5 Ways to Give Back in Detroit this Holiday Season

5 Ways to Give Back in Detroit this Holiday Season

With the holiday season approaching, we all start thinking about lists of ideas for loved ones. Toys, clothes, and the latest tech devices usually fill out these lists, but there is one type of gift that seems to be overlooked every year – charity. All across the globe, organizations and people are in need of funding, to accomplish the important work they do all year long. In Michigan, all cities are working hard to make a positive impact, but in that context Detroit has its work cut out for it. Time and time again, the city has been tossed to the side for its poverty, crime, and, more recently, bankruptcy. This year, we all have the opportunity to make an impact that extends beyond material possessions.

I’m sure each city in Michigan has organizations looking for help, but I’ve made a list of five organization in Detroit that are working toward a better tomorrow:

Detroit SOUP

5 Ways to Give Back in Detroit this Holiday Season - Awesome Mitten
Photo courtesy Bruno Vanzieleghem (Flickr: @Bruno_VZ)

Detroit SOUP has been holding monthly micro-granting dinner throughout the city for close to six years now, as well as expanding their reach across the globe. Lead by Amy Kaherl, these dinners help fund creative projects that range from art, urban agriculture, social justice, social entrepreneurs, education, technology, and more. At each dinner, diners make a suggested donation of $5 and a winner is chosen by the audience to take home the total pot of money. Each project is given time to present their idea and how they feel they can make an impact to the city or their neighborhood. These presentations come from nonprofits, after school programs, or small businesses – just to name a few. After their pitch, attendees are encouraged to ask questions about the idea. When the four projects have been presented, everyone votes on which idea they feel would help their community. As people vote and connect with other diners, dinner is served potluck-style from people in the community, and the diners discuss which project they feel strongest about. Feel free donate to Detroit SOUP by clicking here.

Why they need your help: “Supporting SOUP helps empower new ideas that are making neighborhoods throughout Detroit stronger.” Amy Kaherl, Director of Detroit SOUP

Community Push                               

Created by a group of people passionate about skateboarding, Community Push aims to combine the sport with community-building in Detroit. An avid supporter of skateboarding in the city since working on the potential X Games bid, Derrick Dykas created the project to draw more support around the sport. Other sports get funding from cities for space, like baseball fields and basketball courts, but without a skate park nearby, skaters are forced to the streets and most of the time turned away or ticketed. Seeing this as an issue, Dykas used his construction knowledge to build his own park for fellow skateboarders to enjoy.

“The Wig” was hand built by a grassroots campaign of young artists in the city that saw the potential of the open spaces of the city. So far the work has been solely from the diligence of committed individuals, and this winter they are in need of supplies and funding for a youth program. They have already donated over three dozen skateboards to kids in the community – and they are looking for ways to do more. Follow Community Push on Facebook to learn more about the impact they are making in Detroit, and to see ways you can get involved.

Why they need your help:  “People should give to Community Push this season because we are lighting a spark in the youth that they’ll carry with them for years to come, and we need all the help we can get.” – Derrick Dykas, Founder of Community Push

Burners without Borders Detroit

5 Ways to Give Back in Detroit this Holiday Season - Awesome Mitten
Photo courtesy @McChillz

Over the past few years, Detroit has seen a lot of changes with people migrating to the city and making changes to the Downtown and Midtown areas. However, as with all cities, Detroit has always had a homeless population, and they are always in need of assistance – especially with the colder months approaching. Enter in Burners without Borders Detroit, a local organization helping the less fortunate by supplying them with a backpack full of supplies and a little hope.

BWBD was started by Danielle Kaltz, taking her concept of gifting, civic responsibility, and community effort from her trips to Burning Man, a week long pilgrimage to a desert in Nevada to celebrate music, community, and art. On her drives to work downtown, she realized that there was a huge population of homeless being turned away by society with little to no care.

Taking time to chat with a couple homeless individuals, she started Burners without Borders Detroit, a group dedicated to supplying this population with necessary items such as hats, scarves, food, toiletry packs, and water – things that most of us take for granted. She fills up a brand new backpack with these items, then hand delivers them to the homeless while making sure to leave time for personal conversations. Any donations this year would help keep these backpacks filled, and you can donate by clicking here!

Why they need your help: “Burners without Borders Detroit-Homeless Backpack Project does direct action care to people on our streets to ease the discomfort of homelessness. We are a 100% volunteer organization that depends on what folks donate. Folks in the community collect and host fundraisers locally by holding all manner of events from art exhibitions, variety and music shows and raffles to cover our costs beyond what is donated by gifts in kind.” – Danielle Kaltz, founder of Burners without Borders Detroit

Children’s Center (Holiday Shop)

Chrysler 2
Photo courtesy Kelsey Hubbell

The Children’s Center of Detroit has been providing mental and behavioral health services for children for decades. The center has been a major asset to the city since 1929 and services over 7500 children annually. For the past six years, they’ve been holding an annual holiday program, The Holiday Shop, to help parents provide presents for their tree. Last year, the program helped over 400 low-income families around Detroit and brought holiday cheer to those in need.

During this week, November 30 to December 4, 2015, the Children’s Center will be accepting donations of new unwrapped toys, winter gear, and $25 Kroger cards to fill their shop. Parents are then able to “shop” for their children’s gifts, a gesture they might not have been able to provide without the help of the Children’s Center and generous donors. If you’re unable to drop off a donation in time, please consider sending monetary payment by clicking here, and help spread some joy this holiday season.

Why they need your help: “This is a stressful time for many of our families, and through the Holiday Shop we try to alleviate the worry that a parent can’t provide a special gift for their child during the holiday season. But the numbers of those we serve continue to grow and we rely on the support of the greater community to provide joy to these deserving children this time of year.” – Kelsey Hubbell, Coordinator of Community Engagement

Detroit Food Academy

detroitfoodacademy_10632493_1425383534457244_1960460441_nIf there’s one thing that surrounds us this time of year, it’s food. From turkey to ham to all the veggies in between, family meals are a huge part of the holidays. Detroit Food Academy, a local nonprofit, provides kids around the city about living a healthy and active lifestyle. They teach proper cooking techniques, social entrepreneurship, and how to utilize locally sourced food.

DFA has implemented an experiential leadership program, which is transforming the lives of young Detroiters around the community, one plate at a time. During the two-part program, students gain knowledge of basic cooking skills, budgeting meals and event planning in the fall, and then in the spring the students master their craft and work on a food business plan. Along with the classes, students attend local workshops, engage with their community, and start visualizing how to put their plan into action. You can already find some of their products in Whole Foods Detroit like Mitten Bites, a fun, wholesome chunk of healthy goodness. You can help out by purchasing one of their products, or by clicking here to donate.

Why they need your help: “With donations, we are able to add more schools which opens up the door to more students. We can cook more meals, connect more students to the city and give them a peek into the world of culinary arts.” – Jen Rusciano, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Detroit Food Academy

How are you planning to give back in your community during this holiday season (or all year long)?