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November Volunteer Spotlight: AFG’s Volunteer Department spotlights volunteers who have gone above and beyond

Dec. 7 2017 | Tags: , , ,

Each month, Alternatives For Girls’ Volunteer Department, highlights volunteers who go above and beyond. In November, the volunteers of AFG’s Sew Great Detroit program were selected for their hard work on one of the program’s largest orders yet!

On November 13th, Sew Great Detroit delivered 175 beautifully handmade canvas totes to the German Marshall Fund’s BUILD Conference. The German Marshall Fund is a Washington D. C. based nonprofit that works with local and regional leaders in the US and Europe on urban policy issues.  This year, the German Marshall Fund chose to host their BUILD conference in Detroit.  While planning for the conference, the Director of the German Marshall Fund, Geraldine Gardner, learned about Sew Great Detroit, and Alternatives For Girls’ mission.

Each year, the German Marshall Fund designs a welcome bag for conference attendees showcasing the talents of the host city’s vendors and artisans.  Believing that the mission of AFG spoke to the values of the BUILD conference – equity, inclusion, and sustainability – she reached out to Sew Great Detroit with the hopes of partnering. Sew Great Detroit’s canvas totes were a perfect fit, and the German Marshall Fund ordered 175 of Sew Great Detroit’s signature tote bags to print their artwork on and use as welcome bags!

To help the young women in Sew Great Detroit complete the order, the Sew Great Detroit volunteers went above and beyond. They worked many hours to cut, fold, and measure in order to meet the deadline. Each volunteer showed a level of dedication well above expectation in order to support the wonderful opportunity for the group. Without them, the tote bags would not have gotten completed in time!

Alternatives For Girls would like to thank the many Sew Great Detroit volunteers who gave so much of their time and talents to this project.  It is because of them that Sew Great Detroit is so great! 

Interested in volunteering? Please contact Jessica Pate, Volunteer Services Manager, at 313-361-4000 ext. 248 or volunteering@alternativesforgirls.org to discuss the next steps to becoming a volunteer at Alternatives For Girls!

Goodbye for Now: Rise N’ Shine finale marks end of 6 weeks of fun, learning, and so much more

Aug. 31 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

On August 18th, 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.

A Place to Learn

When we asked Melanie, a first time camper, what her favorite thing about Rise N’ Shine was, she had a hard time narrowing it down. “Everything! The people, the food, the activities. Everything was great!” For Mia, a second-time camper, the workshops were the high point of the summer, “I loved the nutrition workshop. We did a lot of cooking and learned about a lot of foods. We even made our own butter!” Other favorite workshops included gardening and STEM with Madonna University. “We learned a lot about science, like how caterpillars turn into butterflies,” Melanie exclaimed.

There was a lot of learning going on outside of the workshops, as well. “I learned that it’s good to be with strangers because you can get to know them and become good friends. That’s what I did this summer, and I learned a lot about different cultures!” shared Melanie. Mia agreed, “I learned about teamwork and how to make friends.”

Time to Celebrate

The 60 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 kicked off with a performance from the 7-9-year-old group. Throughout the summer, they completed a workshop with Matrix Theatre Company and wrote their own original play! Their hard work and practice paid off once they were able to perform their masterpiece for friends and family. Judging by the laughter and applause, the audience thoroughly enjoyed their creativity and performance!

That wasn’t the only original play of the day, the 9-10 year group and the 10-11-year-old group also performed plays that they wrote with Matrix Theatre Company. The latter group performed a play titled “Pollution”, an inspiring tale of magical mermaids who helped save the earth from pollution. In addition to the plays, the Revamp workshop modeled the clothing they designed from recycled materials and fabrics and the Dance workshop performed an original dance number.

Goodbye for Now

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, Mia looked around the room and reflected on her summer at AFG, “I will always remember my friends. I’m going to miss coming here every day!” Serissa, a third-time camper, agreed and added, “Rise N’ Shine is a good place to be!”

Sew Great Detroit Moves to Ponyride: With the help of a group of dedicated volunteers, SGD moves to their new home

Aug. 31 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

In July, Sew Great Detroit (SGD) moved from the crowded and cramped craft room at AFG that they had called home for nearly 3 years, to Ponyride. Bursting with inspiration and creativity, Ponyride is a nonprofit in Corktown that rents space to budding artists, makers, and entrepreneurs. Its mission is “to be a catalyst for deploying social capital to a diverse group of artists, creative entrepreneurs, and makers who are committed to working together to make communities in Detroit sustainable.”

