News Archives - Alternatives For Girls

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Anything is Possible: One young woman reflects on her struggles, and dreams of a brighter future

Apr. 4 2019 |

At the Role Model Dinner, Malayshea, an AFG Shelter resident, gave this speech celebrating her accomplishments and sharing her goals for the future.

Life before AFG had me shaken up. I had just experienced an electrical fire at my house that happened because of an ice storm. Because of this, I could no longer live there. I didn’t have anywhere else to go, so I had to call around to find a shelter to stay at.

Before I got to Alternatives For Girls, I struggled a lot to get myself together. I couldn’t stay focused on school or work. I had a good job but there would be days when I wouldn’t show up. I was 17 years old and I had just found out I was expecting a baby girl. It made me really unfocused on what I wanted to do in life, like save money, finish school, go to college and become a nurse. I was always moving from house to house and never felt comfortable.

I was so happy when I made the call to AFG and they had room for me. I just knew I was going to be safe and have a good experience while being there. Becoming involved with AFG was life changing, but a little hard and very different for me. I was learning to follow the new rules, going to group sessions every day, which was tiring but worth it, and having a curfew. But it was the best choice I made.

I learned so many new things in our groups. I learned how to make a resume, found new job opportunities, like a local nursing home and Kohl’s, and learned how to budget and save money. The parenting classes taught me how to stay calm and collected and how to have a positive attitude when it comes to taking care of my daughter.

AFG helped me with it all, especially transportation, which helped me get to work and doctor’s appointments. They also provided clothing for me and my baby. The things I most like about being at AFG are that they always give good advice and never judge you. They always keep a positive attitude when it comes to any situation. Whatever you need, they try their best to give it to you.

Being at AFG, I accomplished a lot of things, most of all becoming a mother. I found a school where I could finish my high school credits and be on the path to graduation. I’m also successfully working two jobs so that I can save money and buy things for my baby and me. I recently got my drivers permit, which is the first step in getting a driver’s license and my own car. Now, I’m staying more focused on school. Recently, I’ve also become close with God, which has brought me faith.

With the support AFG gave me I will now be moving into my own apartment and finishing high school in June. I will continue to work hard on my goals each day, such as finding a college to go to and buying a car. The best lesson I’ve learned at AFG is to never give up, to keep going until you succeed, and that anything is possible. All you have to do is put your mind to it and have a little support behind you.

Thank you AFG for all of your support.

Deep Discovery: Revealing Rare Strength: Alternatives For Girls celebrates the strength of women at the annual Role Model Dinner

Apr. 4 2019 |

On March 27, Alternatives For Girls held the annual Role Model Dinner at MGM Grand Detroit. The event raised over $290,000 to support girls and women!

The evening was full of fun, inspiration, and hope. After an hour of mingling and a silent auction, the program kicked off with a live auction. Rhonda Walker, Local 4 News Morning Anchor and 2008 AFG Role Model Awardee, emceed the event. The dinner, co-chaired this year by Faye Nelson and Pam Rodgers, provided an opportunity for us to hear from many of the young women whose lives have been changed by AFG’s programs. We heard stories of struggle and triumph, and many reflections on the theme of the night, Deep Discovery: Revealing Rare Strength. The evening closed with the thrilling “Fund the Mission,” led by auctioneer Chris Aslanian, during which guests pledged monetary support to AFG.

The program was a time of reflection and inspiration as the young women of AFG and the 2019 Role Models shared their stories. Many shared empowering messages, like this statement from Role Model Awardee, Dr. Althea Simpson of Franklin Community Church, “Let’s join together to insure that every girl grows up empowered and believing “Yes, I can!” and have the tools and the support to make it happen.”

We would like to thank our dinner co-chairs, Faye Nelson and Pam Rodgers, and the entire Role Model Dinner Committee, who helped make the event such an incredible success! We would also like to thank Rhonda Walker, our emcee, Chris Aslanian, our auctioneer, and all of the dedicated volunteers who helped make the event possible. Thank you to all of the young women from our programs; Sharon, Yasmine, Miriah, Daija, and Malayshea, who shared their stories and revealed rare strength.

