That’s Father Marko and he has organized a mission to keep parks, alleys, neighborhoods and churches clean. His crew – men and women who have fallen on hard times.
Father Marko: And when I look at those homeless persons I don’t see hopeless objects of pity but I see men and women with gifts with a sincere desire to work.
Father Marko provides supplies and labor wages with money raised through Better WAY Detroit – an initiative of the priests of the Detroit Oratory of St. Phillip Neri in Midtown. He has enlisted the help of Marcus Cobb who was once homeless himself.
Marcus: I met Father Marko and he came up with this program and he said I would like to start a program where I can go to the homeless shelters and get at least six or eight guys or women and we go to different areas of the city and clean up.
Mitch: To have the opportunity to have a day’s work for a day’s pay
Marcus: God that’s a beautiful feeling.
Earning an honest day’s wage means something to men like Eric who is getting back on his feet.
Eric: It helps me keep a little money in my pocket stay clean keep all the necessities I need as far as hygiene food stuff like that it helps out everybody.
Father Marko: Always the goal for everyone is to enter a place of self-sufficiency. Giving them the dignity in work offering them the opportunity to partake in something that’s positive.
With hard work comes reward and in this case – opportunity. Father Marko and Marcus Cobb are putting people back to work right here in the heart of Detroit.
Amy Johnson took her compassion for unwanted dogs and paired it with her desire to help at-risk youth. The result, Teacher’s Pet, where she offers a stepping-stone to a better life.
Amy: At our detention facilities the kids come in with a therapeutic mindset. Here are the goals that we want to have here are the goals that we need to have to be successful in life and we are paired with a dog to meet those goals and at the homeless shelter that program is slightly different because those kids they needed job skills so they learn dog training, dog walking, dog handling and they get paid so they actually have a job.
A chance for these kids to better themselves with the help of “hard to adopt” dog – a shared stigma that the kids understand.
Mitch: So you found that dogs paired with the rough experiences of some of the juvenile kids actually makes for like a simpatico relationship?
Amy: Absolutely it does they both have been unwanted or felt unwanted and they have both lived on the streets so the commonalities make them bond and connect in a way that we couldn’t do with just traditional therapy.
The bond benefits both youth and dogs. But the long-term goal is for each to work together and find their way to a happier life.
Amy: We want the dogs to be adopted so we try not to keep them for too long. These kids who have already experienced so much loss in their lives and how do you make them say goodbye to the dog’s too but that’s something that doesn’t have to be something that is painful let’s look at it from the dog’s perspective where he is getting into a home or going into a family that will treat him well and sometimes that altruism is the piece that makes the difference.
With a “sit” and a “good boy”, Amy Johnson is offering a brighter future for her trainers and canine trainees here in the heart of Detroit.
Today 4th and 5th grade girls at Carlson Elementary School in Warren are learning what it means to be their most beautiful self.
Karen: When I would watch my girls go through third grade I saw this shift happening they didn’t value themselves the way they did in second grade and I thought what happens if our kids our girls don’t ever find their value and don’t ever see that they have worth and purpose.
Karen Palka is the founder of A Beautiful Me. Her after school workshops focus on empowerment topics like “What Makes you Special” and “Words Can Hurt”.
Karen: We watch these girls grow right before our eyes. We give them what we would call conflict resolution ideas of how to handle situations and understand that they are valuable enough to approach someone through iMessages.
It is this “tech” twist that keeps the workshops relevant.
Karen: Ten years ago girls in 8th grade had phones now girls much younger have phones and I thought I can’t get rid of the phones so how do we use that for a good vehicle.
With the help of partners and close to 30 volunteers, each year A Beautiful Me reaches around 1,000 girls, 3rd grade and older.
Mitch: And all of that just came from your idea that you wanted to give your kids a little bit more of a positive
Karen: It was supposed to be a hobby
Mitch: Many good things start as hobbies
Karen: Laughing…These young ladies want to work together and that’s I think really really rewarding.
Showing what it truly means to love yourself, Karen Palka and the girls from A Beautiful Me are screaming…NAT “I Am Beautiful” …right here in the heart of Detroit.
