All 15 families currently in our Family Skills program benefited from the generosity of the Michigan Municipal League, which threw a special holiday party for them. The festive event featured a full-course dinner, holiday decorations, arts and crafts activities, keepsake family photos, family-fun gift bags, and gift food packages to prepare a complete holiday meal at home.
The impetus for the party came from Heather Van Poucker, Director of Information and Policy Research at the Michigan Municipal League (MML). MML works to create better and vibrant communities in Michigan.
Heather attended Solutions at Sunrise in October as a guest of Sean Mann, who was a table captain at the event and who also works at MML. Heather says she was inspired by Solutions at Sunrise to do something “hands on” to help some of the families served by Southwest Solutions.
“The holiday party was all done through our staff’s personal donations and time, but I really think we took away more than we left,” said Heather. “We had a wonderful experience working with the Family Skills program and are already dreaming of what we’ll do next!”
The Family Skills program serves “high-risk” families in southwest Detroit. These families are often referred to the program by the Department of Human Services (DHS) or other community agencies. All the families are in crisis from significant stresses that threaten the wellbeing of the children. The Family Skills program serves to strengthen families by providing intensive home-based counseling to improve family stability and functioning. The program is based upon a national model that is proven to be effective in helping families set positive goals and develop the skills to meet those goals.
Rob Wygonik is enrolled in the program and came to the holiday party with his two children. His daughter Ivy is three; and his son Dorian is two. Rob was working as a machine operator for an auto supplier until being laid off.
“We had become basically homeless without any food because of my ex’s drug abuse,” Rob said.
Rob has been working with Vicki Dawson, who supervisors the Family Skills program and also serves as a counselor. Rob and the kids meet with Vicki once a week for two-hour sessions. The program has 14 sessions altogether.
“Vicki literally saved our family,” Rob said. “Things had become so desperate that I didn’t know how I was going to take care of my kids. Vicki helped connect us with resources. The kids and I have been learning a lot in the sessions. They are much happier and advancing the way they should.”
At the holiday party, Ivy and Dorian were obviously delighted by the activities and presents. They played with the other children, participated in the arts and crafts, posed with their dad for the family picture, and eagerly looked through the gift bag.
“The MML did a fabulous job in getting our families ready for their holidays,” said Vicki Dawson. “The families were all engaged, happy and appreciative of the night. We heard so many positive comments, not only from the parents, but from the children and youth as well.”
Each gift bag prepared by MML contained presents for each child and the parent(s), a board game, children’s books, home-baked holiday cookies, and a photo frame for the family portrait.
"Our staff shopped personally for each and every child to choose something age appropriate,” Heather said.
The take-home food package was donated by Busch’s Fresh Food Market in Ann Arbor. It contained a frozen turkey, frozen pie, vegetables, stuffing and potatoes.
The holiday party took place on December 8 at our Early Childhood & Family Literacy Building on Larkins Street.
To learn more about the Family Skills program, email Vicki Dawson or call her at 313-963-2266 ext. 3377.