mile. Be there, be worse than square, or send ‘em a check.
After all, you’re more than likely just a pink slip away from FernCare, (ferncare.org) which treats folks from many different towns two Saturday mornings and an occasional Thursday night every month. If you go, tell them some left-wing columnist sent you.
May 14, 2012
By John Loussia
In just a matter of days, Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods will break ground on a store site north of Mack Avenue
between Woodward and John R in Detroit. Half of the project’s estimated $10 million price tag will be underwritten by
state and local incentives. Similarly, a new Meijer, to be developed on the site of the old Redford High School, will
receive a $3.3 million brownfield tax credit from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority in order to move forward.
Will the stores be successful? The precedents are not good, with a troubling pattern that has played itself out over
and over again in Detroit: A name-brand, big-box chain is attracted to the city with significant tax incentives. The
store fails. The store is ultimately purchased and run successfully by an independent grocer, sans credits, abatements
or incentives of any kind.
In fact, in the past five years, two former Farmer Jacks and one Kroger store closed — all of which were purchased
by independent grocers in Detroit and now sport such names as Farmer John’s, Food Express and Mike’s Fresh Market.
Over the past 10 years, independent grocers have invested $26 million of their own money for new store construction
in Detroit with 10 new projects. Another $15 million in private investment has gone toward remodeling an additional 13
facilities. These are not party or convenience stores but brand new full-service grocery stores of 10,000 square feet
or more, offering fresh meat, dairy and produce departments at affordable prices.
Detroit’s independent grocers welcome competition and a free marketplace. In order for everyone to compete fairly,
however, there needs to be a level playing field. That does not exist.
Our grocers have remained loyal to the city, with the majority of our stores boasting 30-year histories of serving
the communities in which they reside. We want to continue that commitment to Detroit. Unfortunately, this loyalty
is not reciprocated by state and local entities. Instead, financial incentives consistently go toward a steady stream
of ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ national chains, from Farmer Jack and Walgreens to Kroger and Zaccaro’s. The
names may sound attractive and exciting, but the model simply does not work and wastes millions of dollars of
We’ve all heard the myths that provide fodder for this travesty that is perpetuated, that Detroit is a “food desert.”
Yet, how can that be when there are 83 full-service grocery stores, many supplied by Spartan Foods and Eastern
Market, located throughout the city? (See map at: http://mydetroitgrocers.com/locations/). It is a convenient untruth.
The playing field needs to be leveled. A true standard of competition needs to be implemented and followed. No
corporate entity should be allowed to “hit and run.” Especially when it comes at the expense of those who, in the end,
remain here to save the day.
John Loussia is the chairman of the Detroit Independent Grocers, an association of more than 50 supermarkets
dedicated to serving Detroiters. DIG is an affiliate of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce.
May 9, 2012
By Doron Levin
For the Chaldeans of metropolitan Detroit, history may be understood as a trail of blood and tears and broken hearts that leads from the old country of Iraq to Detroit neighborhoods and even to the suburbs.
Fred (“Faraj”) Dally, 63, was robbed and murdered last week in front of his store, the Medicine Chest, at 9840 Dexter in Detroit. His life began in Iraq, as one of the persecuted Christian minority that came to the U.S., like many immigrant groups, seeking a safer, more prosperous life.
“He was like so many other Chaldean merchants, he was willing to take his chances so that his family could survive,” said Joe Kassab, executive director of the Chaldean Federation of America, which is located in Southfield. “The Chaldeans left a vicious environment and some, like Fred, found one that is even more vicious.”
Kassab showed me a booklet compiled in April 1994 entitled “Commemoration of Chaldeans Slain in their Place of Business.” It contains a gruesome accounting of 66 slayings, with pictures of the victims, the dates of their murders and description of what happened. Two of Kassab’s relatives by marriage were slain in Detroit in the course of business.
The booklet was distributed then at a memorial mass at the Mother of God Cathedral in Southfield, attended by dignitaries including then-Wayne County Prosecutor John O’Hair and U.S. Representative Sander Levin, who continues to serve. According to Kassab, the number of Chaldean murder victims killed in connection with their business has risen to at least 110, with Fred Dally being the latest victim. His funeral was Saturday at Mother of God.
