‘We Are Here to Help:’ Nonprofits, Others Help in the Spirit of Dr. King’s Giving Legacy



A Salvation Army volunteer prepares to deliver a sealed, pre-packaged box of food to one of its corps community centers in metro Detroit.

Photo courtesy of The Salvation Army


“A wicked messenger falls into adversity; a faithful envoy brings healing.”

That verse in Proverbs 13:17 might as well be written about Envoy Artee Lewis with The Salvation Army Temple Corps.


Lewis, in his pastoral role and with his holy army, on Detroit’s West Side (at 3729 W. Chicago Blvd.), genuinely helps those most in need in a tangible way that everyone, in particular Black residents, can appreciate all year round. This is especially evident as so many give in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. as he is remembered for his loving messages and charitable works as his birthday nears.


“The services we offer, we offer to the Black community,” Lewis told the Michigan Chronicle. “We want to make sure we let them know by the way we treat them; by what we offer. They are somebody and that is the message Dr. King conveyed: we deserve respect and services like anybody else.”


Those services encompass food distribution, after-school programs, utility bill assistance, a Pathway of Hope Program which helps break the cycle of poverty by giving participants tools to be self-sufficient and providing job resources.


Dozens of presents at The Salvation Army Temple Corps Community Center (3729 W. Chicago Blvd., Detroit) wait to be wrapped and delivered to children and families in time for the Christmas holiday. The Temple Corps is one of four Salvation Army Corps Community Centers located in the city of Detroit, and one of 13 across the metro Detroit area.

Photo courtesy of The Salvation Army



Lewis added that The Salvation Army has church services there as well, along with everything from summer day camps to referrals.


“Dr. King was out to, of course, help everybody and we want to definitely be a blessing to the community,” Lewis said. “I think one of the things we definitely want to do is let people know that we love them; that God loves them and we’re here to help … in their time of need.”


Similarly, Rachelle Bonelli, vice president of programs for Gleaners Community Food Bank, told the Michigan Chronicle that giving starts in your backyard, and with insight from surveys and community partners, Gleaners did just that. They established targeted mobile pantries in and around Detroit to make sure distributions were equitable across geography and need.


“We expanded food distribution services to meet the need and be as accessible as possible, as often as needed,” Bonelli stated. “Gleaners also partnered with Detroit Public Schools Community District to support 14 HUB schools operating since December to provide mobile grocery distributions and food boxes that supported balanced nutrition. Food boxes also helped seniors in housing communities who were isolated to protect from community spread.”


Bonelli added that part of their work was based on data from Feeding America that identified 15 communities throughout Gleaners’ five-county service area identifying disproportionate levels of coronavirus infection, poverty and food insecurity. Gleaners identified 26 agency partners with the ability to use additional resources to reach the community inside and surrounding Detroit.


“We know food insecurity exists… the pandemic further revealed disparities in our region, and that access to healthy foods is disproportionately available in and around Detroit,” she added. “We also know that the Governors Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities recognized food insecurity as a health issue.”


Through Gleaners’ focused efforts to expand access, they have been able to introduce more food resources, and will continue to work toward expanding this access, Bonelli added.


“[This is] to give the community a more equitable opportunity to stabilize households, improve health outcomes and reduce the stress of food insecurity holding many back from thriving,” she said. “For our region to survive and thrive beyond this pandemic, we need healthy communities – financially, physically, and mentally. Taking hunger off the table, especially in places where our neighbors have systematically been underserved by food access, provides a real opportunity for families and individuals to focus on other needs to stabilize their lives and achieve their potential now and toward future goals.”


With Gleaners’ herculean efforts to help solve hunger locally, there is still more to be done, which they cannot do alone, Bonelli said.


“We need the help of partners and community members to achieve the food security we know is possible,” she added. “We have the tools, and we have the means – community support is how we walk that last mile to meet our goals for our hungry neighbors. One way of giving back to our community is to ensure those who are hungry know how to get food and know there is no shame in reaching out for help. We can all foster that sense of dignity.”


The other way to give back is by donating to Gleaners at www.gcfb.org or hosting a virtual food drive with the organization.


More recently, Gleaners created a team of people who are solely dedicated to creating programs and planning new ones with an equity lens so that when they do program evaluation, they are “ever mindful” of the goal to provide equitable programs at the core of their work and involve the community in feedback to reinforce that goal.


“To achieve full food security in the region, we must always meet our hungry neighbors where they are and focus on what their needs are rather than what we think those needs are,” Bonelli added.


Giving in the spirit of Dr. King also means giving a Carvana employee a new ride.

Carvana welcomed 2021 by recently giving vehicles to 21 employees, including Detroit resident Sylvester Johnson, a father of five who works at the auto retailer’s Troy office. Carvana received hundreds of nominations and raked through those to select the 21 recipients who were announced at Carvanafest, an annual event historically hosted to show appreciation for Carvana customers.


Spanning departments and locations, all the 21 recipients had in common was being recognized for their hard work and inspirational points of view in the face of challenges big and small.


“Team Carvana, and the people who show up for each other every day, is why this vehicle giveaway is so meaningful,” said Ernie Garcia, founder and CEO of Carvana. “While this year has been challenging for millions, we recognized that within our Carvana family, there were additional challenges, and we feel so fortunate to be able to help our friends and co-workers out.”


Eastern Market Senior Market Manager Lonni Thomas said that as a 34-year-old Black woman, she believes that selflessly feeding our communities and making sure that they have access to nutritional food contributes to the betterment of the Black community.


“We need to build up our communities,” Thomas said.


Eastern Market Partnership’s vision statement is to “shepherd Eastern Market’s rich history to nourish a healthier, wealthier, and happier Detroit” she added


“Being that we are located in a city where nearly 80% of its residents are Black, Eastern Market cannot hope to achieve its vision without addressing disparities in racial equity,” Thomas said. “Making sure that EMP plays a role in supporting Detroit’s Black-owned business by providing a platform through our public markets and consistent media support. I think we embody MLK’s compassion as we push toward making things easier during such a difficult time.”




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