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Michigan Masons donate $5 million to support Mitch Albom’s S.A.Y. Detroit Play Center


The Michigan Masons are living up to one of that fraternity’s oaths – to help those in need.

The Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation awarded a 10-year, $5 million grant to S.A.Y. to provide major support to the organization’s Play Center at Lipke Park, a motivational academic, sports and enrichment center located in northeast Detroit.

The donation will help change the game for many Detroit young people by providing continuing support of the center’s literacy and tutoring programs, which serve young people, ages 8 to 18. The S.A.Y. Play Center is located at 19320 Van Dyke St., a 14.5-acre campus that previously was the site of an abandoned city of Detroit recreation center. It opened in 2015.


The entire grant will be given to S.A.Y. Detroit and its umbrella of charities founded by author and Detroit Free Press journalist Mitch Albom. The Michigan Masons pledged to commit to volunteering and working alongside S.A.Y. Detroit on various nonprofit projects and programs each year.

Here are just some of the things the S.A.Y. Play Center does:

  • Develops great readers. It partners with SOAR Tutoring, which has a 10-year history of increasing students’ average reading proficiency two grade levels each year. A committed team of dedicated volunteers work with the students.
  • Provides the opportunity to learn about music. Notes for Notes lets members explore, create, and record music for free. The studios have professional instruments – guitars, basses, drums, keyboards/synths – and equipment – DJ gear, digital music workstations – and full recording facilities. Members are also taught about careers on the stage and behind the scenes.
  • Expands knowledge about music, dance and art through Real Life. My Music classes, which teach technique as well as an appreciation and history of the mediums.
  • Expands knowledge of science. Computers at the 7,000 square-feet interactive Science in the DEEP digital learning center bring science to life. The center opened in February 2016 through a partnership with Dow Chemical and Cooper Standard. Volunteers from Dow’s STEM Ambassadors program and Cooper Standard’s STEM Accelerator program offer tutoring, science demonstrations and career information. SAY Play is also launching a Lego Robotics team.
  • Increases team sport opportunities in football, baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball, soccer and cheer by partnering with schools, organizations and sports clubs in Detroit. Current partners include the Detroit Pistons, Detroit Tigers, Detroit PAL, the Detroit Cardinals, Nolan Academy, Marion Law Academy, and Osborn’s small high schools. A new, synthetic turf football field was donated by Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford’s Score 7 Foundation.

Joining the S.A.Y. Play Center requires commitment and hard work. To become members students must strive to achieve a 3.0 GPA, maintain an outstanding attendance record in school, and spend at least one hour each visit in the academic center.

reading tutor

A committed team of dedicated volunteers work with the students to improve reading skills.

“The Masons are making a tremendous commitment to the future of Detroit’s kids,” Albom says. “From the beginning, the Masons expressed unbridled enthusiasm for helping on all levels of our city’s needs, from day care to senior citizens. I have been overwhelmed by the Masons’ level of commitment and devotion to doing good work.”

He says the Masons’ gift – “M.A.D.E. by Masons” standing for Making a Difference Everywhere – will enhance the center’s educational curriculum and other programs.

Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom

“Too many Detroit children face the barriers of illiteracy and achieving their full potential,” says William Finkel, Grand Master of Michigan Masons. “The Michigan Masons through the Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation are committed to helping these children. Organizations like S.A.Y. Detroit are vital to the future of Detroit.”

There are over 30,000 Masons in the state of Michigan and more than 250 lodges.

S.A.Y. Detroit was founded in 2006 by Albom and operates in partnership with the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries. Together they operate and support a number of other area charities, including Working Homes Working Families, the S.A.Y. Detroit Family Health Clinic and Detroit Dream Scholars.

– Photos from S.A.Y. Detroit

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