With bone-chilling matter-of-factness the booklet documents slaying after slaying:
Karim Jona, born: 1/15/1943; murdered 1/16/1988; found dead in store with multiple gunshot wounds; family: wife & six children. Patrick Kakos, born 1/29/1959; murdered 10/30/1984, murdered during a robbery, single.
According to Jim Hiller, owner of Shopping Center Markets and a second generation grocer, owning a store in Detroit always meant exposing oneself to the possibility of robbery and violence. The atmosphere got much worse, he said, after the 1967 riot.
As whites fled to the suburbs and Detroit became more and more an African-American city, tensions arose as some residents resented the merchants as intruders or exploiters rather than courageous entrepreneurs who were risking their lives to support their families.
Dally was loved by many, especially those who patronized his store. I met him a couple of times on Sunday mornings as he sat with other Chaldean businessmen at Panera Bread in West Bloomfield. He was a friendly, sweet-natured, reserved fellow.
“Such a tragedy,” said Nabby Yono, a mutual friend. “They didn’t have to kill him, he would have given them the money.” Yono said at least a third of the attendees at Dally’s funeral were African-Americans, patrons and friends from the vicinity of the Medicine Chest who were devastated by the crime.
The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers are jointly offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Dally’s killers. Dally had served as chairman of the Associated Food and Petroleum dealers and knew the dangers he faced every day.
Kassab told me a bit about Dally the man, why he chose such a dangerous vocation.
“You have to understand,” he said, “our people came from a country where they were persecuted for generations.” Almost two thousand years ago, centuries before the Muslim religion, missionaries brought Christianity to Mesopotamia, the land now known as Iraq.
When Muslim warlords invaded, the ancestors of the Chaldeans retreated to the mountains of northern Iraq. Eventually they returned to the cities, relying on tight-knit families, business skills and education to survive and maintain their faith in a Muslim society. The first Chaldeans immigrated to Detroit in the early part of the twentieth century, settling in the area of E. Jefferson Avenue and East Grand Boulevard. They operated groceries.
Migration from Iraq to the U.S. and Detroit grew dramatically in the 1960s and 1970s, as more and more Chaldeans sought to escape the repression of Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party. Most lacked formal education or degrees. Small grocery stores in the city, especially in poorer neighborhoods, were a simple – if dangerous – way to get started, requiring little capital. It was the way Jewish immigrants and Italian immigrants had started, too.
“People want to know why we are so prominent in the party story business,” said Kassab. “Don’t forget: We were allowed to buy and sell alcohol in the old country. Muslims couldn’t touch liquor.”
Entire Chaldean-American families worked in groceries, party stores and other businesses, partly to provide employment, partly to maintain security and safety as much as possible. The amount of blood shed and the number of lives lost suggest that the struggle for security and safety has been a losing one.
“Today the children are educated, most of the time they don’t want to go into their parents’ stores,” said Kassab.
This was the case for the family of Karim Khamarko, who operated the Dollar Club Plus in Ferndale. On November 26, 2010 he was gunned down at his store. Candace Khamarko, 24, his daughter, works as an account executive for the Chaldean News in Southfield. She and her four siblings have attended college, none wished to continue to operate the store.
“It was too difficult for anyone in my family to work there after what happened to my father,” said Candace Khamarko.
The Chaldean community suffered another tragedy on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 when Faraj “Fred” Dally was gunned
down as he was opening his liquor store, the Medicine Chest in Detroit, as he has done nearly every day
for the past 30 years.
The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce is offering a $10,000 reward to help find those who are responsible
for killing Fred.
Since 1970, more than 110 Chaldean store owners have been viciously murdered at their place of business
and hundreds more have been injured during a violent crime. Rest assured, your Chamber is taking action.
The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and the Chaldean Community Foundation hold the safety of
the store owners in our community in the highest regard. As a result, we teamed with the Murad family in 2005
to establish the Waad Murad Advocacy Fund where a $10,000 reward is posted for information leading to the
arrest and conviction of those responsible for fatal robberies. Since the fund’s inception, the Chaldean
Community Foundation has posted more than $50,000 in reward money, which helped solve two of these crimes.
