With an event as large and sprawling as the Mackinac Policy Conference, you never know who you’re going to run into when you’re at the Grand Hotel.
Consider this: There are about 1,600 participants here, and they are from cities as far North as Crystal Falls to Monroe to Kalamazoo. So it can be highly unlikely to stumble into someone you actually want to meet or someone you didn’t know you needed to meet.
So it was refreshing to run into Alexander (Al) T. Sebastian, Director of Communications and Philantropy for The Guidance Center in Southgate. Sebastian is attending the conference to not only schmooze but to advance the efforts of The Guidance Center in Detroit. (More on that later.)
Some background: The Guidance Center is a human-services agendy that serves all of Wayne County. However, the family- and children-centric agency operates a wide range of programs and services at 23 locations. But, until recently, it didn’t own any property in Detroit.
It recently purchased its offices, which it was leasing, on Ferry Street in Midtown to serve as the home base for Kids-TALK Children’s Advocacy Center. It inhabits two 1900s residences, working with kids from ages zero to 18 with issues including trauma, neglect as well as physical and sexual abuse.
So as a welcome to Detroit, we chatted about why he came to the conference and why The Guidance Center wanted to invest in Detroit. Here’s a little of our conversation.
Q: So what led to your decision to buy in Detroit?
A: The Guidance Center operated Kids-TALK Children’s Advocacy Center for about 12 years. Three years ago, we began leasing two buildings on Ferry Street in Midtown. We made a decision to do some major philanthropy and we raised $1.1 million. We closed on the buildings in December and now we’re on Phase Two to renovate our historic buildings (to be accessible per the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements) and expand the program.
A: Midtown is a phenomenal area. We knew it would be a great location in the city, especially for the children who grew up in Detroit. It would be easier for them to gain access to services here than to have to go to the suburbs. Last year, we saw 1,300 children at our Midtown location. … We work collaboratively with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, Children’s Protective Services, Wayne State University and law enforcement to make this happen. Skillman funded the program 12 years ago, and we’re still working together.
Q: Why did you come to the Conference?
A: We certainly want to spread the word, but in a low key way, about what we’re doing. This is the first time The Guidance Center has had program offices in the city of Detroit. And it’s all about collaboration. Many of our collaborators are here. We work with the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation and many of the foundations and companies you see here. So it really fits into the theme of this conference. It’s a great way to showcase the collaborations that already exist within the city of Detroit, Wayne County and Metro Detroit.