AFG also gratefully thanks this year’s Role Model Dinner sponsors: DTE Energy Foundation, PVS Chemicals, Ajax Paving Industries, Ford Motor Company Fund, The Suburban Collection, AVL, Beaumont Hospital, Anne and David Knill, Piston Group, The Rush Group, Argent Tape and Label, Comerica Bank, Greektown Casino-Hotel, Health Alliance Plan, Hodges Subaru, Home Depot, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, Meritor, Inc., Metro West Chapter of Credit Unions, Molina Healthcare, Faye and Al Nelson, Pam Rodgers, Ruby and Associates, The Skillman Foundation, Special D Events, Trinity Health, Willis Towers Watson, George Johnson & Company, Marathon Petroleum Company, Michigan First Credit Union, PNC Bank, Union Adworks, Hour Detroit, and Korash Florist.

Finally, we want to thank everyone who attended the event for spending the evening with us and for showing such overwhelming support for girls and women. Thank you!

Meet the Role Model: Franklin Community Church’s Dr. Althea Simpson will receive the Role Model Award this March

Feb. 5 2019 | Tags: , ,

Meet Dr. Althea Simpson, one of our 2019 Role Models. Dr. Simpson is the Director of Discipleship at Franklin Community Church. She is dedicated to increasing awareness about human trafficking and does so by hosting symposiums and workshops in the community. Dr. Simpson earned a law degree at Syracuse University College of Law, and Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Ecumenical Theological Seminary. She is being recognized for her outstanding professional accomplishments and demonstrated leadership throughout her career at this year’s Role Model Dinner. 

Here are some clips from her recent conversation with AFG.

Alternatives For Girls (AFG): For many of the women we serve, AFG provides a support system to help them make positive choices. Was there anyone in your life or career who has helped guide you in making important decisions?

Dr. Althea Simpson: There are so many people! My mom was a master in helping me make decisions. Not always the way you wanted to hear it, but she always had great information and guidance. Sometimes she was stern, sometimes she was playful, but she always was there to give me guidance. My aunts and uncles have also been amazing people. They are always there to freely share and give an opinion. Sometimes you have people in your life who don’t want to be involved someone making a bad decision, so they don’t give their input. I wasn’t raised by those people! Having people that were honest, definitely helped.

AFG: Can you tell us about some of the challenges you’ve faced throughout your career?

Simpson: My first career was law, I was a lawyer practicing full time for a number of years. I went back to seminary and went back to school in the midst of that. The challenge has always been balance. Balancing work with family, your community, and your commitments. Finding the time to be both passionate and present, has always been difficult. And I still have the challenge now. It’s one thing to be there, it’s another to be present, in all places, and give something that is appropriate and necessary, without burning yourself out and driving yourself crazy. We as women try to be Superwoman sometimes. We have to realize that quality of life demands balance. For me it’s a constant struggle.

AFG: Who are your role models?

Simpson: One of my elementary teachers, Maddie Mitchell. She was a great inspiration to me. She was a Christian women, a wife, a mom, but she always had time for us as her students. She was a great influence. I’ve seen her since I’ve grown and she’s still doing her thing. She’s definitely one of my role models. There are also so many women that I see out in the world who make an impact in the workplace and at home and in the community. I see role models everywhere. When I think about role models, I think about people who love you for what you can give. Some people are my role models for one thing, but not my role model for others. So I can say, I love her persistence. I want to be like that. I have so many role models!

AFG: Which of your accomplishments are you the proudest of?

Simpson: Finishing my dissertation. That was huge step in getting my doctorate and it was a big achievement for me. Doing the research, coming up with a theory, doing the project, getting to know my topic. I learned many new skills and new techniques. Putting it all together, presenting, getting my hood; it was a thrill. Getting my dissertation bound and put in a library that was a big thrill. I have lots of others. I have a lot of things to be grateful for. But I do remember the thrill of that.