Just in the past 14 months, we’ve posted rewards for the following murders:
Cronin’s Liquor and Wine – Mike Khmoro – an arrest was made
Dollar Club Plus – Karim Khamarko – reward now stands at $20,000
The Medicine Chest – Fred Dally – $10,000 added to the AFPD Foundation’s reward
Additionally, Chamber leadership routinely meets with legislators, law enforcement officials and civic and
community leaders to discuss the security and occupational hazards our store owners face during their daily
operations. We will continue to do as much as we can to prevent these heinous crimes and make sure
perpetrators are brought to justice.
For more information on the Waad Murad Advocacy Fund, visit www.chaldeanfoundation.org or contact the Chamber
at (248) 996-8340 or email@example.com.
Crain’s Detroit Business
May 06, 2012 | 8:00 PM
By Sherri Welch
Last week’s murder of Faraj “Fred” Dally brought to the forefront once again the danger owners of small stores sometimes face doing business in and near Detroit.
Dally, 63, the former chairman of the Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers, was gunned down early May 1 as he opened the Medicine Chest, a liquor store he’d operated on the city’s west side since the 1970s.
Criminals are getting bolder because they know police response times in Detroit’s outlying neighborhoods are incredibly long — if they ever come, store owners say.
“It’s like a game of chess,” said Jason Kassab, who with his family owns and manages Handy Spot Market on Eight Mile Road between Hayes Street and Kelly Road in Detroit and Handy Mart in Garden City. “(Criminals) make a move; we find a way to counter that move. And they figure out another move.”
Everything comes back to police presence, he said.
“Whether it’s in the city or suburbs, you are dealing with the same type of people. But what you have is more police presence” in the suburbs, Kassab said.
“It’s almost like a lawless land in Detroit … something has got to be done.”
While the city’s downtown and Midtown areas are heavily patrolled and safer with the growing number of people traversing them, store owners in outlying neighborhoods talk about criminals driving vehicles into their stores in the middle of the night or taking sledge hammers to store exteriors to gain access.
Video surveillance isn’t much help.
“We do have video surveillance … but it’s not that big of a deterrent,” Kassab said.
“We know who is doing what when it happens,” which is at least twice a year. But the family doesn’t report it because they fear property insurance companies will drop them, he said.
Luxor Liquor on West McNichols Road in Detroit also has surveillance cameras in place.
“When we have our break-ins and look at our cameras, you’ll see cars passing up and down, but nobody stops, calls the cops or does anything,” said manager Clint Kassab, who is a distant relative of Jason Kassab.
“We have bullet-proof glass, double steel doors, steel plates on the inside of the walls in case they try to break the bricks on the outside of the building,” he said.
But many times, criminals come right through the front door despite those measures, he said, noting they’d done the same at about 20 stores in his neighborhood during a one-month period.
The only thing that is helping the store stave off criminals is the live visual monitoring he pays Oak Park-based Security Central Protection to provide, Clint Kassab said.
“It’s been about a year or two years. I haven’t had any break-ins, thank God,” he said.
Dally had internal and external video surveillance, but was gunned down and robbed as he got out of his car about 9 a.m. to open his store on Dexter Avenue near West Chicago Boulevard.
He was carrying more cash than usual to have available to cash checks because it was the beginning of the month.
“A store owner does not (ordinarily) walk into the store with large amounts of money,” Jason Kassab said. “Someone knew he had money on him because it was the first of the month.”
A legacy of larceny
Criminal activity, both in terms of armed robberies and burglaries, has plagued small-store owners operating in and near the city for decades.
The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce can name more than 200 local store owners in its cultural community alone who were killed at their businesses in and near Detroit since the 1970s, when a large number of Chaldeans migrated here from Iraq.
“We’ve seen acceleration, unfortunately, (with) four incidents in just a year,” said Martin Manna, president of the chamber and the Chaldean Community Foundation.
Three of those four murders of Chaldean business owners over the last year to 18 months took place in suburbs: Ferndale, River Rouge and Southfield.
“We knew most of our customers by a first name,” said Candace Khamarko, whose father, Karim Khamarko, was killed at the family’s Ferndale store, Dollar Club Plus, on Hilton near Woodward Avenue the day after Thanksgiving in 2010.
The family had operated a video store at the same location for 10 years before converting it to a dollar store five years before Khamarko was killed by what nearby store surveillance cameras appear to show was a lone gunman.
“We were just very comfortable there … very safe, and (we) didn’t feel a need to have surveillance video,” said Candace Khamarko, 24, an account executive for the Chaldean News in Southfield.
