(WXYZ) — Denise Szykula-Giordano was beloved in the Eastpointe community. A lifelong resident, people who knew her say she was a brilliant dancer, choreographer, mentor and friend.
"Denise was just an incredible person. If you met her, you would never forget her," said one of her students, Michele Reis. "Very bold, very vivacious. When she walked into a room, it just lit up."
Michele and Denise were close, and when Denise passed away last year following a battle with cancer, Michele wanted to do something in her honor.
And that’s where the Halfway Schoolhouse comes in.
"There's just such a rich history feeling there. You just get the sense of, wow, this is really a step back in time," said Michele.
Courtesy Michele Reis
The Eastpointe treasure is actually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And it was a favorite spot for Denise to hold dance lessons.
"Halfway Schoolhouse has for years offered a welcoming space for dance instruction, yoga, weddings, baby showers, historical reenactments and other activities," she said.
There was just one problem.
"She [Denise] was very much aware that the the flooring was at the end of its useful life and it was posing a threat to dancers and actually anybody else that wanted to use the facility," said Michele.
Courtesy Michele Reis
And that’s why Michele and a small team are now on a mission to restore the hardwood floor all in Denise’s honor. They’ve launched a GoFundMe with a goal of $7,000 to keep the schoolhouse a place that people can still experience and enjoy.
"The schoolhouse will be able to offer activities and people will be able to utilize that space for decades to come," she said. "I know this would be so important to her to know that we were doing this in her memory."
The Halfway Schoolhouse in Eastpointe will be celebrating 150 years next year, and what better present than a restored floor dedicated to someone who meant so much to the community.
"I think this particular project touches on so many different people in so many different avenues. And I just think it's a really worthy cause," said Michele.
If you’d like to give to the Halfway Schoolhouse project, click here.