AFG: 
What advice would you give to the young women that AFG serves?

Simpson: I would say that the importance of a good education cannot be underestimated. You can take care of yourself by getting the best education you can. Everything does not come easy. It is very arrogant to think you can look at something and understand it right away. There is no reason to be afraid to ask for help.

In the midst of striving for education, make sure that you learn about the world around you. Make sure that you make good choices and that those you let into your life are people who are positive for you, not negative.

AFG: Why do you believe that it is important to empower girls and young women?

Simpson: Women are the natural nurturers. Many times, we are so busy taking care of others that we don’t take care of ourselves. I think it is so important that we empower girls and women with the ability to see themselves and the value of themselves, so that in the midst of nurturing others around them they take the steps to nurture and advance themselves. And I think that’s something that you are taught and learn to do. Otherwise, the instinct is just to care, give, care, give, until there is nothing left. The older I get, the more I learn that you can’t take care of anyone if you don’t take care of yourself. And also, nurtured self-love, that is healthy and positive, helps you to see that you can do anything. I think we need more of that “We can do anything” attitude between girls and women. Often we are limited and don’t reach beyond what we think we can accomplish. We tend to not have a positive push to say you can do it.

The 2019 Role Model Dinner will be held on Wednesday, March 27th at MGM Grand Detroit. Click here to learn more or to purchase a ticket.

Sew Great Detroit Featured in Detroit Institute of Arts Exhibition: As part of a nearly year long project, AFG’s Sew Great Detroit is featured in the DIA’s “Ruben & Isabel Toledo: Labor of Love”

Dec. 27 2018 | Tags: ,

AFG’s social enterprise, Sew Great Detroit (SGD), collaborated with artists Ruben and Isabel Toledo to create a collection of handmade limited-edition tote bags to compliment the artists’ new Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) exhibition, “Ruben & Isabel Toledo: Labor of Love.” It was a partnership months in the making.

Earlier this year, Laurie Ann Farrell, Curator and Department Head, James Pearson Duffy Department of Contemporary Art, visited the Sew Great Detroit team at their workshop at Ponyride in Corktown.  She brought some of her fellow DIA colleagues with her and the SGD seamstresses had the opportunity to share examples of their work and talk about what they were learning.  Laurie told the SGD team about Ruben and Isabel Toledo and described the concept for their exhibition that the DIA was planning to open in December.  She invited the Sew Great Detroit team to meet Ruben and Isabel Toledo and to discuss how SGD could collaborate on a project related to the upcoming exhibition. 

As a result of that discussion with the Toledo’s, the SGD team was hired to design and sew two types of canvas bags: a limited number of large bags that would be sent to The Toledo Studio in New York where Ruben agreed to hand paint each one with a unique design and 100 smaller canvas tote bags that would be screen printed with an original Ruben Toledo design.

On December 13, the Sew Great Detroit members were very excited to attend the preview of the new exhibition, “Ruben & Isabel Toledo: Labor of Love”, at the DIA.  The SGD members were able to see the original paintings on the limited edition bags for the first time.  They were beautiful, and they did not last long!  The hand painted bags sold out quickly, but the 100 special screen printed totes are currently for sale in the DIA shop.

The women of Sew Great Detroit are so excited to have had the opportunity to partner with the Toledo’s and are honored to be featured in a DIA exhibit. They can’t wait to bring their children, grandchildren, friends and family to the exhibit and share this success with them. During the week following the opening, the women in the Sew Great program took a break from sewing to reflect on their experience collaborating with the Toledo’s.  Here are some of their thoughts:

 “It made us all feel happy.  It made me feel that our skill—our learning to sew—is purposeful.  I feel like we contribute something important to Alternatives For Girls and to the DIA.”