The family installed exterior and interior video cameras following his death, but they closed the store less than a year later, finding it too difficult to operate in the same place Khamarko had died.
Grosse Pointe has also been a target of armed robberies at gas stations on Mack Avenue, said John Broad, president of Detroit-based Crime Stoppers, formally known as the Alliance for a Safer Greater Detroit.
“It’s everywhere; it’s not just a Detroit problem,” he said.
“In fact, many of the businesses in Detroit maybe have more precautions in terms of heavy glass than what you’ll see in the suburbs. In some ways, the suburbs are more vulnerable today.”
In Detroit, there’s a no-snitch rule, said Auday Arabo, president and CEO of the West Bloomfield Township-based Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers.
“If you know what happened, it’s not your business. Keep your mouth shut or there’s street justice,” Arabo said in describing the rule.
That’s why the association stepped up with $40,000 in reward money to pair with $10,000 from the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and $2,500 from Crime Stoppers of Michigan.
Long-term, the association is working with local and state law enforcement to educate its members on prevention tips, such as limiting the number of signs in store windows to keep lines of sight clear for store owners and passersby.
Anonymous tips help
There’s a growing sentiment that enough is enough, said Broad, head of Crime Stoppers, which gets about 80 percent of its annual budget from business memberships and sponsorships of its annual fundraising dinner. The Detroit-based agency reported contributions and grants totaling just under $682,000 in 2010, the year of its latest tax filing.
Calls to the nonprofit’s anonymous tip line increased 44 percent to more than 5,900 calls last year, and they are already up 20 percent so far in 2012.
A desire to claim reward money could be a motivator, but it doesn’t appear to be, Broad said. Less than a third of tipsters have claimed reward money for reporting crimes over each of the past three years.
Local churches have also engaged Crime Stoppers in helping decrease crime in their neighborhoods. They’re now preaching from the pulpit about the moral obligation congregation members have to report crimes they know of, Broad said.
Local business communities are taking matters into their own hands as public safety protection dwindles. Business groups in areas such as Midtown, Southwest Detroit, Highland Park and Southfield have put in place or are exploring business watch groups.
Business watch groups engage and train business owners to communicate with one another, to observe what’s happening near their businesses and to collect and report criminal and suspicious activity to local law enforcement officials in a coordinated fashion, similar to the approach of neighborhood watch groups.
They’re not a new strategy in Detroit. Between 1975 and 1987, the city created nearly 5,000 neighborhood watch groups and 150 business watch groups as part of a larger plan to decrease crime, according to a study posted on the National Criminal Justice Reference Service website.
Those groups helped reduce incidences of violent crimes such as murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault by 40 percent in a 155-block area and residential burglaries by 60 percent, in an approach lauded by the Arlington, Va.-based National Crime Prevention Council.
“Business watches were very popular at one time,” but they’ve trailed off as the precinct’s staff of community relations staff has been reduced, said Lt. Terry Herbert in the Detroit Police Department’s Police Community Service Department.
There are still some business watch groups in pockets of the city in places such as Midtown and Southwest Detroit, he said.
Watch efforts pay off
A business watch launched about three years ago in Southwest Detroit is seeing a good return on its efforts, said Kathleen Wendler, president of the Southwest Detroit Business Association.
The West Vernor and Springwells Business Improvement District shares the cost of regular maintenance of a portion of West Vernor Highway and Springwells Street, graffiti removal and some public safety initiatives, including the part-time hiring of off-duty Detroit police officers to patrol in uniform on the street in the business district, Wendler said.
The business improvement district contracts with the association to work on crime prevention through the efforts of a dedicated staff member who has direct relationships with the police department, the Wayne County Sheriff, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, Wendler said.
“We do email blasts if some particular technique is being used to break into stores, if someone is caught on a video camera doing something illegal,” she said.
The group has “eyes and ears on the street,” who can report crime anonymously and get a reward for doing it, Wendler said.
“Businesses (are) looking out for one another because crime lowers the dollars in the cash register,” she said.
The business watch group is also in regular communication with law enforcement, sharing video and information about criminal or suspicious activity.
“That kind of information sharing is helping us to do crime prevention, along with Crime Stoppers as a means of everyone in the neighborhood being able to report crime anonymously,” Wendler said.
It’s hard to measure the exact effect those efforts have had on crime in the area, she said, “but we do know we catch stuff in the bud.”