SGD is a social enterprise program headed by AFG’s volunteers and supported by AFG’s donors, that teaches participants sewing and employment skills. With this move, SGD joins the ranks of over 60 other residents, including Anthology Coffee and The Lip Bar.

Four Young Women Learn to Sew, and Much More

The move coincides with the addition of four new members of the team. The young women, all residents of AFG’s Shelter, didn’t know how to sew before their first week. After only three days, each girl was able to make multiple baby bibs (a SGD staple) on her own.

“Sewing takes a lot of patience. I’m the type of person who has anxiety and sometimes panics. But it’s teaching me to pay attention and slow down. I really like it,” shares Angel, 18.

In addition to having more space and being around other creative business people, another benefit to the move is that it creates a separate space for work outside of their current home at AFG. It is also convenient, located only 2 miles away from AFG. This allows the young women to walk, bike, or take the bus to and from work. “I love that AFG offers a job for us. I like that SGD allows us to be productive and it makes us feel at home in the work place,” Angel explains.

Making the Move

With the support of AFG’s staff, Board of Directors, and Lois Cohn, new AFG Board Member and longtime SGD supporter, the process for applying for space and moving to Ponyride began more than a year ago. “The idea of moving to Ponyride has been a dream since we first launched Sew Great Detroit,” shared Janet McAuliffe, SGD volunteer since 2014.

Once the lease was signed, the space required electrical wiring and lighting to suit SGD’s needs. Thanks to a generous in kind donation from electrical contractor, John Jacobson, owner of J-Power, LLC, the work took only one day to complete.

Finally, with the help of AFG Facilities Coordinator, Robert Blurton, volunteers, and family members, the sewing machines, tables, and supplies were moved to the new space and operation resumed!

SGD Volunteers Teach Girls to Sew, and Build Confidence

SGD was created and made possible by a group of dedicated volunteers. “My favorite part of volunteering [with SGD] is seeing how the women blossom when they learn that they can do something new. The look of satisfaction on their faces when they sew for the first time is priceless!” shares Muriel, who has been volunteering with SGD for two and a half years. Toni, who has been volunteering for one year, agrees, “I love being at the beginning of a promising social enterprise that provides valuable skills to women.”

The new space is a dream come true for the volunteers. “It’s such an upbeat, stimulating place. Our space is light and bright. Even more importantly – it’s ours. We don’t have to share it with anyone. It feels so professional. The move is really a growth step for us,” says Muriel.

“Although we have a small shop (only 300 square feet), the Sew Great Detroit team, seamstresses and volunteers are working in the midst of other artisans that are producing exciting products and services. We have our products on display and every day both visitors and other artisans stop to admire the progress of our new team.  This encouragement is an emotional boost as well as a source of pride that really helps when learning something very new.” Janet adds.

Planning for the Future

SGD has big dreams for the future, “We believe that the entrepreneurial focused environment [at Ponyride] will help our team achieve the goals of expanding capacity to include more members and achieve financial sustainability,” reflects Janet. Another volunteer, Fran, who has been with SGD for almost 3 years, said; “I’m looking forward to watching SGD grow and expand into a viable manufacturing business.”

Currently, SGD is producing its “Hold the Phone” cross body cell phone bag, adult size chef bib aprons, child size reversible bib aprons, and kerchief style baby bibs. As the team develops their sewing skills, additional products will be added to the lineup.

As SGD settles into their new home, one thing that won’t change is the impact it has on its members. “I love being around other productive women. There’s going to be so many skills that I will take out of here,” Angel smiles.

You can check out SGD’s handmade goods at the Ponyride Detroit Design Festival on Wednesday, September 20th from 4 pm – 10 pm and Saturday, September 30th from 10 am – 6 pm and at the Ponyride Market on Saturday, October 14th from 10 am – 2 pm. We hope to see you there!

Rise N’ Shine’s Mad Scientists: Madonna University students teach campers about science, and that anything is possible

Aug. 1 2017 | Tags: , , , ,

On July 11th, Alternatives For Girls’ Rise N’ Shine summer camp began! The free, six-week summer camp gives girls living in southwest Detroit a safe space to learn new things, improve their reading skills, make friends, and have fun. For three days each week, the campers spend the day participating in fun, educational workshops, and field trips. This summer, workshops include dance, arts and crafts, gardening, cooking, and more.

