Detroit pastor's community barbecue brings sizzle to city

By Mitch Albom
Troy A. Blevins, Online Editor, Producer (@troyblevins)
Published On: Jun 12 2014 05:40:00 PM EDT
Updated On: Jun 12 2014 06:15:38 PM EDT

For many of us, summer means barbecue season. For a young pastor named Mike Schmitt, every barbecue-season Saturday for the last eight years is a gathering between folks from the suburbs and the city.

DETROIT -

For many of us, summer means barbecue season. For a young pastor named Mike Schmitt, every barbecue-season Saturday for the last eight years is a gathering between folks from the suburbs and the city.

"It started out with a Facebook message. My friend, John, sent it out to a couple friends and he literally said, 'What do you think would happen if we did this?' and we all said, 'I don't know, let's try it,'" said Schmitt. "I thought that we were more likely to get beat up or arrested than for it to go well, but about 40 people ended up showing up and we had a great time."

Today, having formed Elevate Detroit, Schmitt's community barbecue averages 150 people a week and, as you'd figure, lots more in the summer.

"It is not about feeding hungry people, it's about having a party with people regardless of whatever they have or don't have," said Schmitt. "We really, you know, have a lot in common; a lot more in common than we have different."

From a group of college friends to now over 70 participating churches, the community barbecue is a staple of a corner, even though the city inexplicably locked up the park, forcing the grills onto the sidewalk.

But rain, shine or snow, the urban Thanksgiving runs every Saturday afternoon.

"A lot of times somebody whose homeless or hungry, you spend a lot of time in soup kitchens and food lines, and they feel more treated like a project or a number, and I think when they realize they are not a project to us, I think that has really opened them up to embracing us, too," said Schmitt.

Bridging the gap between suburbs and city one burger at a time, Schmitt and Elevate Detroit are bringing sizzle to the heart of Detroit.

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