Four words guide Detroiter’s mission: “How can I help? “| Michigan News

By SCOTT TALLEY, Detroit Free Press

DETROIT (AP) – There’s no denying that Alison Vaughn reflects the environment in which she was raised.

Vaughn’s voice – crisp, bossy and professional – evokes memories of groundbreaking local TV news anchors in Detroit like Beverly Payne, Diana Lewis and Carmen Harlan. Because of her voice, it’s no surprise that friends and strangers periodically ask Vaughn if she’s a host.

But even more than his voice, it’s Vaughn’s look – sleek and tasteful by most anyone’s standards – that tells the world that Detroit’s fashion avenue glory days are coming. perpetuate through a proud black woman who grew up just steps away, the Detroit Free Press reports.

“I went from the fashion avenue to Miss Fashion Global,” said Vaughn, who uses the location of Marvin Gaye’s former ranch-style home at Outer Drive and Monica as a point of reference to identify the neighborhood. where she grew up.

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Vaughn speaks with authority of Avenue de la Mode, which before and after the creation of the area’s shopping malls was recognized as a luxury shopping district stretching from 7 Mile to 8 Mile on Livernois. While Fashion Avenue has special historical significance in Detroit, Vaughn’s mention of Miss Fashion Global describes a recent event in November when she was crowned the Michigan winner (40+ category) for the pageant. And it’s Vaughn’s ability to draw strength from her Detroit past while finding new ways to inspire others that fuels the Jackets For Jobs “ministry” she embarked on 21 years ago.

“I dress the poor, and like feeding the hungry, it’s a ministry,” said Vaughn of Jackets For Jobs, the association she founded in 2000, which has helped more than 30,000 job seekers. providing them with work clothing, job training, and other resources and services at no cost to low-income people. “During the holidays and at any time of the year, I believe our mission to help people find and keep jobs is one that anyone can understand because everyone understands the importance a job.

Profile provided by Vaughn reveals that Jackets For Jobs clients are predominantly in their 20s and 30s, and many are entering the workforce for the first time; 95% are single mothers, many of whom come from shelters in the region; and almost all of Jackets For Jobs’ clients report a family income of less than $ 10,000. Vaughn makes it clear that she is determined to inspire the people she represents while raising awareness of her cause. And in doing so, she’s not afraid to think outside the box, like her participation in the Miss Fashion Global pageant and her appearance on the “You Bet Your Life” game show with Jay Leno, which airs in November. But Vaughn identifies one person – her sister Cheryl – as her own inspiration for everything she does on behalf of Jackets For Jobs.

While on leave from her job as a flight attendant for United Airlines following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Vaughn received a call from her Aunt Willie Mae saying Cheryl wanted to find her after nearly 20 years without communication between the two. sisters. The reunion will be short-lived as Vaughn finds out that Cheryl is dying of cancer. And a few months later, Vaughn would be shaken up again as he busied himself with preparations for Cheryl’s funeral.

“I found out my sister was on welfare, and at that point I wanted to do something to help other women on welfare,” said Vaughn, who after graduating from Michigan State University , had worked 16 years as a flight attendant before making the “not a good decision, but a decision of God” to create Jackets For Jobs. “Cheryl has been my guardian angel and every time I see a woman at Jackets For Jobs, I see my sister Cheryl and I ask myself: how can I help this woman become empowered? How can I help this woman to improve herself? How can I help this woman take care of herself without needing help from the government? “

But before Vaughn could start helping, she had to figure out how to start an organization without any prior business or organizational experience. To achieve this, Vaughn said, she turned to a Higher Power.

“It was a total, total, total act of faith, but God will not take you where he cannot keep you,” testified Vaughn, longtime member of the Fellowship Chapel, which is literally within reach. voice of Jacket For Jobs. location on the west side. “My supervisor at United said to me, ‘Are you sure you want to quit?’ He said the airline industry is like quicksand, and once you get in it’s hard to get out. But God said to me, “I have bigger plans for you,” so I looked my supervisor in the face and said, “I’m sure. Friendly skies are friendly, but I’m friendly on the ground. And instead of providing life jackets, we are providing the life jackets necessary for employment to our staff right here in the Detroit area.