Twelve years ago, Kimberly Buffington was on a mission trip to feed the hungry in Lima, Peru when she had an “ah-ha” moment.
Kimberly: We just came 6,000 miles and met these amazing wonderful people and fed them and there is people that are hungry 20 minutes from where I live. So I came back and said I’ve got to find a way to have some impact in my own town.
So Kimberly moved into the city and educated herself on what families really needed – food security.
Mitch: What does food security mean?
Kimberly: There is enough food for everyone to eat which usually means that there is food creation happening within a community.
Seeing the lack of security, Kimberly needed to find a solution. She discovered a grocery partner to support the efforts and Eden Gives was born.
Kimberly: What came into my hands to give away was food from a local Trader Joe’s store. Instead of throwing food away that is about to expire they have built processes into their store functions that allows them to donate safely to nonprofits like ours. So I pick up from Trader Joe’s and deliver food into the city. We feed 400 families isn’t that crazy?
Mitch: And healthy food
But Kimberly couldn’t just do food delivery. Today Eden Gives is providing food sustainability through local gardens and Abundance Farming.
Kimberly: And I realized if I teach them to grow then the possibility of them never being hungry again exists.
It may have taken a trip to another country to spark her mission but Kimberly Buffington and Eden Gives is creating an abundance of food for families, right here in the heart of Detroit.
Jimmy Mills has an admiration for horses that began as a child.
Jimmy: There was a gentleman that used to pick up metal and stuff and he had a horse and cart and that was back when I was about 7 years old.
Mitch: What is it that you love about horses so much?
Jimmy: They have a spirit about them. They can feel what you feel.
At the old Mounted Police station in Rouge Park, Jimmy uses his passion for horses to re-enact and enlighten people about the history of the U.S. Calvary’s Buffalo Soldiers.
Jimmy: Without the Buffalo Soldiers there would have been lots more chaos of the settlers going West. These are ex slaves so they made excellent well-disciplined soldiers. They were given all the worst of the worst from the military the horses were the worst the weaponry were old they were given most of the stuff from the Civil War but they excelled at everything that they did.
From 1866 to the early 1890s, the Buffalo Soldiers served in the Southwest and the Great Plains. They had a distinguished record in fact thirteen enlisted men and six Officers earned the Medal of Honor.
Mitch: And they served for a country that didn’t always respect them back?
Jimmy: They built towns they couldn’t go in they protected the railroads they protected the stagecoach. Once we understood their involvement in our country what we wanted to be a part of this.
Bringing the long history of the early west to the city’s youth, Jimmy Mills and the modern day Buffalo Soldiers are riding proud, here in the heart of Detroit.
The NOAH Project has been inside Central United Methodist Church for over 40 years. The mission of the original church members was simple – provide their community with food.
Amy: It stands for Networking Organizing Advocating for the Homeless and what we do is provide a bag lunch 4 days a week for anyone who is homeless or experiencing the need of food and works to provide also connect individuals with social services and get into housing and different basic needs.
Mitch: That lunch is really a stepping stone if I am guessing right?
Amy: Right you know when you are hungry you can’t really think about much else you cant think about getting a job or getting into housing or anything like that so lets meet the basic need of food and really begin to build a relationship.
On any given day Amy Brown and the team at The NOAH Project serve 250 bag lunches, they provide medical and dental care and they see over 3000 people per year for casework services.
Amy: Meeting one on one with a case worker to begin to address whatever is going on with them. A lot of times people are eligible to get into housing they just don’t know what steps to take to get into housing.
It is success stories like Leah’s – once homeless and now looking for her new home all thanks to The NOAH Project’s help.
Leah: It has made it possible for people who are going through a hard time who are homeless to have a centralized kind of like homeless headquarters in order to get to where you need to go.
Amy: And that’s what we really try and be for the people who come to the NOAH Project. It takes a lot of time but the fact that we’re willing to journey alongside each other to get that home and to get that place is amazing.
Providing a stepping-stone to self-sufficiency, The NOAH Project is committed to ending homelessness here in the heart of Detroit.
The Heart of Detroit is a groundbreaking public service initiative that shares inspiring stories of metro Detroiters with heart and everyday people who step up to help make our community a better place to live. You can learn more here.
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