DETROIT — Doug Watson isn’t a carpenter by trade—he’s a longtime electrician at The Conti Corporation—but he raised his hand anyway when he heard that S.A.Y. Detroit needed some work done at its Detroit Water Ice Factory in downtown Detroit.
The request: Install a third row of trim designed to hold a slew of celebrity photographs at the frozen dessert store at Campus Martius, where all profits benefit Detroit’s neediest citizens under Mitch Albom’s S.A.Y. Detroit umbrella of charities.
“I’ve been in the business long enough that I know how to do a lot of different things,” Watson said. “I’m glad that you contacted me, but I’m especially glad that it worked out well.”
The project, which was completed last week, was Watson’s first since joining the Detroit Muscle Crew II last spring after Albom formed the all-volunteer team of skilled tradespeople to help with S.A.Y. Detroit’s physical projects and endeavors. (You can sign up to become a member here.)
Watson said that he had so much fun, and that Albom was so grateful, that he decided to donate the materials for the project himself, a value of $143.
“It was great teamwork all the way around,” Watson said. “Bedrock (which provides the DWIF space for the store) even sent a guy over to help me, because it was a two-person job.”
Erica Wright’s eyes were rimmed with tears as he spoke.
S.A.Y. Detroit was visiting Wright’s summer session for a lunchtime pizza party at her Westside Cultural & Athletic Club nonprofit on a recent Thursday when Derrick R. Coleman paid her a surprise visit.
Nearly 40 years ago, Coleman was a 6-year-old boy on Detroit’s west side — “growing up around heroin addicts,” he said — when he found solace, support and love in the form of a woman who had created a youth program out of her home to keep children on the straight and narrow.
That woman was Erica Wright, who founded the Westside Cultural and Athletic Club in 1976.
Today, Coleman, 45, is superintendent of the River Rouge school district. Earlier this year, he was a finalist for Detroit’s superintendent position; Coleman is also working on his doctorate.
“Each one of us has a story to tell,” Coleman told Wright’s 22 teen leaders assembled that day at West Side Academy. “How could I become a district superintendent when my mom didn’t graduate from high school and I didn’t know who my father was? A big part of why I went into education was because of Ms. Wright.”
He looked over at Wright, who was standing to his right in the classroom at the school, where food was being distributed to the needy one floor below outside its doors.
Wright and her grass-root’s nonprofit, which S.A.Y. Detroit supports through funding from Mitch Albom’s annual S.A.Y. Detroit Radiothon, received statewide recognition in 2013 when she was recognized with the Governor’s Service Award.
Coleman said he can’t emphasize enough what Wright and her program did for him during his youth.
“I had a good family, but this woman sheltered a burden for the entire community,” he said. “I was a kid who dealt with self-esteem issues. I never played a down of high school football, or basketball. I needed someone to breathe life into me.
“Everything I do in life now is to be of service for others. She quit her job at the IRS and became, (essentially), the mother of an orphanage. I’m here in my Gucci loafers, but that doesn’t qualify as success. She sacrificed for other people’s kids. If money didn’t mater, what would I do? I’d be Erica.”
When Coleman’s talk was finished, he was swallowed up by Wright’s loving arms in a long embrace.
“I am the one who’s grateful,” she said.
S.A.Y. Detroit is proud of its partnership with the Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation. That’s why a friend of the Michigan Masons is a friend of S.A.Y. Detroit!The staff and students at the S.A.Y. Play Center at Lipke Park this week were thrilled to receive a flat screen television and sound system that was donated by retired U.S. Navy Capt. Doug McDonald and his wife Kathy. McDonald is president of the Motor City Veteran’s Village. Check out the full story at sayplay.org »
S.A.Y. Detroit teamed up once again with the Cooper Standard Foundation to expand the playground it built back in 2016. It is the same eastside Detroit community where Working Homes/Working Families has rebuilt and given away 9 homes to needy families.
Dozens of employees from Cooper Standard returned to the Morningside neighborhood to add another section of playground equipment this afternoon. The playground is located on Three Mile Road, between Munich and Waveney streets. On hand were Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and S.A.Y. Detroit founder Mitch Albom.
Albom said: “This project is a shining example of our commitment to benefit families and beautify the neighborhood.”
S.A.Y. Detroit’s Working Homes/Working Families initiative places working families in need of housing into refurbished homes. In this neighborhood, it has been a collaborative effort involving S.A.Y. Detroit, Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, Cooper Standard and Dow. Hundreds of Cooper Standard and Dow employees have volunteered in helping with the project.
“It is part of the long-term commitment we have to both the Working Homes/Working Families charity and this neighborhood”, said Keith Stephenson, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Cooper Standard.
Highlight reel from last year’s build (created by Cooper Standard):
When the S.A.Y. Detroit Play Center at Lipke Park reopens after the Fourth of July, the students enrolled for the summer session will enjoy a fresh start — in more ways than one.
Nearly 40 A Time to Help volunteers spent last Saturday morning (June 24) giving the inside of the facility a scrub-down, while another group tackled the center’s vast campus, including weeding and picking up trash along the fence lines. (more…)