Along with her unwavering faith, Vaughn said she relies heavily on institutions in Detroit and her own journey in Detroit to make Jackets For Jobs a reality. For example, in an era when “the Internet was brand new,” as Vaughn described it, she took weekend trips to the main library in Detroit and familiarized herself with titles such as “Grant Writing for Dummies ”and“ Starting a Business for Dummies. “And when she needed extra motivation, she often reflected on her days in Benedictine high school.

“The Benedictines taught me values ​​such as the importance of giving back and working in the community, and in grade 11 I was a volunteer candy tracer at Grace Hospital,” said Vaughn, who attended primary school and St. Gerard presentation before Benedictine. “I received a great education in Detroit. The city has been very good to me. And now I’ve come full circle because our location on the west side serves our town right across from where I attended high school in Benedictine.

On a recent morning in December, from this same location on the west side, work clothes with labels showing Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Izod, Brooks Brothers, Tommy Hilfiger and many more were chosen for women and the men, who tried on clothes and shoes with the help of Vaughn and his team. And Vaughn said the department store look and feel of the entire scene was no coincidence, given that the space was created through a partnership with TJ Maxx, which came into being through a influential family in history.

“Civil rights icon Rosa Parks’ niece, Rhea McCauley, spoke to TJ Maxx’s director of community relations about us,” Vaughn said. “It was 2007 and we are still partners, which includes TJ Maxx being one of the main suppliers of the clothing we offer to our customers. For Rosa Parks’ family to connect with what we do to help people in Detroit, it is none other than the Lord.

Vaughn also called his partnership with Detroit at Work a “bargain.”

“Detroit at Work is our source of financial funding, and all of our client referrals come from Detroit At Work,” said Vaughn. “The mayor’s goal is for everyone to have a job, but it’s a catch-22 because if you don’t have proper attire for an interview, you can’t get a job. Therefore, we feel very fortunate to be able to meet this need through our services with the support of Detroit At Work.

On Wednesday morning at 7800 W. Outer Drive, an example of the Jackets For Jobs-Detroit At Work partnership was on display in the form of Michelle Wilson-Merriwether, career coach for Detroit At Work. Dressed in red and white, coinciding with the holiday season and the colors of her hometown, the Louisville Cardinals, the Louisville native said she has come to love Detroit and has the utmost respect. for Jackets For Jobs.

“I started sending as many people as possible here (Jackets For Jobs) because I love their mission,” Wilson-Merriwether said. “It’s the # 1 benchmark for my team and it changes lives. “

Detroiter Destiny Jones, 28, mother of two (Alvin (8) and A’layah Coates (4)) is thrilled to have the opportunity to change her life with the help of Jackets For Jobs and Detroit At Work. A day after interviewing Jackets For Jobs, Jones was back at the Jackets For Jobs west side office on December 8 to start working.

“Getting this job while on vacation means a lot to me and my family,” Jones said. “It makes my kids happy and it makes me happy – it makes me feel like a better woman.”

Within minutes of expressing these thoughts, Jones displayed his happiness through his actions. Dressed in a business suit with her head held high, she helped the men and women choose their outfit for the interviews. The confidence Jones showed touched Vaughn, who said the new member of his team is now part of the family.

“At our east side location and at our west side locations, we’re a family,” Vaughn said. “A lot of people who come to us will have contact with my own mother (Betty Henderson), and they see my mother as a mentoring figure.

“As a team, we are very united – we care for one another as family and we treat the people we serve in our community like family. And we keep a box of Kleenex in every office because every person we meet is a traveling book. Each person is unique ; everyone has a story that brought them to us. There’s always a tear, and we’re here to hug and kiss, and then help people move forward. We always have positive affirmation words for our clients because we understand where they are coming from and where they are trying to go.

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