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Gaining ground: Three stories of hope, renewed strength and paying it forward in Detroit

The-Ground-We-Gain

I missed a great event last week … the Southwest Solutions annual Solutions at Sunrise breakfast held this year at the MGM Grand. I have been to others and have always come away a little tearful, but always uplifted when I see what’s being done to fill many Detroiters with hope and renewed energy.

untitledYes, community, business and political leaders are all there to support the organization’s work and it is a fundraising event, but what really stands out are the stories of the people Southwest Solutions serves. The stories are moving and, yes, often tragic, but they are filled with hope, revitalized strength and a desire to pay it forward.

John Van Camp, president and CEO of Southwest Solutions, was kind to enough to do a quick recap of the stories told at the breakfast in an email. I thought I’d share some of what almost 1,000 people heard at the event.

First check out this short video, “The Ground We Gain.” It tells the story of Southwest Solutions’ work with veterans, young children and families in a very personal way. It’s by filmmaker Steve Palackdharry and premiered at the Solutions at Sunrise fundraising event.

Those attending that early morning event heard several stories firsthand.

There’s the story of Dr. Rickey Wright, who rose from poverty in rural Alabama to become the first African American physician from his community.  He served as an emergency room surgeon in the Air Force during the Gulf War and later built a successful practice.  Then tragedy hit. He suffered severe diabetes and pancreatic illness and couldn’t work. He lost his job and eventually his home.  All of a sudden he joined the ranks of thousands of other homeless Detroit area veterans.

Thanks to Southwest Solutions, Wright found a home at its Piquette Square apartments for homeless veterans.  Today, he is working hard to practice medicine again and is also helping veterans who have faced similar problems through the Southwest Solutions “REBOOT” program.

Piquette Square apartments for homeless veterans

Piquette Square apartments for homeless veterans

REBOOT helps veterans prepare for civilian life after their service. It “reboots” their skills and self-efficacy and encourages them to set goals that draw upon their talents and strengths. They also learn to chart strategies to achieve those goals in employment, self-improvement, helping others, and their personal lives.

“REBOOT was a remarkable experience,” says Wright, in a blog on the Southwest Solutions website. “REBOOT reawakened my sense of pride in myself, my service and my brothers and sisters who have also served in the military. I now want to focus my energies on the goals I’ve set for myself.”

Then there was the story of 12-year-old David Taylor. This brave young man was in an abusive home environment and was finally was placed with a wonderful foster mother, Elaine Taylor, and her family.  David and his new family received support from a dedicated Southwest Solutions counselor, Margaret Jabboori, and David began to open up and trust again.

Jabboori helped Taylor adopt David and continues to work closely with them. That love and support is working. “If you set your mind to do something, you can accomplish it,” David says.

“I don’t think I have seen a more emotional response at one of our events than the applause that young David received for his courageous remarks,” Van Camp says.

Gabriela Ramirez-Arellano shared her personal story. She lives in a home that was rehabbed by Southwest Solutions and sees the benefit of the Vista Partnership work in the neighborhood and parks in her Detroit community.  The Vista Partnership is an alliance of residents and organizations that supports community development in a 20-block area of southwest Detroit using a resident-centered strategy.

Ramirez-Arellano helps “pay it forward” by working as an instructor in the Southwest Solutions ProsperUs program. It trains and supports emerging minority entrepreneurs, particularly those who are African-American, Arab-American or Latino. The goal is to help strengthen neighborhood economies, create jobs, serve residents with new goods and services, and cultivate community-based leadership. ProsperUS serves five neighborhoods including Cody Rouge, Grandmont Rosedale, Lower Eastside, North End and Southwest Detroit.

Click here to find out more about Southwest Solutions.

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