Making Children Smile

UAW charity and NTC staff treat abused kids to shopping spree

Jul 01, 2016

Story and Photos by Meghan McBrady

NTC Communications


Volunteers standing outside the Meijer in Warren, Mich.
Volunteers setting out shopping carts outside the Meijer in Warren, Mich.

WARREN, Mich. – Amidst the steady din of bleeping cash registers and murmuring voices of shoppers, a group of children pushed their shopping carts up and down the clothing aisles of the Meijer store.

As they put on hats sporting Marvel and DC characters, and tried on shoes in various shades of neon yellow, red and black, the boys from the Christ Child House (CCH) quickly filled up their shopping carts with new clothes and personal hygiene items. They also were surprise with gifts of new bicycles.

The boys were treated to the shopping excursion by the Making Our Children Smile charity, with support from UAW-Chrysler National Training Center staff members on June 21 and 22.

The Making Our Children Smile Foundation was founded by UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell, director of the union’s Chrysler Department. It helps to provide a safety net for needy children through its outreach to schools and community organizations that lack the financial resources to meet the demand for their services.

“The shopping outing for Christ Child House was a humbling experience, it gave me a chance to reflect on how we overlook some of the simple things in life,” said UAW Local 889 member and volunteer shopper Michelle Adams. “Spending time with those children will be a memory I’ll forever hold near and dear to my heart, and I am happy to have been a part of it.”

Jessica Hall with one of the boys of CCH, picking out shoes
Volunteer Jessica Hall with one of the boys of CCH, looking at shoes

Established in 1948, CCH currently operates as an intensive treatment center on Detroit’s west side. Licensed to provide residential services for Detroit area boys aged 5 through 17, the center supports those who suffer emotional, behavioral and physical impairment resulting from severe abuse and neglect.

“I just pray that our children can see the kindness of this gesture of support and be grateful,” said Rasheed Jeffries, Youth Coordinator at CCH.

NTC staff member Angela Townsel, one of the volunteer shoppers, said meeting the at-risk boys and seeing their smiling, grateful faces as they shopped at Meijer, was a wonderful experience.

“Knowing what they went through in their lives made me realize how much these kids need love, and giving that to them for just a moment was an overwhelming and  worthwhile experience for me,” she said.

Shane Dawes, Assistant Director of UAW Chrysler Department, said that Jewell and his foundation wanted to go beyond just buying items on a Wish List submitted by the kids.  The foundation wanted them to experience the joy of picking out on their own new clothes.list-volunteers-meijer

“I called them up and said, it would be cool if we took them shopping because we wanted them to pick out what they wanted,” Dawes said. “Seeing them select items we take for granted, like toothbrushes and shoes, and seeing their joy getting to pick out something that was solely theirs, was amazing.”

While the caretakers from CCH who accompanied the kids on their trip to Meijer knew the charity would provide funding for purchase of clothes, they were surprised to learn that the boys also would be surprised with gifts of bikes.

Shane Dawes looking over each boys' cart before they checkout
Shane Dawes looking over each boys’ cart before they checkout

LaNeice Jones, President and CEO of CCH, said she had previously looked for grants to either buy new bicycles or repair them, so she was especially pleased that Making Our Children Smile came to the rescue.

“At first I thought they were saying they were going to purchase either the bicycles or clothing,” she said. “When they said they wanted to buy everything, it was like our prayers have been answered.

“We are just ecstatic about this project and honored that the UAW chose us to do a wonderful charitable donation to make a kid smile – not only physically, as it made their hearts smile as well.”

Ultimately, CCH’s goal is to provide a happy and safe childhood for its residents, and show them that they are loved.

“This shopping trip shows that our children are special and worthy of getting things and nice things,” Jeffries said. “It also shows that people care about them, and children need to know that people care.”

For more information about CCH, making donations or volunteering, visit