Ed Deeb: Neal Shine Award for Exemplary Leadership

bilde.jpgHe’s known for keeping peace, solving problems
As a youngster in the 1940s, Ed Deeb learned some valuable lessons while selling penny candy and sorting bottles in his parents’ Detroit grocery stores.

You’d meet all kinds of people there,” said Deeb, who grew up on Mack not far from Belle Isle. “You learned how to deal with people. You learned about their problems. … You got to learn all this … and a little courage, too.”

As head of the Michigan Food and Beverage Association — and recipient of the 2010 Neal Shine Award for Exemplary Regional Leadership — Deeb has used those skills and insights to build a career distinguished by helping others, bridging gaps between groups and creating new opportunities for young people and others in need of a champion.

Among other achievements, he cofounded the award-winning Metro Detroit Youth Day program on Belle Isle; established its youth scholarship program; set up metro Detroit’s first scouting program for handicapped children; set in motion the revival and renovation of Detroit’s historic Eastern Market, and established the region’s largest awards program for women in business.

“He does amazing things by getting people to work with him … for the greater good,” said Warren auto sales executive Mona Gualtieri, who nominated him for the Shine leadership award.

Said Detroit Media Partnership CEO Susie Ellwood: “What sets him apart is that he is always thinking about and doing things that make a difference in people’s lives, especially children.”

Now 72, Deeb remains president and CEO of two of the state’s largest business associations, both of which he founded — the 3,200-member Michigan Food and Beverage Association, and the 21,000-member Michigan Business & Professional Association.

But he is “best known for being a peacemaker and a problem solver” when tensions flared between grocery-store owners and Detroit residents, Gualtieri wrote.

During the 1967 riot in Detroit, when he was president of the Associated Food Dealers trade group, he received calls from 400 business owners whose stores were damaged, looted or destroyed. Afterward, he and New Detroit President Walter Douglas formed a coalition of their organizations “to try to solve any problems that came up and deal with complaints. And we got through it OK,” Deeb said.

Later on, when problems occurred between people in the community and store owners, many of them Arabic or Chaldean, Deeb would personally try to resolve them. If residents picketed a store, he would go there and get the customers and owner to talk about the problem. At the end, “They would shake hands and make peace, and I would go back to the office. That happened many times,” he said.

Serious trouble hit in summer 1980, when confrontations between young people and store owners on Livernois resulted in the shooting deaths of two youths and one grocer within two weeks.

Then-Mayor Coleman Young got the city calmed down, and Deeb calmed the grocers. That fall, Young called a meeting and asked Deeb to find a way to keep the situation from happening again the next summer.

That was the beginning of Metro Detroit Youth Day, which Deeb organized with the help of Tom Fox of WJBK-TV (Channel 2) and the late Jerry Blocker, a reporter with WWJ-AM (950) radio. The first one attracted 1,100 young people for games and lunch. This year, 37,000 young people and 1,600 volunteers participated. It’s now the largest youth event in Michigan and includes an ambitious scholarship program.

Deeb — who received a presidential Point of Light Award in 1991 as the event’s founder — is still its driving force.

The Scouting for the Handicapped program, which he founded with the late Nate Shapero of Cunningham Drug stores, has also grown dramatically.

It began in 1984 with 40 children and now serves 4,600 girls and boys in what’s called the Trailblazer Unit. “It’s quite a program,” he said.

One of Deeb’s favorite projects is Eastern Market. He became involved with it in 1986, when he helped business owners set up the Eastern Market Merchants Association. In 2006, he was one of three cofounders of the nonprofit Eastern Market Corp., which is using foundation funding to dramatically improve the buildings and services. “It’s a love of my life,” he said.

Working through his Michigan Business & Professional Association, he also created the annual Women and Leadership in the Workplace conference and awards, now in its 14th year. About 600 businesswomen attend; seven are honored each year for distinguished work in areas ranging from small business to civic affairs.

At some point, Deeb hopes to hand over the associations’ reins to his daughter, executive vice president Jennifer Kluge, 39, and take a less prominent role. His son, George Deeb, lives in Chicago.

Deeb and his wife, Joanne, live by a lake in Bloomfield Township, but he doesn’t want to retire and stay home.

“If I retire, I might be gone in a year. I feel young. I feel active. I still want to help people and do things to make our community a better place,” he said.