At one point, a group of criminals drove a truck through the walls of a local supermarket and carried off the store’s safe, Wendler said.
By the time they attempted to rob another supermarket in the same way, “we were already on top of it with the police,” who responded and caught the criminals in process because they’d been in contact with the local group, she said.
“It’s about putting a system in place to make crime prevention work. … You have to be incredibly aggressive and organized as a community to make it stick; it’s not 1975 or 1955.”
Communities where businesses are organized are less likely to become victimized by crime, Crime Stoppers’ Broad said.
“The overall thing is to look out for each other – if we see something in a neighboring business that looks out of place, we need to report that … (and) go back to being a community, not silos.”
Sherri Welch: (313) 446-1694, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @sherriwelch
The Arab American News: Slain store owner was “model for community businessmen” in inner cities – May 4, 2012
DETROIT — Another store owner became the victim of senseless violence on Tuesday, May 1 as 63-year-old Chaldean American liquor store owner Faraj “Freddy” Dally was robbed and shot twice in the head as he attempted to open his store, the Medicine Chest, at 9 a.m.
Memorial balloons have been placed outside following his death while family, friends and customers gathered outside on Tuesday night for a candlelight vigil for Dally, who has owned the store since the 1970s. Police have a description of the suspects, two black males who wore scarves over their heads and drove a dark-colored SUV, possibly a Dodge Journey.
A reward of $50,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest in the case, with $40,000 having been put up by the AFPD and $10,000 by the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce.
Nabby Yono, who serves as Vice President of Community Relations at the Arab and Chaldean Council in Detroit and is also a former president of the AFPD, is a close friend of Dally’s who was greatly saddened by the news.
“First and foremost he was a good person, a good businessman and a good family man who always took care of his family,” he said. “He had three boys, two were married and he was looking forward to the third getting married (this summer).”
Dally had an MBA from Baghdad as well and served as a chairman of the AFPD for a two-year term beginning in 2004.
Yono, who became choked up with emotion after recalling how he saw Dally at a gas station in a northern suburb on the morning of the shooting, said that Dally loved Detroit and its residents.
Dally had gone to cash checks preparing for the first of the month rush on the morning of the shooting.
“He had so many chances to leave Detroit and he didn’t, even when his store caught on fire a couple of years ago, a lot of people told him not to rebuild but he insisted on re-opening and staying there.”
Yono also commented on the sad cycle of violence.
“This is the price we’ve paid in the Arab and Chaldean community for the last 50 years, we’ve had probably 300-500 people killed in stores just trying to support their families, to serve the community, nobody deserves to be killed going to work.”
Auday Arabo, the current president of the AFPD organization, said that Dally had deep roots in the community and was well known and respected by residents of a neighborhood that has been hit hard by blight including store closings, burned-out houses, and more.
“Fred is what we call the model for businesspeople working in the inner city, he knew everyone in the community and as one person said it perfectly, he would do things for you that even your own family members wouldn’t do for you.”
He said that the area he originally opened the store in during the 1970s was a once-bustling community that had fallen on hard times. Dally gave several area residents jobs and practically helped raise them, Arabo said, considering the area his second home.
“For something to happen to a man like that who is a model for community businesspeople just breaks your heart,” he added.
A church service will be held on Saturday May 5, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. at Mother of God Church in Southfield, 25585 Berg Rd.
May 3, 2012 6:45 PM
DETROIT (WWJ) – “Heartbreaking”: That’s how one mourner describes the death of a longtime Detroit party store owner, murdered as he prepared to open for business earlier this week.
“He was a great father, a great husband. He served a community in Detroit and we’ve got to do something to stop these senseless acts of violence,” the man said.
Friends, neighbors and family streamed into a Southfield Funeral Home Thursday evening to pay their final respects to 63-year-old Faraj “Fred” Dally.
Residents of Daily’s northwest Detroit neighborhood called him a local hero, who stayed long after other businesses had left the area and often offered help to customers who needed it.
Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce President Martin Manna was a friend of Dally.
“I think it’s a big loss for this entire region, really,” said Manna. “The kind of people that are serving others … and for him to be killed like that, senselessly, makes no sense to anybody.”
Dally was a past chairman of the Association of Food and Petroleum Dealers.
A reward of $50,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest in the case.