Story by Devin Olmack, Southeast Michigan Region, Volunteer
Detroit, Michigan is ranked second in the nation for volume of Restoring Family Links (RFL) cases and in the past five years has opened nearly 550 cases. Dearborn, a city just north of Detroit, is home to the largest Iraqi immigrant population in the United States. This community has made providing certificates of detention for Iraqi refugees from the Persian Gulf War a majority of the casework the chapter handles. I began volunteering with Restoring Family Links at the Southeastern Michigan Chapter in Detroit last September and can whole-heartedly say RFL in Detroit would not be what it is today if it were not for the support from LaForice Nealy, the CEO of Southeastern Michigan.
Shortly after I began volunteering for RFL in Detroit, I realized what a massive challenge I had taken on. Before LaForice was CEO of Southeastern Michigan, the Restoring Family Links program of Detroit struggled to receive the support and resources necessary to address a large, culturally diverse community with acute family reconnection needs. When LaForice became the chapter’s CEO, he understood these challenges and then when I came on, he set out to help me succeed by focusing on how to best deliver RFL services to clients.
He scheduled meetings with me to address the needs, goals, and direction for RFL in Detroit. After the meeting, with a plan established and objectives in mind, he made sure to stop by my desk to check in every week when I was in the office. The conversation always started out light but he always made a point to ask "how is Restoring Family Links going, how are you, and what do you need?” From this point forward, I knew I had a champion behind me.
LaForice has ensured that I have the resources necessary to build a team of volunteers. He has also realigned the program under Volunteer Services to guarantee that someone was accountable for the program 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He makes sure people throughout the chapter know about RFL and are continuously aware that RFL is a service the Red Cross provides. He has even personally seen that mail for Restoring Family Links does not get lost in the mail room, but is on my desk Monday mornings, assuaging my fears that client information would get lost. Without the unbelievable support from LaForice, Restoring Family Links in Detroit would not be on its way to becoming a robust service the community can trust.
LaForice, thank you standing by the Restoring Family Links program from day one. Your impeccable support, advocacy, and dedication to Restoring Family Links has made the program what it is today and what it will be in the future.