A History of Serving Dignity & Hope
A 501(c)(3) charity founded in 2006, SAY Detroit provides pathways to success for Detroiters in need. This is achieved by direct efforts and with civil and community partners, through programs such as an after-school motivational learning center for youth, 8-18; a free family medical clinic; a housing program for working families; and other learning, health care and housing initiatives for Detroit’s most vulnerable populations. It also supports local partner charities with funds raised at a live annual Radiothon held in December on WJR (760 AM).
Mitch Albom, SAY Detroit Founder (left) and Chad Audi, CEO of Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (right).
1997: Giving is Living
Mitch Albom begins forming charities the same year that his best-selling memoir of all-time (Tuesdays with Morrie) is published. He creates A Time to Help as a means of inspiring Detroiters to volunteer on a regular basis. Since then, more than 200 monthly projects have been completed by thousands of volunteers.
2006: Super All Year
More than $300,000 is raised by generous readers of a column written by Albom after spending the night at a homeless shelter. The column pointed out that the city was providing a three-day “Super Bowl party” for its homeless while the tourists were in town, only to return them to their former circumstances come Monday morning. After Albom goes public with a plea to do as much for homeless people all winter as the city was doing over Super Bowl weekend, the non-profit SAY Detroit is formed in partnership with the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries. Initial projects included:
- a new kitchen for homeless veterans at the Michigan Veterans Foundation;
- supplying milk to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit for a year;
- buying 200 mattresses for clients at Cass Community Social Services;
- extending vital programs and services at the DRMM, and creating Bright Beginnings Child Development Center (together with Ilitch Charities).
2008: Expanding Umbrella
The SAY Detroit Family Health Clinic opens its doors, becoming among the nation’s first free health clinics devoted to homeless children and their mothers.
2009: Have Faith
A Hole in the Roof Foundation is formed to help faith and relief groups of every denomination who care for homeless people and/or victims of disaster in Detroit and beyond.
2011: A Hand Up
The Detroit Dream Scholars is established, awarding four-year scholarships for young people to study the arts at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. The same year, Working Homes / Working Families is formed to help working families secure housing in refurbished homes in an effort to strengthen city neighborhoods.
2012: All-day Radio for Better Days
In 15 hours of live broadcasting, the first ever Radiothon raises over $400,000 to help the poor, homeless people, families without homes, children without medical care, students hoping to reach the college of their dreams and veterans who have hit hard times.The day’s entertainment brings together all parties—the people who benefit from these charities, famous folks who wish to call attention to them, and generous supporters who wish to help.
2015: Nice Ice Baby
The Detroit Water Ice Factory opens in downtown Detroit, while the SAY Play Center at Lipke Park kicks off its first year on the city’s northeast side. Bolstered by volunteers serving as reading mentors, the center offers a first-rate tutoring program along with athletics, music, robotics and the arts to after-school students. By 2017, commercial efforts would expand to include a gourmet popcorn line called Brown Bag Popcorn.
2016: Happy Anniversary
SAY Detroit celebrates 10 years, and the December Radiothon raises over $1 million dollars in just 15 hours for the second year in a row.
2017: The Future
The Tomorrow Fund, a fund created to be a catalyst for a new stage of growth at SAY Detroit, launches.
2019: EAT Detroit
SAY Detroit launched the first of a now annual foodie experience and fundraiser. EAT Detroit lets patrons wander between the city’s hottest restaurants, tasting chef-created small plates and specialty craft cocktails, all in a festive atmosphere featuring area musical acts at each restaurant. The event was run with the support of volunteers from A Time to Help and local nonprofits who work with SAY Detroit in programming or receive funding from the Radiothon, providing an opportunity for patrons to learn more about SAY Detroit and the broadened scope of its outreach through community partners.
2020: Detroit Beats Covid-19!
Mobilizing quickly in response to the pandemic, SAY Detroit launched the six-point initiative to provide immediate assistance to some of our most vulnerable populations, whose needs – now only greater – are served by our efforts. “Detroit Beats Covid-19!” provided healthcare without barriers, including a walk-up and drive-through mobile testing center, food to seniors and families, protective gear for frontline workers, remote learning, and shelter. This year also saw the launch of “Better Together,” which seeks to bridge the gap between law enforcement and at-risk citizens of Detroit.
2021: SAY Detroit turns 15!
And the annual radiothon celebrates it’s 10th year, raising a record-breaking fundraising total of $10 million in a decade.
2022: Breaking new ground
Mi-Cycle collects its first donated bike. Located at the Marygrove Conservancy, the program repairs used bikes and provides them to children and adults in underserved communities who are in need of transportation for work, school, medical care, recreation and other activities while helping Detroit become a more bicycle-friendly city.
In the spring, SAY Play breaks ground on its 20,000-sq-foot expansion with the Kelly and Matthew Stafford & Friends Education Center.
Our expanded leadership was built to better serve our programs, provide governance and steer the nonprofit toward a sustainable future by ensuring that it has adequate resources to advance its mission.
Chief Operations Officer
Manager, SAY Detroit Family Health Clinic
Executive Director, SAY Detroit Play Center
Coordinator, Better Together
Board of Directors
Founder, SAY Detroit
Former Detroit Mayor
Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries
O2 Investment Partners
Hon. Damon J. Keith