One exciting new workshop this summer is being led by six young women who are students from Madonna University. The group is teaching the campers about all the different areas of science and the many different science career paths. Each of the Madonna students is studying science and majoring in either Biology or Forensic Science. “We really want to give the girls glimpses of different areas of science – biology, geology, chemistry, forensics,” explains Bianca Hasani, one of the workshop facilitators.

So far, the group has covered the scientific method, DNA sequencing, how to use a microscope, the life cycle of a butterfly, and more. One week, the girls started their own experiment, growing a sunflower from a seed, using the scientific method. Jessica Peg, another facilitator, explained, “We did some activities, like [growing] the sunflowers, so that they could watch the progress and see them grow over just a few weeks.” Annett, a Rise N’ Shine camper in the workshop, has already learned so much, “We learned that caterpillars take three to five weeks to grow into a butterfly!” she exclaims.

When learning how to use the microscopes, the girls looked at different types of diseases and parasites. One camper told the volunteers that she had learned about parasites in school, but didn’t get to see it under a microscope. “I got to help her make the connection between that and what we were looking at. It was great,” shares Jessica.

Another goal of the workshop is to expose them to science based careers and show them that it is something they can pursue. “Since science and math are male dominated fields, we want to show them that girls can be scientists, too!” says Eunice Herman, another student. Bianca agrees, “We want to teach them that education is for everyone. We want to teach them that they can grow up to be a nurse, or whatever they want.”

Future activities will include building terrariums with succulents and some fun activities like making ice cream or slime. “I want to learn more about Forensic Science,” Annett smiles. For the young women leading the workshop, the best part is seeing the campers getting interested in science. Bianca explains, “My favorite part of teaching the girls is that I’m a role model for them. I’m getting them excited about science!”

Alternatives For Girls would like to thank the Madonna University students; Jessica Peg, Bianca Hasani, Eunice Herman, Kelsey Hanover, Sarah Knapp, and Nicole Carlin, as well as their Lead Professor, Veronica Riha, for spending their summer teaching the Rise N’ Shine campers all about science!

July Volunteer Spotlight: Angela Wisniewski

Jul. 7 2017 | Tags: , ,

Each month, Alternatives For Girls’ Volunteer Department, highlights one volunteer who AFG staff recognize as being dedicated, passionate, and going above and beyond. This month we spotlight Angela Wisniewski, a volunteer who helps out in countless ways!

Angela has been volunteering at Alternatives For Girls for about six months and has made a big impact within the organization in that short amount of time.

After researching organizations that help women and hearing positive things about AFG, Angela decided to become a volunteer so that she could support women and be part of the community. Angela has volunteered in many ways; at the Role Model Dinner, by offering her skills and experience in photography and social media to support AFG’s programs, and consistently volunteering in the Crisis Resource Center since March.

One day, while in the Crisis Resource Center, Angela noticed a woman that was utilizing the center’s walk-in services having a difficult time finding what she needed in the clothing closet. Since that experience, Angela made it her mission to organize the clothing closet. She prepared the closet for summer and also purchased new hangers and other organizational items! Angela has made the clothing closet into a fun, easy, and positive experience for all who use it.  Both staff and participants are appreciative to the time Angela invested into the closet and the impact it continues to have.

In addition to her organizational skills, Angela offers empathy and is easy to talk to. Angela is a role model for all girls and women through her independence, perseverance, and by demonstrating the importance of following one’s own path.

Thank you, Angela, for supporting Alternatives For Girls!

Interested in volunteering? Please contact our Volunteer Department at volunteering@alternativesforgirls.org to discuss the next steps to becoming a volunteer at Alternatives For Girls!

June Volunteer Spotlight: Marie Lowry

Jun. 8 2017 | Tags: , , ,

Each month, Alternatives For Girls’ Volunteer Department, highlights one volunteer who AFG staff recognize as being dedicated, passionate, and going above and beyond. This month we spotlight Marie Lowry, a volunteer in AFG’s Prevention Program!

Marie has been a longtime supporter of Alternatives For Girls and spent the past year volunteering as a tutor for the after-school program. In recent months, she has gone above and beyond by leading a project to improve the library at AFG.

