When the holidays arrive, Marley’s decorations thrive.
By Jacob Wheeler
Back when he was a student at Benzie Central, native son Marley Demers got the idea to place Christmas decorations in the school cafeteria. He contacted the food service director, and she approved.
Ever since then, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s, and St. Patrick’s Day have meant family gatherings and delicious meals, and also pumpkins, paper turkeys, pilgrims, Santas, reindeer, evergeens, elves, hearts, leprechauns, and decorated eggs taped to the walls and hanging from the ceilings. When the decorations come down, Demers repurposes them into creative art in “the clubhouse” on the property of his parents, Marty Jablonski and Betty Demers of Benzonia.
This holiday season, Demers—who turns 28 years old on December 22—is decorating Crystal View Adult Foster Care in Frankfort, Resale 4 Recovery in Benzonia, and the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities in Traverse City (formerly the Beulah-based Michigan Land Use Institute, or MLUI).
“Marley’s decorations are fantastic, they blow your mind away,” says Crystal View caregiver Judy McGregor. “Our residents really like it! It cheers them up a lot.”
Demers gets his decorations donated from big-box retail stores in Northern Michigan. He does not charge for the displays, but he leaves a donation box at each location.
“I recognize that it’s a bit unusual for a nonprofit advocacy organization to go all out on holiday decorations. But we figured, ‘Hey, let’s not take ourselves so seriously and have a little fun with the holidays,’” says Hans Voss, Groundwork’s executive director, a former Elberta resident. “Plus, Marley is a real pro. I call him the ‘Holiday Decoration Artist,’ because he really has a special talent and does a terrific job of transforming our regular hallway into a full-on seasonal celebration. Marley is a legit artist—and a heck of a dedicated young man. He is following his passion, and it’s beautiful to witness.”
For the last 10 years, Demers has also made and sold Christmas wreaths. He uses Benzie County’s freshest evergreens and typically sells 100 to 150 of them. They cost between $25 and $35, depending on the wreath.
Every step of the way, the community has supported Demers in his creative pursuits.
“When Marley was growing up in Benzie, his family and friends supported his pursuits without question,” Voss says. “I was a soccer coach at the time and tried to get him to play soccer, but he was interested in making Christmas wreaths, so I bought a Christmas wreath. That’s one of the great things about the Benzie community; they really gather around people and support them. Another one of Marley’s passions, which he picked up from his parents, is Michigan music festivals—it seems he’s a volunteer for all the great local festivals, and he really loves it. He’s following his dreams, and it’s a real inspiration.”
To buy a wreath, contact Marley Demers at 231-882-4933 or 231-871-1027. The family lives at Llama Meadows Eco Farm on Benzonia’s West Street, which intersects with the point in the road where Traverse Street becomes River Road.
Full disclosure: Since October of this year, Jacob Wheeler has taken a full-time job with Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities (formerly the Michigan Land Use Institute).