By Mark Blinch

I’ve been to Detroit countless times over the years and though I’ve always known the city to struggle with poverty, I am usually sent to the city to cover another winning Detroit sports franchise, or the glitzy international auto show showcasing the years new cars from all the top auto makers.

As I drove down the highway from my hometown Toronto, I tuned into my favorite Detroit rock radio station 89x as I got close to the border crossing. The radio hosts began to plug an event where people with little means could go and get a free meal. It was just a few days until Christmas, and rockstar Kid Rock, a Detroit native, was putting up the funds to help support his hometown.

I was sent to Detroit to meet with the people who struggle the most during the holidays, to see the places where they seek comfort and to capture the spirit of the locals who reach beyond their own troubles to help out others.

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St. Leo Catholic Church, located in the gritty suburbs of Detroit, was my destination. Like many churches across North America, St Leo’s is facing the threat of being closed down or merged with another church.
The Archdiocese of Detroit has said it simply can’t afford to keep it open. John Stoll, the Reuters reporter assigned to write this story, chose to feature this church in particular because of the important services it provides to the community.

As I drove the three miles to the church from my downtown hotel, I began to experience the economic disparity of this city. It is indeed ground zero for the severely weakened American auto industry. Once I passed the big, shiny Motor City Casino, which seems to be the last marker of downtown, I saw a number of abandoned houses that had been destroyed by fire, libraries forced to shut its doors for good, and countless empty lots among barren streets.