When speaking with Marie, she explained that her proudest moment as a volunteer came when she consistently tutored a young girl in the after-school program. The girl was struggling with her handwriting, which was affecting her ability to complete her homework. After a few weeks of practice, not only did the participant’s handwriting improve but so did her academic performance and confidence with her school work!

Marie takes pleasure in being part of an organization that focuses on girls and women and especially enjoys working with the younger girls of the Prevention Department. One of Marie’s strengths is her enthusiasm, which also makes her an excellent volunteer. Marie’s enthusiasm for tutoring each week demonstrates to the girls and young women in the program that she cares about them and values her time with them. Marie also spreads her passion within her own community, as she frequently shares opportunities with members of her church to support AFG and become more involved.

Thank you, Marie, for continuing to make a difference in the lives of girls and young women.

Interested in volunteering? Please contact Jenny Clement, Volunteer Services Manager, at 313-361-4000 x248 or volunteering@alternativesforgirls.org to discuss the next steps to becoming a volunteer at Alternatives For Girls!

Earth Day Service Project: Girls and young women partner with volunteers to give back to the community and take care of the environment

May. 1 2017 | Tags: , , ,

Alternatives For Girls participated in Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) on Saturday, April 22nd.  GYSD is an annual campaign that mobilizes millions of youth to improve their communities each year through service.  Celebrated in over 100 countries, GYSD is the largest service event in the world!  In an effort to spread the word about this annual event, The Michigan Community Service Commission offered mini grants to organizations who were interested. Alternatives For Girls applied, and received one of these grants.

“The Prevention team and I brainstormed on project ideas.  We wanted to make sure that the project would be a good overall learning experience for the young ladies,” said Jenny Clement, AFG’s Volunteer Services Manager, who helped lead the project along with AFG’s Prevention Program.  They made plans to do a community clean up, plant flowers, build a bench, and build bird feeders out of recycled materials.

During the planning phase, Jenny reached out to Home Depot in Dearborn.  They generously supported this effort by donating soil, mulch, bird feeders, and the materials needed to make a bench.  In addition to sending the supplies, ten volunteers also came to help with the project!  Over 40 people, including the girls and young women in AFG’s Prevention Program, convened to help clean up the outside of AFG and the surrounding community.

Serissa, a participant in the Prevention Program, really enjoyed her experience.  “We planted flowers, pulled weeds, and helped polish the bench once it was done,” she enthusiastically explained.  Serissa’s favorite activity was when she planted flowers around the AFG sign, which graces the front lawn.  “It’s the first thing that people see and I wanted to make sure it looked nice!”

One goal for the project was for the young woman to learn about the importance of giving back to the community.  “For this project, I picked up the trash around AFG.  It made me think about my own neighborhood and how I can help keep it clean,” said Karen, another participant in the Prevention Program.  It is no coincidence that GYSD took place on  Earth Day, a time where we all reflect on environmental issues and take action in ways that can make the world cleaner and safer for generations to come.

The girls and young women, volunteers, and AFG staff walked away with a commitment to continue taking care of the environment year round, instead of just one day.  This day of service was an extension of what is already being taught in the Prevention Program and the girls plan to continue to learn about recycling and ways to take care of the environment. In addition, Home Depot has made a commitment to come back to help maintain the projects that were started.  Indeed, it was a great learning experience for all and the outcome ignited a deeper commitment for a cleaner, safer, environment!

Alternatives For Girls would like to thank Home Depot for volunteering and donating supplies for this project, as well as Attack Hunger for donating lunch for all of the young women and volunteers!

Best Expression of Ourselves: Alternatives For Girls celebrates its 30th anniversary at annual Role Model Dinner

Mar. 30 2017 | Tags: , , ,

On March 23, Alternatives For Girls held the annual Role Model Dinner at Cobo Center. The event raised over $300,000 to support our critical work!

The evening was full of fun, inspiration, and hope, as AFG celebrated its 30th anniversary of serving girls and young women! 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 Don Manvel and Barbara Whittaker, 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, Best Expression of Ourselves. The evening closed with the thrilling “Fund the Mission,” led by auctioneer Chris Aslanian, during which event guests pledged monetary support to AFG.

