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If you’re driving around southwest Detroit on a Wednesday night between 6:30 – 9 PM, you just may see the AFG van driving around. And, the person you’ll see behind the wheel is James (Jim) Maier. Jim has been volunteering for AFG for five years, and he specifically chose the Safe Choices street outreach program.
“I found out about AFG on a website through my church,” said Maier. “I was looking for a new organization, and as I was looking through their website, I noticed street outreach was one of the areas they needed volunteers. There was just something, I don’t know. Once I saw they offered that, I knew right away that’s what I wanted to do.”
Volunteers in our Safe Choices program go out into the community twice a week, on Wednesday, in Jim’s case, and Thursday. Their goal – to find sex workers and provide them with resources (food, bleach kits for drug use, and information about AFG), and let them know AFG is available to them if they want help. Jim is usually joined by one or two other volunteers, usually Marissa Graziano (pictured above). There’s always someone in the front window handing out bags. If there’s a third person, they’re in the back of the van taking notes, and looking around to make sure no one is a threat.
“We are probably the only people that are doing something good for the women we stop for, and they are so grateful for anything we have to offer, just even to know somebody cares for them,” said Maier. “It’s just really moving when they say “thank you” or “God bless you.”
On average, Jim and the rest of the Wednesday crew make 10-15 stops a night year-round. Some days are lower, and some days are higher. The most stops he has ever made in one night was 25. Jim drives around 50 miles every Wednesday, covering the southwest area up to John R. and 8 mile.
The ultimate goal of the Safe Choices program is to get these women off the street, and into our New Choices program at AFG.
“There have been several women who have joined the New Choices program because of us stopping and talking to them on the street, it’s just so rewarding, and it makes it worth it – going every week,” said Maier.