‘Resilient’ spirit of MLK inspires Detroit nonprofit day of service


Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. demonstrated spiritual resilience in his belief that equality and treatment under the law are essential for all.

On the day the civil rights icon was recognized, a Detroit nonprofit offered a little resilience to those struggling with homelessness and poverty.

As part of the National Day of Service on Monday, volunteers from the Detroit Phoenix Center prepared “Resilient Kits”, care packages for young people emerging from homelessness and poverty.

Winter scarves, hats, gloves, hygiene products, personal protective equipment, non-perishable foods and other items that someone between 13 and 24 would need to successfully manage the pandemic have been packed in care kits for them.

Courtney Smith, founder and CEO of the organization, hopes the packages “will help those in need remain resilient to what is going on in the world today so they can continue to thrive.”

“I always wanted to be one of my greatest goals to be the person I had to grow up with,” she said. “Growing up, I had some difficulties. I knew what I needed during this time and I haven’t always received it. “

Detroit Phoenix Center volunteers gather

Observance of the King’s Birthday – every third Monday in January – is recognized nationwide as a Day of Service to encourage Americans across the country to volunteer for the betterment of their communities. For DPC, the goal is to make a positive impact on the lives of 500 teenagers by having 10 volunteers in the center assembling the packages and hundreds across the state virtually preparing the kits due to COVID restrictions.

“Martin Luther King is a role model for black people,” said Drake Johnson as he packed up the kits. “He has helped us through difficult times in times of segregation and I really think that if he were still here he would help us during this time too.”

That year, the group received a boost from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ Presidential Inaugural Committee, a national initiative that works with organizations across the country to serve in honor of King’s legacy.

More than 100 people signed up for the virtual prep, and Smith credits partnering with the committee with the additional interest.

“I registered through the virtual component,” said Sierra Devoe, a member of DPC’s youth action committee. “Myself and some of my supporters from my nonprofit, Project Rise, are going to be using a zoom today and putting together some kits.”

The Detroit Phoenix Center, which also doubles as the COVID Response Center and is the one stop shop in Detroit for the homeless or at high risk of homelessness, will be dropped off at DPC on Monday between 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on the other Thursday it continues.

16-year-old Detroit Phoenix Center volunteer Kahlio Johnson helps assemble it

The kits are distributed year-round to teenagers in their after-school program and to those who stop by the center to shower, fetch food, or wash their clothes.

One person who received support from the center is Rosa Hicks, who blames DPC for getting out of a domestic violence situation.

At age 18, Hicks said she was involved in an abusive relationship. Her two sons were taken away by child protection services and she said she felt all alone without getting out of her situation. DPC gave her all the tools she needed to create a new life for herself and her children, she said.

The Detroit Phoenix Center volunteers, Drake Johnson, 10, and Khadijah Johnson, gather

“You helped me get my house and everything I needed to get it,” said Hicks, who is now a member of the DPC’s youth action committee. “When I do that today, I feel like I am giving something back to a community that has helped me.” also.”

For Smith, she said that every young person must have someone to stand up for them and not give up on them. Those kits, she said, are just one way of showing them that someone cares.

“It’s just a simple gesture that will go a long way,” she said.