The program was a time of reflection and inspiration as the young women of AFG and the 2017 Role Models shared their stories. Many shared empowering messages, like this statement from former President & CEO of The Skillman Foundation and Role Model Awardee, Carol Goss, “My life’s focus as a professional and a volunteer has been to help the most, vulnerable families and children to find a better life, jobs that pay a livable wage, quality education for their children and access to health care and adequate healthy food and housing. A life free from conflict and violence and hope for the future.  It is my hope that that those of us who have been blessed with resources and role models in our lives will find a way to pay this forward to a young woman that needs it.”

We would like to thank our dinner co-chairs, Don Manvel and Barbara Whittaker, 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 esteemed auctioneer, and all of the dedicated volunteers who helped make the event possible. Thank you to all of the young women from our programs; Tamia, Karen, Treasure, Shanyelle, and Sheria, who shared their stories and showed us the courage and determination it takes to become the best expression of ourselves.

AFG also gratefully thanks this year’s Role Model Dinner Presenting Sponsor, DTE Energy Foundation, as well as the following dinner sponsors: AVL, Ford Motor Company Fund, Madison Heights Glass, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, The Suburban Collection, UAW-General Motors Center for Human Resources, Brooks Kushman, Flagstar Bank, Ideal Group, Jim and Ann Nicholson, UAW-Ford, Argent International, BW Limited, Carole Ilitch, Comerica Bank, Corporate F.A.C.T.S., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Home Depot, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Marathon Petroleum Company, Metro West Chapter of Credit Unions, MGM Grand Detroit, Plante Moran, The Skillman Foundation, St. John Providence, Trinity Health, Willis Towers Watson, Kerr-Russell, George Johnson & Company, Melissa Jamal, Union Ad Works, and Special D Events.

Finally, we want to thank everyone who attended the event for spending the evening with us and for showing such overwhelming support for AFG’s programs, as well as everyone who has supported Alternatives For Girls over the last 30 years. Thank you!

February Volunteer Spotlight: Dale Henderson

Feb. 28 2017 | Tags: ,

Each month, Alternatives For Girls’ Volunteer Department, highlights one volunteer who AFG staff recognize as being a dedicated and passionate volunteer. This month we spotlight Dale Henderson, a mentor in AFG’s Prevention Program!

Dale has been involved with AFG for over a year. She first joined as a volunteer for the after-school program, then the Rise N’ Shine summer camp, and now as a mentor. Additionally, Dale is always willing to lend a hand and has volunteered in several other capacities throughout the past year!

Dale’s goal as a mentor is to be a positive role model for participants and demonstrates this by being a caring and responsible adult. Moreover, Dale explains that one of her strengths is her ability to relate to youth on their own level, which helps her at AFG. It is important to “be patient, get to know youth on their own terms, and reach them wherever they are,” Dale explains.

Thank you, Dale, for your ongoing commitment to supporting the girls and young women at Alternatives For Girls.

Interested in volunteering? Please contact Jenny Clement, Volunteer Services Manager, at 313-361-4000 x248 or volunteering@alternativesforgirls.org to discuss the next steps to becoming a volunteer at Alternatives For Girls!

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

Dec. 20 2016 | 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 adopted by businesses, organizations, church groups, and individuals. This year, our generous PGT donors fulfilled nearly 250 wish lists, as well as additional items for dozens of families!

“Project Giving Tree is an important program because it helps ensure that each and every one of AFG’s participants can enjoy a cheerful holiday season,” Jenny Clement, AFG Volunteer Services and Project Giving Tree Manager explains. “The support of donors helps make sure that AFG is able to provide a special gift to all of our participants.”

The gifts collected during PGT are given to the girls and young women at each program’s holiday party throughout the month of December. “The girls and young women can take part in a special holiday celebration with their AFG family, which can be especially valued to those who don’t have others to celebrate the holidays with,” says Jenny. This year, over 20 volunteers helped make these parties possible. “Volunteers assist at the holiday parties to make sure they are extra memorable. From assisting with crafts to helping pick up participants; volunteers help each party run smoothly,” Jenny explains.

Every party was filled with wonderful food, games, arts & crafts, music, and plenty of smiles as each girl and young woman opened her gift. “The support from both donors and volunteers shows participants that there are lots of people who care about them,” shares Jenny. Alternatives For Girls would like to thank each person who participated in Project Giving Tree this year, as well as the wonderful volunteers who made all of our holiday parties possible!