Kind-hearted people like Michael Ash are few and far between. Four years ago Ash, who is 31 and lives in St. Clair Shores, founded Attack Hunger to help feed Detroit’s poor.
The premise is simple: for every snack bundle (containing two granola bars, trail mix and a bottle of water) sold, Ash donates a second to three charities: Alternatives for Girls, Detroit Rescue Mission and the YWCA Interim House. Two years ago, Ash designed the shark logo (his favorite movie growing up is “Jaws”) and started screen printing T-shirts. Then came yoga mats, followed by socks. Twenty percent of the sales go to charities.
He also hosts fund-raising events and delivers the donations on monthly, sometimes weekly rounds. Like all people whose default mode is to give as much as, if not more than, they get, Ash says Attack Hunger makes him happy.
So, in light of his big heart, it was all the more distressing to learn that thieves recently targeted Ash, stealing his computer and personalized Patagonia messenger bag, which was given to him by his employer, Moosejaw Mountaineering, on his six-year anniversary. (On the inside flap it reads: “We can’t believe you haven’t quit yet.”) Thanks to good friends, Ash was not bereft for long.
The Moosejaw job — he works in receiving at the headquarters in Madison Heights — is full time; Attack Hunger work is mostly done on the weekends at a booth he rents at the Rust Belt Market in Ferndale. All the while, the avid outdoorsman would much rather be kayaking or hiking.
“I’ll go on one-night trips to state parks about a half hour away with my buddies, but I need to be back here on Saturday mornings,” he says with a shrug. “But I actually get a lot of fun out of this. It makes me feel good and I get to express myself artistically.”
Raised in Harper Woods, Ash says his “modest upbringing” instilled in him a desire to give back.
“My mom and dad are very compassionate people, and outreach has always made sense for me.”
After graduating from Grosse Pointe North High School, Ash got his associate degree in political science from Macomb Community College.
“I was really passionate about it, but I was kind of demoralized after I learned more in depth about the futility of the political process,” he says.
Ash found his calling when he learned through Feeding America, (the nationwide network of food banks) that one in five children in Detroit go hungry. “This is cool because it’s me being able to change things my own way.”
Last year, Moosejaw ran a two-page spread in its catalog, naming him one of their “Notable Humans of Detroit.” The catalog reads:
“His mission is to ‘Feed the D.’ And he does it with such humility and genuine passion. And we’re not just saying that because he works for Moosejaw. He’s pretty legit.’ ”
One of Ash’s good friends, Sean Cochran, says: “There’s not very many young people like him. Everyone else is so concerned with other things and he’s just 100 percent into taking care of the less fortunate. He is the real deal.”
After midnight a couple Saturdays ago, while hanging with friends at the Tangent Gallery next to the Russell Industrial Center, someone broke into Ash’s 2012 Ford Escape by smashing the window. They stole his computer — a Lenovo Thinkpad and beloved messenger bag. The computer was an especially hard blow because he had all his new Attack Hunger designs on it that he was planning on introducing for the holidays. And gone, too, were all the baby pictures of his nieces.
Ash did file a police report, but he isn’t holding his breath. As soon as Cochran heard, he jumped into action and began asking friends for donations.
“In less than 24 hours, we raised $1,200,” Cochran says. “When it got to $1,300, Mike asked me to stop because he was so embarrassed.”
With that kind of cash, it’s probably safe to say most 30-somethings would go for a high-end replacement computer. With the donations, Ash bought a refurbished Acer computer (It’s a really nice computer!” he enthuses). He also had his window repaired and even had money left over.
His plans for the remainder funds? A pizza party of course, for all his friends at Alternatives for Girls.
“Didn’t surprise us one bit,” Cochran says. “I even told people it doesn’t matter because whatever we give him, he’s just gonna donate whatever he doesn’t need.”
Knowing the difference between want and need is a unique concept for most of us. So is incorporating doing unto others as an integral part of who you are.
Whomever stole the computer probably has a better chance of being on the receiving end of his or her victim’s charity than being caught and punished. In a Mike Ash world, that’s not such a bad thing.