Woman's social media plea replaces stolen gifts

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
In less than a week, Christen Greenwood inspired enough supporters to replace the contributions lost when her car was stolen days before Christmas.

Detroit — Two days before Christmas, Christen Greenwood was leaving home for a holiday shopping excursion when she learned her car had been stolen.

It wasn't the loss of the car that shook her: Greenwood had stashed an array of school supplies and other items in the trunk that the personal trainer had helped collect to benefit the Detroit-based nonprofit Alternative for Girls. But Greenwood was determined to focus on replacing the gifts slated to help the homeless and high-risk residents the group serves.

“It was a minor setback,” Greenwood said. “I knew my car was going to be replaced. It was about me taking care of the girls.”

After posting her story online and seeking contributions, Greenwood gathered enough goods in less than a week to more than double the original haul and hand off an extra $1,000.

“She went above and beyond to make up for that and then some,” said Maria Graves, a client who chipped in money for the effort. “I was pretty thrilled that I got an opportunity to contribute, as well.”

Greenwood had sought ways to boost Alternative for Girls, which launched in 1987 and offers a shelter, mentoring as well as other services, after volunteering in its summer youth program. 

Last year, she started a holiday initiative to collect presents and aid through her facility, FBGG Personal Training Studio. Just before Christmas, an “ugly sweater party" continued the tradition.

The books, hygiene products and other gifts remained inside her Chrysler 300 parked outside until someone stole the car in the overnight hours between Dec. 22 and 23.

Though shocked and dismayed, Greenwood immediately thought, “I don’t want to let this go.” By Christmas, she had spread the word through social media, launched a GoFundMe page and started seeking donations through her studio and elsewhere.

The story gained attention in local TV news, and within days, supporters had showed up bearing money, clothing and more.

“We exceeded any small expectations that we did have,” Greenwood said. “I was completely overwhelmed by the response I got.”

On Friday, she headed back to Alternatives for Girls in her husband’s pickup with a load — including toiletries, car seats, toys, coats and baby supplies — to fulfill wish lists.

“Even when she experienced a hardship, she remembered us and our participants and was able to reach out to others what they could do,” said Celia Thomas, the nonprofit’s chief operating officer. “It’s humbling. It’s always a boost to have more than what we expected. The need never ends for our participants.”

For Greenwood, whose workout motto is “fit to serve,” the boon pushed her to start planning to coordinate giveaways throughout the year.

“My goal in life, no matter what position or role I’m in, is to help people,” she said. “I’ve just been preaching to everyone: ‘Love conquers all.’ ”