Rod Alberts walked out of the plush hotel in Los Angeles into beautiful 75 degree weather and headed for the airport to fly back to Detroit. Once there he was greeted, not with a comfy bed and a warm house, but with two cardboard boxes for a bed, a sleeping bag from The Empowerment Plan for a blanket and ice cold concrete for a mattress.
The Detroit Auto Dealers Association president was one of more than 70 Detroit area leaders who recently participated in the Sleep Out: Executive Edition at the Covenant House Michigan.
Before they crawled into the boxes and sleeping bags and began what was for many of them a sleepless or fitful night, they lit a candle of hope, sang and prayed for the more than 5,000 metro Detroit youths who wander the street on any given night in search for a warm bed, a hot meal and someone to care. The executives also heard many of the young people tell their stories about how they found the Covenant House and now are taking control of their lives.
Each of the executives raised money from donors who supported their sleep out. So far they brought in $345,000 for Covenant House. Those dollars were put to work immediately to help Covenant House provide basic needs like a hearty meal, a warm bed, and safe shelter for those homeless children.
The Covenant House Michigan also accepted socks, wash cloths, towels, full-size toiletries, gift cards and monetary donations at the event.
“I accept the challenge to sleep out with Covenant House,” Alberts said on his donation page. “It will be uncomfortable. It will be dark. But for one night I can give up the comforts of home knowing that – by doing so – I can bring warmth and hope to young people who need it most. Thousands of kids spend each night on the unforgiving streets of our great cities. Countless others are staying with relatives or friends, dreading the day when there is no one else to take them in. And one night can make a difference.”
“Sleeping out is really a wake-up call,” he said. For example, assembling the two boxes into a bed is no easy task. Many of those sleeping out had to ask the young people who live at the Covenant House, who were warm and toasty inside, to come out and show them how to put the boxes together to get the best benefit.
There’s another catch. If you’re claustrophobic sleeping head first in the box can be a big problem, Alberts said.
Then there’s the concrete. “The concrete is the worst part,” he said. “It is cold and hard. To sleep on it from 11 (PM) to 6 (AM) seems like an eternity. If I slept two hours I’d be surprised.”
This year that concrete was a little warmer than last year, the first time Alberts slept out. It was balmy 34 degrees compared with the bone-chilling single-digit temperatures in 2014.
Besides Alberts, executives from more than 50 companies and organizations, including Delta Airlines, Deloitte, Microsoft, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Comerica Bank and the City of Detroit, braved the hard, cold cement to help raise awareness and dollars for the homeless. Those who slept out were:
- Ashley Allen, Two Men and a Truck
- Jeff Antaya, Plante Moran
- Nsahid Ayoub, Project Dignity Outreach
- David Balle, Grosse Pointe Dermatology
- Stephen Blocki, NLB Corp
- James Breaugh, Delta Air Lines
- Jason Brown, PublicCity PR
- Terry Chapman, MNP Corp.
- Nicole Cheaib, Project Dignity
- Sara Beth Cole, Self
- Katie Coleman, Sellers Auto Group
- Beth Collison, Mary’s Mantle
- Scott Colmar, Zurich
- Dana Debel, Delta Air Lines
- Joey DiFranco, Mike Staff Productions
- Margie Drewes, First Independence Bank
- Kim Elliott, Plantscaping LLC
- John Fechushak, Delta Air Lines
- John Fikany, Microsoft
- Tavi Fulkerson, self
- Mike Gauthier, Saveon Everything
- Erica George, The Empowerment Plan
- Cookie Gonzalez, Delta Air Lines
- Dave Gordon, Johnson Controls
- Dean Hill, Zurich North America
- Michele Hodges, Belle Isle Conservancy
- John Hofmann, Fusion Marketing
- Steven Kalczynski, The Townsend Hotel
- Kelley LaFontaine, LaFontaine Automotive Group
- Ryan LaFontaine, LaFontaine Automotive Group
- Wilkin Lai, First Independence Bank
- Todd Lunsford, Rockloans Marketplace
- Mark Manzo, Ally Financial Inc.
- J.J. Mech, Archdiocese of Detroit
- Nadia Mekled, Toll Brothers
- Jason Minock, Toll Brothers
- Dan Mullen, The Empowermemt Plan
- Kimberly Mulqueen, Deloitte
- Max Muncey, DADA
- Leslie Murphy, Murphy Consulting
- Beth Niblock, City of Detroit
- Jane Owen, Vistage Michigan
- Bill Perkins, Merollis Chevrolet
- Eric Pricco, Delta Air Lines
- Jim Revas, Zurich North America
- Mike Ritchie, Comerica Bank
- Peter Rosenfeld, self
- Jeff Rumley, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
- Dan Russell Sr., DEM Group
- Veronika Scott, The Empowerment Plan
- David Senatore, Morgan Stanley
- Aleksander Shikhman, MLive
- Sam Slaughter, Sellers Auto Group
- Mike Staff, Mike Staff Productions
- Brent Steepe, Detroit Mechanix
- Denise Stein, Art of Leadership
- Stephanie Stevenson, EAA of Michigan
- Paul Stewart, Zurich North America
- Rich Thompson, MST Steel
- Anne Ventimiglio-Esser, MNP Corporation
- Jeremy Vidito, Education Achievement Authority
- Iwona Villaire, Cooper Standard
- Laura Vogel, Auto Club Group
- Clune Walsh, Schechter Wealth
- Cheryl Wasilewski, JCW Marketing & Communications
- Dan Weingartz, Weingartz
- Terry Woychowski, AAM
- Steve Zanella, MGM Grand Detroit
“Too often we turn a blind eye to those people standing on the street corner,” Alberts said, pointing out with help many of the homeless can get a new lease on life. One of the young people he met last year just started at Quicken Loans.
The Detroit Auto Dealers Association (DADA) and Delta Airlines sponsored the executive sleep out.