Donate now for Detroit News Cheer for Charity

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
The top 5 Detroit non-profits have made it to our final round and the one who raises the most money will win $20,000 gifted from The Detroit News

The second round of The Detroit News Holiday Cheer for Charity begins at noon Dec. 9 and continues through noon Dec. 23.

The second round is a call for donations for five finalists selected by readers of The News: Animal Resource Fund Foundation, Freedom House, Friends of Foster Kids, Motor City Street Dance Academy and Shades of Pink Foundation. The organization to raise the most funds in this round will be awarded a $20,000 grand prize from The Detroit News.

All five finalists will keep the money they raise, with one adding the $20,000 prize. Be sure to show your support for your favorite on social media and tag us in your posts. 

For more information on how to participate, visit

Here is some information the finalists provided about their respective efforts:

Animal Resource Funding Foundation 

There was a gap in the animal rescue network in southeastern Michigan, and ARFF did more than just bark at it.

“We are a funding source that assists local residents and shelter with the basics, food and supplies,” said Wendy Doute, the vice president of the all-volunteer Animal Resource Funding Foundation. “But there is a lot more, too.”

A lot more like surgeries, medication for skin diseases, putting animals who survived fires into bariatric chambers and paralyzed dogs — and even goats — into wheelchairs. “One of the biggest things is, when you have a small shelter on a budget, they have only the basics,” Doute said. 

“So when an animal comes in with a skin disorder or needs a surgery on a leg, they usually can’t receive that kind of care unless there’s funds. So that is where the gap is.

They also provide beds for shelter dogs and chip readers for lost animals. The wheelchairs are a specialty. 

‘We’ve put out more than 100 wheelchairs into the community. That is a lease program. You borrow it, and bring it back," said Doute, who runs the all-volunteer group alongside president Patricia Odette.

More money would extend their reach, Doute said. 

“We would be able to not say no,” she said. “We would just move that money back out into the community to help the animals.”

Freedom House

There is a steady flow of people fleeing danger who need help.

“When you look at the world, there is really no place that is immune,” said Teresa Duhl, the development and communications manager of Freedom House. “There are people all the time fleeing from violence.”

Freedom House provides shelter and refuge for asylum seekers in the United States and Canada.

It also provides an array of wraparound services, like obtaining authorization for employment, job hunting, medical services, mental health counseling, pre-employment training and acculturation.

“They come from all over the globe,” Duhl said, with most of the agency's clients coming from Africa. “But we are seeing more from Latin American countries,” she added.

A big part of the work, she said, is providing strangers to America with a sense of community.

“If you are talking about people who are leaving everything behind, their culture, their norms, how you drive to work every day, where you go get your groceries, people that you rely on every day to help pull you through any major challenges,” she said.  “And, no one is here for them. They often come with their own family. But that extended family, the support system, financial resources, all of that is gone.”

Freedom House has about 13 paid staff members and, throughout the year, about 200 volunteers and many service partners. Deborah Drennan is the executive director. More money always comes in handy, given the extent of the services, Duhl said.

“We would use it for programs and services,” she said. “We run a house for 52 people, and rent alone is double that. Food for 52 people, every day of the year, and keeping the lights on. It doesn’t sound sexy. But it is all required to get through daily life.”

Friends of Foster Kids

Theresa Toia started Friends of Foster Kids in her living room 11 years ago, providing Christmas gifts and festivities for children in foster care.

Friends of Foster Kids now operates as a center in Sterling Heights, from which Toia helps younger children settle into new living arrangements, sometimes in group homes, sometimes with foster families.

And she is seeking to expand the services she provides to older foster children who are making the transition to college campuses or lives on their own.

“We assist foster children in the tri-county area with anything from everyday basic needs right on up through helping the older foster children get things for their apartment or if they are going off to a dorm room,” said Linda Roberts, an assistant to Toia.

As many as 1,014 volunteers have worked at the all-volunteer organization around Christmas, including 40 wrappers per two-hour shifts, at times. During the rest of the year, a core of 75 to 100 may be working on a daily basis.

If Friends of Foster Kids wins the contest, Toia would improve services for the older, transitioning children, who are reaching the end of foster care.

“Statistics for foster children are unfortunately very high for things like homelessness,” Roberts said. “Because at the end of the 20th year, they are shown the door and it’s 'here, have a good life!'”

Motor City Street Dance

The dedicated hip-hop artists could use a van.

Benito “Mav-One” Vasquez has been running Motor City Street Dance since June 2015, seeking to provide underserved children with art in southwest Detroit.

“I grew up without a lot of art and music in the city,” Vasquez said. “We’re after-school arts programming, but, after-school arts through the lens of hip-hop.”

The dancers, aerosol artists, comic book designers and DJs gather in a building on Livernois, south of Michigan Avenue, in what is a studio of hip-hop culture.

“We advocate heavily for the representation of the true culture of hip-hop,” Vasquez said. “What we are teaching comes from a very similar neighborhood, in the South Bronx. Being a predominantly black city gives us a connection to youth at another level.”

Plans for the $20,000 are firmly in place at the studio, where eight employees facilitate the young artists’ efforts.

“We already have it planned out, priced out and everything,” Vasquez said.

Transportation is a perennial issue across vast swaths of the city.

“It’s one of our biggest hurdles,” Vasquez said. “So what we hope to do it get a 12-passenger sprint van. When we go to competitions, it’s really hard to take all of the kids with us, plus our own staff and stuff. Logistics are really hard. If we had the van, it would just make things that much better for all of us.”

Shades of Pink Foundation

Since its founding in 2005, Shades of Pink has provided temporary financial assistance to women in financial distress after diagnoses of breast cancer.

The Birmingham charity pays household bills, usually for one or two months, often while recipients are receiving treatment or in recovery. 

“They apply with their oncologist and their social worker, or their nurse navigator at their practice. And they just list their bills in order of importance,” said Karla Sherry, the executive director. “We pay what we can, up to the amount the client services committee deems that we need, for that client.”

As a result, women and their families do not have to worry about mortgages, losing homes and other financial problems.

“Treatment can be expensive, if you’re not covered entirely,” Sherry said. “Women can experience up to $1,500 a month in chemotherapy, if they have to supplement their insurance.

“Some of these women have to decide, am I going to get groceries this week, or am I going to have my treatment? And as a result, they will skip treatment, and that’s  never good.”

Shades of Pink has two paid employees and more than 100 volunteers, many of whom survived breast cancer or have family members who did.

“We’ve helped over 80 women and their families this year,” Sherry said. “We’ve given out more than $180,000 in grants, and $20,000 would go a long way to help. Depending on their needs, we could help 20 families get out of their financial distress.”

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