The Motor City Mitten Mission is a Michigan 501c3 Non-Profit Organization dedicated to helping the homeless, the needy, the sick and those striving for a better way of life while educating, partnering and collaborating with a number of other organizations, schools, churches, clubs and businesses. As homelessness continues to be a chronic issue for so many Americans, resources to help these people are seriously lacking. There are numerous organizations throughout the Metro Detroit area putting their efforts towards helping our homeless and needy. However, many focus on people already in some kind of shelter and/or are getting some kind of assistance while there are hundreds of individuals and families that are living off the grid in hidden areas throughout the city, by the waters, in their cars, under bridges, in fields, etc. These are some of the people that our organization focuses our outreach to. Especially during the winter months when the temperatures throughout metro Detroit get in single digits, it is vital that these people on the street are located and provided aide. Some assistance that the Motor City Mitten Mission provides are meals, clothing, blankets, personal care products, mats and pillows as well as help facilitate services by other local organizations that can provide additional services such as housing, household items and furnishings, health & fitness wellness, mental health services, medical and dental services, legal assistance, financial assistance, education, job training and placement, etc.
Our mats and pillows project (The Plarn Farm) is a large and specific initiative of our organization that we focus on when we are not out in the field with the homeless. Our mats and pillows are made of recycled plastic bags that are then crocheted into mats with a strap, tie and a pillow. These mats and pillows are ideal for our harsh Michigan elements as they are remarkably comfortable and offer just enough to create a barrier between the ground and the body to help retain body heat while sleeping. Our mats also offer a cleaner way of sleeping as bugs do not like them, if the mat gets wet, they can easily be dried and when it gets dirty, it can easily be hosed off and shaken out. And since they are made of plastic and come with a convenient carrying strap, they are also light and portable. And because the mats and pillows are made from recycled plastic bags, we are also helping the environment. And although we were not the original group to conceptualize the mats, we have perfected and streamlined the process and Gail Marlow is the first one to originate, design, and conceptualize the pillow.
This initiative is also an activity that offers a way for almost every type of person of all ages to get involved. While the process of making the mats and pillows is not a complicated one, it is labor intensive that has many steps. But because of this, there is generally at least one step that a person is capable of doing which allows a large, diverse group of people from all ages, disabilities and education to participate. It’s a great way to get people involved in volunteering, especially students as well as the elderly.
Our mats and pillow project has taken off throughout 2017 and into 2018 as participation and interest in our initiative has grown outside of metro Detroit including other various parts of Michigan including North Branch, Marquette, Grand Rapids, Traverse City and Midland. And out of State city initiatives that we have started include Cincinnati, Houston, Chicago, Naples, and Phoenix. In addition, we have started a huge initiative right across the border throughout Windsor, Ontario, Canada. This initiative and interest has grown extremely quickly and is in the process of being implemented throughout many of the schools throughout Essex County in Canada.
Through our mats and pillow project and partnering with so many schools, churches, organizations and businesses, a vital part of our initiative includes promoting volunteerism and education. We are working fiercely with schools all over to help educate students on homelessness as well as promote volunteering and community service. Our belief is that if you give people a positive experience the first time volunteering, they will most likely get excited and want to expand their volunteering opportunities. Our mats and pillow project is a perfect introduction because it is an activity that helps both the environment as well as the homeless, it is not a difficult task, does not require a set time commitment and is an activity that can be worked on in the comfort of your own home. Since the inception of our organization of December 2017, we have already presented, trained and have our mats and pillow project being worked on in 28 schools specifically along with approximately 20 other groups that include churches, community organizations, senior citizen groups and businesses.
In addition to our focus on the homeless, we also have a desire to help those that are needy and near homeless. Many of these people are in need of additional assistance for various reasons including health issues. Too often, a family is struck with an unexpected medical expense such as a cancer diagnosis or sudden accident. Such unexpected cases put families and individuals in dire financial straits. Often times additional assistance is needed including professional services, clothing, food, financial assistance and job assistance. Through our continued outreach, we are able to help facilitate and provide some of these items and services mentioned above and as our mats and pillow initiative continues to develop and grow, a very important initiative is that we would like to be able to offer employment opportunities for those that have a desire to better themselves.
A future endeavor that the Motor City Mitten Mission would like to pursue is to provide a Mobile Community Food and Wellness Truck that would be available to go to various neighborhoods throughout Metro Detroit. Our mobile truck would provide free healthy meals to the community as well as provide health & fitness education and assistance to people in the communities we visit. There is a high rate of obesity and diabetes throughout poorer neighborhoods for a number of reasons including lack of education, accessibility of full service grocery stores and the expense of purchasing healthy foods. Our mobile community food and wellness truck would be available to assist with these needs. In addition, this would be an opportunity to partner with many of the urban garden organizations throughout metro Detroit by providing a source for them to distribute their produce to those that are in need.
The two key individuals and founders of the Motor City Mitten Mission include, Gail Marlow (Executive Director and Founder), who has over twenty plus years of experience working in the non-profit world as well as owns a business consulting company and Sophan Buffa (Vice President of Operations & Education and Co-Founder) who is an elementary school teacher with ten plus years of experience working with non-profits.