Car enthusiasts flocked to the Conant Gardens Church car show on Sunday, July 21. Here, car owners dry off their vehicles after a brief downpour. Photos by Jason Gloudon.
When Carol McCollough stepped into the new role of Community Services director at Detroit’s Conant Gardens Church, her first order of business was to know the community’s needs.
Even though she had grown up in the community, its needs had drastically changed over the years. “You have empty houses, some are boarded up. Some schools have closed or combined,” the retired public health nurse explained.
Before the urban blight sprouted up in the ’80s and ’90s, Conant Gardens was a solid middle-class community for African-American families; recording artists such as Aretha Franklin and Sam Cook lived nearby.
As she attended monthly meetings at the neighborhood police precinct, she began to grapple with how to best reach the community. “I listened to the people and heard their concerns. I got to know the stakeholders, the police, the government representatives.”
That's when the wheels started turning. “Sometimes we have to think ‘out of the box.’ We wanted our church to become a church of the community instead of a church in the community.”
Carol recalled another Adventist church, City Temple, had previously hosted a car show on their lot and thought that was a creative idea. “Detroit is car city. People love cars!” she said. Ford Motor Company, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors are all headquartered in the city.
From there, she shifted into overdrive, planning the first annual Conant Gardens classic car show.
“We got the word out by posting on Facebook, and distributing flyers to auto parts stores, car washes and throughout our community.”
As the event drew closer, she grew nervous. Even though registration was required, only one car owner registered online. A member at the sister church that helped behind the scenes, told her not to worry since car people automatically show up for car shows.
On Sunday, July 21, when she arrived around 8 a.m., there already was one man waiting to display his car.
“And they kept coming!” she said. “Our church parking lot was filled with classics to all models of cars; some came in on trailers. Even after the car show closed, cars were still coming through the gates.”
The show included free food and fellowship for the car participants and the community, as well as members. Medallions were awarded to cars judged ‘best in the show.’ All attendees received goody bags filled with copy of a Steps to Christ and items donated by O’Reilly’s Auto Parts.
“God blessed the day even though it started raining; when it stopped raining, the car owners dried off their cars, and remained to the end,” said Carol.
“All praise belongs to God we were just vessels used by Him. We all need to see how we can be a beacon of light in a dark world, in any innovative way God leads us.”
Pastor Tricia Wynn-Payne said that not only was the community impacted. “It served as a great way to build relationships with individuals who would otherwise not have come to church." But, "It was also a great team building event for our church.”