June 13, 2020

Ford grant to student organization changes course in COVID era

Last September, Ford Motor Company Fund selected Wayne State University to receive a Ford College Community Challenge grant of $25,000 for a nutrition project expected to launch earlier this year, led by School of Medicine students with the Auntie Na’s Student Organization. The COVID-19 pandemic paused any student volunteer work in clinics or other community organizations in April, though, forcing the students to come up with another way to help the organization, a Detroit nonprofit called Auntie Na’s House.

A volunteer packages meals at Auntie Na's Village in Detroit.

The grant team includes the Class of 2023’s Dhruvil Patel, Aneesh Hehr and Amer Tamr. They worked with the School of Medicine’s Community Engagement Director Jennifer Mendez, Ph.D., associate professor of Medicine, and Auntie Na’s Medical House clinic preceptor associate professor of Medicine Joel Appel, D.O., and the Ford Motor Company Fund to send the funds to Auntie Na’s House for the meals.

Thanks to the Ford Motor Company Fund, they now provide support to the nonprofit’s food distribution efforts. Volunteers at Auntie Na’s provide 350 meal boxes purchased from the Federal Emergency Management Agency per week.

“This funding that we will provide will keep the program running all the way into late fall,” Dhruvil said.

Ford College Community Challenge, or C3, is an innovative grant-making initiative designed to inspire students at higher education organizations to catalyze community-building projects focused on addressing pressing local needs.

ANSO was planning to use the funds to continue the sustainable community health care work of Sonia Brown, also known as Auntie Na. Auntie Na’s Village is a nonprofit located on Yellowstone Street in Detroit’s Nardin Park neighborhood that addresses the needs of low-income families burdened by chronic diseases. It originated in the colorful two-story home owned by Brown that has been in one family for six generations, and now includes a medical clinic run by School of Medicine students, an education house for school-aged children and nutrition literacy programming for residents.

They still have $10,000 left, and plan to use that next year, after the planned nutrition house in Auntie Na’s Village is completed, “and we can use it for our programs,” Patel said.

T he students’ original three-phase, one-year goal was to develop the village by expanding the nutrition literacy component in the community through sustainable gardening practices. The grant would create a self-sustainable system that provides food security while promoting food consumption through a new on-site urban garden intended to serve as a teaching tool for healthy eating.​

The one-year project will run through August 2020.

As the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Co., Ford Fund’s mission is to strengthen communities and help make people’s lives better. Working with dealers and nonprofit partners in more than 60 countries, Ford Fund provides access to opportunities and resources that help people reach their full potential. Since 1949, Ford Fund has invested more than $2 billion in programs that support education, promote safe driving, enrich community life and encourage employee volunteering. For more information, visit www.fundfund.org.​