Compassion in Action- Driven in Detroit: Bridges to Self-Reliance

Replenishing my shelvesPeople who are raised in poverty tend to think of life in terms of fate. Raechel and Lamar Parker grew up surrounded by drugs and violence, without the know how to create a different kind of life for themselves and their five children. “The way I grew up was ‘no one cares about you,’” says Raechel. But they had the desire to do better, and Kathy and Sam Utley were able to help them with the information and skills they hadn’t gotten through their troubled upbringings.

Kathy and Sam Utley are one of 15 – 20 couples mentoring 80 families through the Personal Storehouse Project of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The mentors spend 10 – 15 hours a week working with these families, identifying their needs, and providing support while helping them find solutions. The range of needs is incredibly varied, and so are the responses. One volunteer held a computer class to help people develop crucial computer skills. Others have helped with GED programs. The mentors work to help families learn to create goals and connect daily actions and habits to future success. And they are building an interfaith network of agencies and organizations to support and extend the reach of these efforts.

Members that work with community agencies have created a roster of these resources on the Personal Storehouse blog. And the church is working to build partnerships by contributing money volunteers, resources to organizations like St. Vincent DePaul, which received thousands of pounds of clothes donated by Deseret Industries in Salt Lake City, a welfare organization operated by the LDS Church, in return for gift cards that needy families can redeem at a St. Vincent DePaul store.

The interfaith effort started six years ago with clothing distribution project. Church members were interested in getting more involved with working with members of the community. In order to find the families who needed help, they reached out to community service agencies.

In the Farmington Hills area, the Farmington Area Interfatih Association, and its member churches, the Goodfellows’ Neighborhood House, and the Farmington Public Schools worked together to find needy families. Over a thousand people came over two days and a hundred volunteers, including city government officials and members of the police department, helped distribute thousands of pounds of clothing that had come from the LDS Bishop’s Storehouse in Salt Lake City.

The leftover clothes went to the Salvation Army to support an adult rehabilitation center. And the Salvation Army gave the church vouchers to distribute to those in need so that they might get clothes from the Salvation Army.

These efforts are expanding with a similar effort in Flint, and the recent relationship with St. Vincent DePaul. One church member reached out to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to create a faith based network to help people get access to Health and Human services programs. They are training LDS members and the church is bringing other faith community members to these trainings as well.

A new effort is underway to reach out through this growing network to find and feed children who are on free or subsidized lunch programs, so that during school breaks, they don’t go without these critical food sources.

Please look at some of the inspiring videos created about these efforts and share them. We would like to share stories of how different faith groups are serving Detroit. So please let us know of other efforts. And we will continue to bring you stories about the on-going interfaith effort to work together to make sure that as many members of our community as we can reach can get access to the critical services and support they need.

For more information and lists of community resources, see the Personal Storehouse Blog.