Annual fundraising gala Nov. 17 to celebrate 10 years of changing lives
A lot of dreams can come true in a decade.
And they have, thanks to South Oakland Shelter’s annual Dancing with the Detroit Stars gala, which has raised more than $1 million since its debut in 2008.
When the curtain rises on Saturday, Nov. 17, for the 10th annual rendition of the signature fundraiser, participants will once again dance for the hopes and dreams of so many metro Detroiters who have struggled through homelessness.
Among them is Rita Fields, who sought refuge – and a path to a better life — at SOS as a 17-year-old runaway.
Back then, she was homeless, emaciated and 7 months pregnant.
Today, she is a U-M professor, small-business owner and SOS board member.
The shelter, she says, helped her get back on her feet and regain the strength she needed to realize her true potential.
“SOS literally saved my life,” she says. “I was at the point where I was starving to death.”
What $1 million really means
Dancing with the Detroit Stars has had a tremendous impact on SOS and its clients, says Ryan Hertz, South Oakland Shelter’s CEO.
“This event was our first foray into private giving and fund-raising and it’s been wildly successful and it’s allowed us to grow in so many different ways,” Hertz said. “It’s really transformative.”
Transformative indeed, especially for clients who are homeless, hungry and in need of a fresh start. Over the past decade, $1 million has paid for:
- 67,000 nights of shelter and food
- 17,000 months of warmth and electricity
- 30,000 employment workshop registrations
- 5,500 months of case management services
- 1,000 security deposits for clients
And our client track record shows that every dollar has been money well spent. In fact, 80% of clients successfully secure housing, and a year later 97% remain in their homes.
This would not be possible, Hertz said, if it were not for Dancing with the Detroit Stars and its dedicated event chairs, Bill and Jennie Cook.
The fundraiser exists because of the Cooks, who are members of the SOS advisory board, and it has flourished over the past decade because of their unwavering commitment. The event’s operating budget has tripled over the past decade
“You don’t meet people very often who will dedicate an entire decade to something like that,” Hertz says. While this marks the final year the Cooks will chair the gala, it doesn’t mark the end of their support.
“SOS is just a fabulous organization,” Jennie Cook says. ”I’ve seen what the community can do to help people who just need a hand up once in a while.”
Real lives, real change
Former clients Jaylin and Jana Wallace are grateful for the hand up they received from SOS. The mother and son recounted their journey from homelessness to housed during 2014 ‘s Dancing with the Detroit Stars event.
“We came to South Oakland Shelter to seek a roof over our heads, so we wouldn’t be in the streets,” said Jana Wallace.
During their time at SOS, the Wallaces received not only shelter but also transportation assistance, food, clothing, counseling and ultimately housing assistance. And, today, they remain housed, employed and grateful for the support.
“I have my own car; we’re managing our bills,” Jana Wallace says. “Some people do come out of SOS with a successful story.”
Success stories like those of Fields and the Wallaces are thanks in large part to the community’s generous support of SOS and Dancing with the Detroit Stars.
Says Hertz: “We’re so grateful that people come back year after year to enjoy the evening with us and celebrate our successes with us [and] also to remain committed to addressing the problem of homelessness.”
The 10th Annual Dancing with the Detroit Stars will take place from 7 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham. To purchase tickets, visit: https://my.southoaklandshelter.org/dancing