 “Meeting the Toledo’s and hearing their story gives me hope.  It helps me to realize that there are levels or steps to achievement.  Becoming a fashion designer doesn’t happen overnight.  Their story made me want to enjoy the journey.”

“I’m putting something of myself out there in the world and it makes me feel good.  Sewing is something that I want to do.  It is a labor of love. I’m paid for my work, but it is also something that I love.”

 “I am amazed to see my picture on the wall of the DIA.  When I see my picture on the wall, I think it’s somebody else….but it’s not, it is me!”

 “People at the DIA event recognized us as the seamstresses and they were buying the bags right in front of me.  It made me feel very special.”

“I enjoy the program and I’ve learned to do things that I thought I couldn’t do.  I am thankful to Laurie Farrell.  The Toledo project was awesome.  I never thought I would have the chance to do something like this.”

“Who would think that a recovering addict and someone of my age, with no experience, could be taught something new and succeed.  This impacts me but it also impacts people around me.  My sister and I sew together now.  I don’t miss watching T.V.!  I think it helps the community—the people around us —to see that we can do this.”

The exhibit runs until July 7, 2019 and it is free for residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.  While you are there, look for the pictures of the Sew Great Detroit members and be sure to pick up one of the screen printed bags from collaboration in the DIA gift shop!

Alternatives For Girls and Sew Great Detroit would like to thank: DIA Director, Salvador Salort-Pons, for his efforts to reach out to the community and find ways to bring the joy of art to everyone, Laurie Ann Farrell, and her wonderful staff, for making this such a positive and life affirming experience, Eric Huck, Director of Retail Operations, for his kindness, his guidance and for giving us an opportunity to sell our items in the DIA gift shop, Mark Valade, C.E.O., Carhartt, Inc. for his generous donation of canvas fabric, and Lois Cohn, who, since Sew Great Detroit launched in 2014, has been SGD’s steadfast champion.

Project Giving Tree Spreads Joy AFG’s annual giving program helps provide holiday gifts for hundreds of girls and young women

Dec. 20 2018 | Tags: , ,

December has been filled with joy and celebration, thanks to our holiday giving program Project Giving Tree (PGT). Each year, the girls and young women at Alternatives For Girls create a wish list that includes items they are in need of that year. The wish lists include items such as clothing, winter boots, coats, scarves, and gloves, as well as fun items such as books, jewelry, or toys.

Once the wish lists are filled out, they are sponsored by businesses, organizations, church groups, and individuals. This year, our generous PGT donors fulfilled hundreds of wish lists! The gifts collected during PGT are given to the girls and young women at each program’s holiday party throughout the month of December. Every party was filled with wonderful food, games, arts & crafts, and music.

The first party of the month was for the Safe Choices program, which serves women of all ages through street outreach. With the help of volunteers, the AFG Street Outreach vans drive around and pick up women who are part of the Safe Choices program. The party included a delicious meal, beautiful decorations, and time to share what they learned this year.

The AFG’s Shelter held an eventful party for the young women and children in AFG’s Shelter programs. The night began with a bountiful meal, and included arts and crafts and a DJ! Later in the evening, the children had the chance to meet Santa Claus.

AFG’s Outreach program held a party for the Peer Educators, while the AFG Prevention program held its annual craft fair. At the end of all of the parties, the girls and young women received their gifts from the generous Project Giving Tree donors. Plenty of smiles filled the room as each girl and young woman opened her gifts.

Alternatives For Girls would like to thank each person who participated in Project Giving Tree this year, as well as the wonderful volunteers and sponsors who made all of the holiday parties possible!

Local Stores, Girlie Girl, Tenue, and Lori Karbal, Support Sew Great Detroit Knit

Oct. 30 2018 | Tags: , ,

Members of Sew Great Detroit (SGD) Knit meet weekly to create beautiful, handmade knitted items, such as scarves and hats. Thanks to the support of local stores through contracted projects, the members of SGD Knit also receive a stipend for their work, just like the Sew Great Detroit sewers! This holiday season, you can purchase these special items from local stores in Grosse Pointe Woods and Birmingham: Girlie Girl, Tenue, and Lori Karbal.

