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Written by Kaley Plaxton
Felton Mackiehowell, an inmate at the Lakeland Correctional Facility, recently sparked an inspirational fundraiser for Alternatives For Girls (AFG) raising $1,608. This amount is to be matched by the prisoner benefit fund making the total $3,216.
Mackiehowell first became familiar with AFG in the summer of 2020, when he spotted a close friend reading something new.
“I love reading, and Jayson was always into the type [of] material that contained meaningful [stories] and just my kind of reads. So instinctively, I asked him what was it that had his attention. That’s when he handed it to me.”
It was a pamphlet about AFG’s history and purpose, which Mackiehowell began to read as his friend shared that he was a regular AFG donor.
Mackiehowell expressed that this information inspired him to get back to his previous goals of practicing philanthropy.
“Reading the pamphlet and hearing about how Jayson was a donor, took me back to my childhood,” Mackiehowell said. “I reflected when I was already in the streets hustling, living a double life, but it was my mother who had such a beautiful heart and who showed me how to give back, which I think planted a seed within me.”
Mackiehowell’s mother became pregnant with him at the age of 15 and struggled as a young single mother. As a woman who related to many girls growing up with struggles in the city, she grew motivated to make a difference and asked him to join her at a home for girls on Detroit’s eastside where she styled many of the girls’ hair.
Mackiehowell suggested to his mother that they get the girl’s clothes and shoes too, and they went to a couple of stores where he spent his “dirty money.” Although he was embarrassed to admit where that money came from now, he recalled that the moment brought tears to everyone’s eyes.
Mackiehowell shared that this story felt like it came full circle 17 years later when he heard about AFG. “Correlating to now, that was the drive for this,” he said. “Me wanting to make a difference in my community despite my circumstances of being incarcerated is what fueled it.”
When describing the hurdles he had to overcome to gain the facility’s support, he explained that he had to get each warden to hear his idea and win them over. He also had to develop a thorough plan which was presented to a forum for approval.
“Many of my incarcerated peers here were excited and enthused; even generous enough to secure some donations like Rayrond Carr and L. McPherson,” Mackiehowell said. “Despite the many stigmas and stereotypes of those incarcerated, good-giving-hearts became the reality.”
Mackiehowell and his close friend Darrell Ewing hope to give back and make a major difference in the future. When he drafted up a flyer they both immediately got to spread the word.
“We both work so close at defying the odds while working on our projects like writing our memoirs and formulating our plans to cause change within criminal justice reform. So, when I told him my plan it was a no-brainer.”
This fundraiser was an opportunity for Mackiehowell and other incarcerated individuals, many of whom have daughters, mothers, and sisters fighting similar battles, to leave a positive impact on the community. He expressed that it left both the girls and young women, as well as the inmates better off.
“This means that bringing value to young women and especially young girls is bringing value to the future because not all but some will bring children into this world, and if AFG provides them with safe havens and resources based on some of the funds that we allocated, then we invested in our very own future because children are the future.”
Ewing added, “This means that we are contributing to the mission for AFG which helps curve girls and women from adding to the incarceration rate, where today women recidivism rates have risen [greatly] since the launch of the prison industrial complex.”
AFG is grateful for the seeds that Mackiehowell planted, following in his mother’s footsteps, and to all the individuals who contributed to help girls and young women reach a hopeful future as a result.