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 bakery is buzzing. Cookies, muffins and pastries are coming out of the oven. The Mi Cookie Project – founded by retired Special Ed teacher Maggie Gibson is open for business.
Maggie: Well I taught for 40 years, 20 of those years were in a commercial bakery.
Mitch: Special Education in a commercial bakery?
Maggie: Correct. I discovered that a lot of our students after the age of 26 didn’t have a lot available for them and I wanted to offer opportunities with a purpose. Everybody has a talent whether you have an intellectual disability or not.
Four days a week Maggie and her team of bakers who are either intellectually challenged or on the Autism spectrum take and fill orders for their sweet toothed customers.
Mitch: What was your first cookies that you made?
Maggie: Oh chocolate chip
Mitch: You can’t go wrong with chocolate chip
Maggie: Nope and now we are making probably on a busy day 40 dozen.
The dozens of cookies and treats are being sold at Farmers Markets and community events – fulfilling Maggie’s life long dreams.
Maggie: Seeing my students grow and become independent which is what’s happening here with the bakery and besides giving a purpose to our folks is to teach the community that people with disabilities can work.
It’s lots of fun. We have a lot of fun.
Doing what she loves to do with a community of people she loves to do it with, Maggie Gibson is baking sweet treats for the soul, right here in the heart of Detroit.
They may not look like your typical community activists but it’s the soul of these riders that brings them together for the greater good.
Bogie: A bunch of likeminded guys got together and just decided we wanted to do something for the community and we put together the Shielded Souls, and away we went from there. We have been non-stop.
Mitch: So guys from all different walks of life but motorcycles they had in common?
Gunny: Everybody with one goal to help the community and do the right thing.
Shielded Souls Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club is made up of Police Officers, First Responders, Veterans and invited guests. Founding member Craig “Bogie” Bogart and 20-year Marine Veteran and Police Officer Rick “Gunny” Meredith are just two of the many members that support multiple charities through fundraisers and organized rides.
Gunny: We’ve done everything from hurricane relief down in Texas to the Mi Cookie Project for the special needs they sell cookies right out of the clubhouse.
Bogie: Yeah. We have four or five organizations that we deal with on a regular basis. There’s no end to the people that need some help.
These humble souls don’t want to be praised for the work they are doing.
Bogie: I had a good life and I think other people should have that too you know when I see people that are just having a struggle and having a hard time making it we want to help them. We don’t do it to put ourselves on a pedestal or get a pat on the back we appreciate being here today but uh we don’t do it for that reason we do it to see the smiles on their faces and the families in need.
Charity can come from the most unexpected places. Shielded Souls Motorcycle Club is riding for a purpose right here in the Heart of Detroit.
When Molly Reeser was a student at Michigan State, she worked at a nearby farm to earn extra school money. That’s where she met a young girl named Casey.
Molly: I noticed this young girl who was evidently going through cancer treatment when she was at the barn she was there to experience you know (Mitch: Being a child) normalcy exactly. So Casey passed away about a year and a half after I got to know her we all got together and said lets do something to honor Casey’s life and we will call it Camp Casey.
Camp Casey was a day full of horseback riding, crafts and fun for children going through cancer treatment.
Molly: It was supposed to be a one time thing but about a week later I received a letter from a little boy that said thank you for the best day of my life and he was 4 and I remember thinking oh well we have to do this again.
Camp Casey became a weekly event. But bringing a group of immune suppressed children to a farm became an issue, so Molly found a solution – Horsey House Calls.
Mitch: You literally bring the horse to the house.
Molly: Yes we have been to apartments we have been to condos we have been to trailer parks you name it if a child is living there we will show up. Seeing the look of utter shock surprise and sometimes fear that we help them conquer I think that’s where parents would be able to witness their child not as a cancer patient but as a child again. I think that’s where my battery gets recharged and I’m really proud of the work.
Through Camp Casey and Horsey House Calls, Molly Reeser is honoring her friend Casey, right 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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