Michelle Beaudette Grates opened her salon, Girlie Girl, in Grosse Pointe Woods in 2005. Since then, Girlie Girl has been providing the community with full salon services, as well as beauty products, candles, and women’s clothing. Just two years ago, Michelle opened her new boutique, Tenue, a lifestyle shop selling home, clothing, and table top items. Michelle was one of the first supporters and customers of Sew Great Detroit Knit and has been ordering hats and scarves for her stores for four years.

Sew Great Detroit Knit has another steadfast supporter in Lori Karbal, who opened her namesake boutique in Birmingham 28 years ago. Lori loves to adapt and bring her customers the very latest in style and fashion. While she started out selling beauty products, over the years she expanded her offerings to candles, home items, gifts, books, and women’s fashion. Lori was Sew Great Detroit’s first customer and has supported SGD’s efforts all year long – selling hats, scarves, knitted pumpkins, and kitchen items.

A special thank you to Michelle and Lori for their generous and continued support of Alternatives For Girls and Sew Great Detroit!

Sew Great Detroit Member and Volunteers Participate in the Detroit Free Press Marathon

Oct. 30 2018 | Tags: ,

This month, members and volunteers of Sew Great Detroit participated in the Detroit Free Press Marathon 5k race! We talked to Sharon, SGD member, after the race was over to discuss the exciting experience.

Alternatives For Girls (AFG): Sharon, why did you want to enter the Detroit Free Press Marathon 5K event?

Sharon: I wanted to make another healthy change in my life and I want to encourage other women and girls to make healthy changes in their lives.

AFG: What did you enjoy the most about being in the 5K?

Sharon: I loved talking with all the people.  Everywhere I turned my head I saw something I liked, a little baby smiling at me or someone ringing a bell for me.  And I liked being on the Riverwalk.  It was beautiful.  There is so much to see and do downtown.  Now I want to take my grandsons to the Riverwalk and walk with them.

AFG: What did it feel like when the finish sign was in sight?

Sharon: When I could see the sign for the finish line in the distance I was really happy.  Then I saw all the people waving to me and cheering for me and ringing the bells.  I kept walking at my pace but inside I was running and jumping and even doing cartwheels.  It was a great feeling.

AFG: What inspired you most about the experience?

Sharon: I was most inspired knowing that I was walking not just for me but for others, like the girls and women who come to Alternatives For Girls.  I was inspired by other people in the race too like cancer survivors and people who are elderly.

Congratulations on this amazing accomplishment, Sharon!

Forever Grateful: One young woman reflects on her struggles, and dreams for a brighter future

Oct. 1 2018 | Tags: , , ,

On September 25th, Jackie, an AFG Shelter resident, gave this speech at the Positive Choices, Powerful Lives event. 

Before I came to Alternatives For Girls, me and my daughter were staying with my mom. We weren’t seeing eye to eye, so I decided to leave to avoid further conflict. For a few months, we were staying with family and friends. I didn’t have a sense of direction. I was doing just enough to get by. Basically, I really wasn’t trying. I was homeless, unhappy, stressed, depressed, jobless, out of school, drinking every day, smoking. But one thing I always did was no matter what state of mind I was in, I was a phenomenal mom to my daughter. I made sure that my baby had what she needed.

I knew I had to make a change, for me and my daughter. I went to the Detroit shelter referral center, where you have to go to be referred to a shelter, and two hours later I was at AFG moving in. AFG is perfect fit for me. It’s clean, and I’m big on clean by the way. They helped me with literally everything and I’m forever grateful. I came to AFG with the clothes on my back, nothing else. They took me and my daughter shopping and bought us clothes. They took us to get our social security cards and birth certificates. Two weeks later, a staff member helped me enroll in school, where I am finishing earning my high school diploma and plan to graduate this December.

