Detroit Phoenix Center gifts Christmas to children experiencing poverty, homelessness


Eastpointe – Neveah Holmes peeked into her family’s gift bag from the Detroit Phoenix Center. The 8 year old Detroit woman loved what she found.

“It’s a dollhouse! I’ll put it together with the other one, I have to make it bigger.”

Her mother, Danielle Holmes, was even more delighted with her gift: the first month’s deposit required to move her family to a new location.

“We have a home for vacation,” said the 32-year-old as her other children were drinking hot cocoa nearby.

On Saturday, at its annual holiday event, the Detroit Phoenix Center responded to Christmas wishes from dozen of Metro Detroit children and their families who suffer from poverty and transitioning from homelessness.

7-year-old Natalya Jackson gives Santa Claus (portrayed by Jorelle Dickerson of Mount Clemens) a big hug when her father Melvin Jackson (left) holds her eleven-month-old brother Elijah Jackson from across Detroit as they drop by after receiving Christmas presents.  Jorelle's mother, Joanie Dickerson, portrayed Mrs. Claus.

The Detroit nonprofit supports 150 youth year-round in a variety of ways, including emergency shelter, education and mental health resources. On that day, the center held an outdoor event where children and their families received gift bags containing toys, personal protective equipment, essential household items, and gift cards for $ 110 Foot Locker.

The pandemic has only made life harder for many local families, and the group was determined to provide some help.

“It’s been a challenging year for many of these families,” said Courtney Smith, Founder and CEO of the Detroit Phoenix Center. “Many would not get Christmas. We are here to give them that Christmas spirit.”

In front of the Eastpointe Foot Locker, Aidan Rucker, 8, from Detroit showed the toy car in the gift bag that was on his wish list and said, “I’ll run it around the house with my brother.”

Elijah Jackson, 11 months old, takes a break in the arms of his father, Melvin Jackson, both of Detroit, before receiving presents.

The gifts are a relief for parents like Detroit’s Valerie Rucker, 62. “It’s a great help. COVID has cost a lot of money. The children are in quarantine and go to school at home. They eat a lot more and food stamps just put on the cover not off. “

Thanks to donors from the foundation and the community, the Detroit Phoenix Center funded clothing, toys, a bike, and household items like a vacuum that was on families’ wish lists. Detroit-born hip-hop artist Christian A. Mathis – known by his stage name Trick Trick – handed out the gifts.

Foot Locker’s Community Store funded gift cards valued at $ 16,000. The donation is part of the site’s mission to give back to the community each month, said Don Dudley, Marketing Manager at Foot Locker Detroit.

“Sneakers are expensive,” he said. “We wanted to help families do this, and all children want to choose exactly what they want.”

Detroit Phoenix Center founder and CEO Courtney Smith prepares gift bags to be distributed.

In addition to receiving the presents, the children took photos with Santa Claus and drank hot chocolate with colorful sprinkles. Families received pre-packaged meals of baked wings, green beans, mac and cheese, and dessert from Detroit’s Royster’s Gourmet Catering Co., donated by several small businesses, including brands to Kori and Erin on Demand, Professional Delivery Service, TherapySpa, and Titus Delivery. The companies also pay for furniture for one of the families receiving rental support from the Detroit Phoenix Center.

“We didn’t grow up much,” said Tegest Hatcher, who with her husband Fred owns the Professional Delivery Service of Warren-based delivery company Inc. “Now that we have our own small businesses, we wanted to help others.”

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Dusty Kennedy