Shortly after, I began working as a youth leader, for pay, in AFG’s summer camp for younger girls, called Rise ‘N Shine.  I learned how to work with children. I never had a job like this before. The kids loved me and looked up to me. So I had to set a good example for them to follow.

Since I’ve been at AFG, I learned that every situation does not need a reaction. I’ve learned how to save money and how to make an affordable budget.  I’ve learned how to speak and dress for interviews. I’ve also learned a lot of things in our parenting classes. They taught me how to calm a child down when she is having a temper tantrum, and how to eat healthy and teach my daughter healthy eating habits.

My plans for the future are to make sure I graduate high school and pick a career suited for me. I also plan to have a place for me and my daughter and reliable transportation for us. I can just imagine us riding our bikes down the street together. It’s a must that I further my education and my daughter does as well. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a wonderful thing to invest in. Thank you!

Alternatives For Girls’ Prom

Aug. 31 2018 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

On August 17th, Alternatives For Girls held its first ever prom! The event was held for the girls and women in AFG’s programs who were not able to attend their own prom. On the day of the event, staff and volunteers transformed AFG’s community room into a beautiful ballroom. Thanks to many generous individuals, businesses, and groups, the room was complete with sound, lighting, a special favor bar with lots of candy, and formal tablescapes.

Before the prom began, the girls and women were pampered by volunteer hairstylists and make-up artists. Once they were ready, they put on their beautiful dresses, shoes, and accessories, which were all donated by generous individuals, and walked down the red carpet. After getting their photo taken, the party began!

The girls and women had a blast dancing along to the music, courtesy of DJ Rue. After some dancing, everyone enjoyed a delicious dinner, complete with dessert. The highlight of the night came when each girl and woman was pronounced Prom Queen! Each of them received their very own crown, and many teared up while putting it on.

The dancing continued until the night came to a close. Each girl and woman left with a smile on their face, grateful for experiencing the special evening.

Alternatives For Girls would like to thank all of the donors and volunteers who made the AFG Prom possible! We could not have done it without your support.

Rise N’ Shine Finale

Aug. 31 2018 | Tags: , , , , , ,

On August 16th, AFG’s Rise N’ Shine summer camp came to an end. Rise N’ Shine is a free six-week summer camp that gives girls living in southwest Detroit a safe space to learn new things, improve their reading skills, and make friends. For three days each week, the campers spend the day participating in fun, educational workshops and field trips. This summer, workshops included: gardening, dancing, science, and more.

The 74 campers celebrated their memorable summer with a fun end of summer finale. The finale allows the camper’s families to see what they’ve learned and created throughout the summer. The excitement was kicked off with a performance from the 7-9 year old group. Throughout the summer, they completed a dance and movement workshop with ArtLab J and had a blast learning the choreography for the dance. Their hard work and practice paid off once they were able to perform their masterpiece for friends and family. Judging by the applause, the audience thoroughly enjoyed their performance!

That wasn’t the only original performance of the day, the 9-11 year group and the 12-14 year old group also performed dances with the help of ArtLab J and Heritage Works, respectively. The latter group wore traditional outfits and danced along to the drum beat to deliver a fun and energetic performance that was definitely a crowd favorite. The final performance of the day was from the 9-11 year old group and 12-14 year old group. The groups worked with Matrix Theatre to create an empowering performance using voice and movement.

Finally, certificates and yearbooks were distributed. In the end, there were a lot of smiles and hugs as the girls signed each other’s yearbooks and waved goodbye for now. Before leaving, Anahi reflected on her summer at AFG, “My favorite part of Rise N’ Shine is meeting friends.” Vanessa agrees, and adds, “Don’t forget about the fieldtrips! My favorite one was the water park!”

Alternatives For Girls would like to thank all of the volunteers and donors who supported Rise N’ Shine this summer. Thank you for making it a summer the girls will never forget!