Ford Fund: Still making an impact
Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, has invested more than $2 billion since its founding in 1949 to make a world where every person has the ability to move up and pursue their dreams.
Ford Fund’s 2022 Annual Report shares the stories of how the nonprofit’s efforts are touching people globally. I had the opportunity to write some of those stories.
You can find them here.
Innovative Start-up Brings Mobile Dental Care to Communities in Need
Founder and CEO, Kare Mobile
“I decided to be a dentist when I was a junior in high school. I also wanted to be an entrepreneur. So, I shadowed dentists and just kind of fell in love with the artistic component and the fact that the dentists were helping people and were business owners,” said Kwane Watson.
After 19 years in the industry, Watson sold his two dental practices and launched Kare Mobile Inc. The mobile dentistry and tech company partners with providers to offer concierge dental services and improve access to care in underserved communities.
“There are only 200,000 dentists in the country, and only 60,000 or so accept Medicaid insurance. There are 63 million people that live in areas considered dental deserts,” said the 48-year-old founder and CEO. “And 25 percent of individuals don’t go to the dentist because they don’t have transportation. We’re trying to eliminate some of those barriers.”
Furthering Kare Mobile’s mission is its collaboration with the Ford Motor Company Fund. Motor City Kares, a minority entrepreneurship public health initiative that includes Delta Dental and Lightship Foundation, will provide reliable and consistent dental care in Detroit’s Mexicantown and Corktown neighborhoods.
“If it weren’t for the gracious investment by Ford, we wouldn’t be able to provide access to those communities,” Watson said. “We’re building out two Ford Transits right now for My Community Dental Centers, a nonprofit headed by Dr. Deborah Brown that provides services to the underinsured, and to Deanna Alexander, who has more than 20 years of experience as a dental hygienist.”
Senior Managing Director, Southwest Detroit Ford Resource and Engagement Center
Carmen Mattia had been working for Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan for 30 years when Ford Fund contacted Gleaners about opening a center in Southwest Detroit that would provide critical services and programs.
“I grew up in this community, and I was very aware of what was happening in the community,” Mattia said.
The services many Southwest Detroit residents needed often required traveling across town. However, transportation was a problem for the underemployed and unemployed.
“A lot of people have old cars, and gas is an issue because they can’t afford it. Many were struggling to get basic services,” said Mattia, senior managing director of the Southwest Detroit Ford Resource and Engagement Center.
Before opening the community center in 2013, Mattia and her team held meetings with residents to determine what wraparound services would help them reach their full potential.
“The idea was not to put in what I wanted, what Ford wanted or what Gleaners wanted. We found out from the community what their needs were,” she said. “Now, through the generosity of the Ford Fund and numerous partners, all the services they need are in one location, making their challenges less extreme.”
Today, the center improves the quality of life for 6,000-9,000 residents each month and is a beloved fixture in the community.
In one centralized location, people receive free legal support, help heating their homes through THAW, translation assistance, access to afterschool programs and more. Gleaners distributes food to about 1,300-1,500 families a week there, while La Sed provides citizenship classes. And SER Metro offers job search support, financial literacy courses and transportation.
“I’ve been here from day one,” Mattia said. “The community loves having us here. People walk in here looking for support and walk out of here with the help they need. They walk in with no job, and they leave with a job. That’s fulfilling to me.”
Ford Fund operates a global network of Ford Resource and Engagement Centers that bring families and neighbors together to access support services that strengthen communities and help make people’s lives better. We launched our first resource center in 2013 in Southwest Detroit and since then we have expanded our reach to serve other communities where Ford builds and manufactures – with centers on Detroit’s East Side; in Bangkok, Thailand; Craiova, Romania; and Pretoria, South Africa. Each resource center has a unique community voice. The residents advocate for the services they want and need – and by listening and designing solutions together, we’re able to address the daily challenges they face and give people opportunities and access they wouldn’t otherwise have.
Lifting up Entrepreneurs in Black Barbershops
Ford Men of Courage Ambassador and Wayne State University student
Ford Men of Courage Ambassador and Wayne State University student
“Good is an understatement,” said Victor Mgbeafulu when asked about the Ford Men of Courage leadership forum at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. “The word that comes to mind is ‘impactful.'”
Mgbeafulu and Duminie Allen attended the forum—which included panel discussions, individual speakers and workshops relevant to Black men—as ambassadors to the Men of Courage programming and events in late 2021.
Men of Courage is a grassroots initiative of the Ford Motor Company Fund that showcases positive narratives about African American men through storytelling, leadership forums and community outreach.
“Jonathan Wilkins (a senior consultant at Deloitte) shared a poem by Dr. Benjamin Mays called ‘Just a Minute’ that I memorized. It was about how fast things can change, how important one minute is and how we need to value the time given us,” said Mgbeafulu, a 22-year-old mathematics major at Wayne State University in Detroit. “Mr. Wilkins also talked about things we could do to be better men.”
Mgbeafulu added that the forum allowed young people to encounter influential Black men of “different ranks and levels” who have and are paving the way for a better future.
Mgbeafulu and Allen documented 12 events that were part of the Men of Courage Barbershop Challenge, in which Detroit-area barbershop finalists Shears and Shaves Spa in Detroit and Greathouse Barber & Beauty LLC in Southfield, Michigan hosted a series of innovative community programs in their shops. The students took photos and videos and conducted interviews. They then submitted their presentations to the judges.
Allen, a 24-year-old design major, said, “A lot of the events dealt with interpersonal issues, such as men’s health, or educating people on such things as human trafficking and how people could help, direct or guide someone to be in a safer position.”
Shears and Shaves, owned by Dawn Sandford, focused on teaching families to be self-sufficient through financial and economic literacy, spiritual growth and life skills, such as gun and fire and carbon monoxide safety. Greathouse Barber, owned by Duane Greathouse, instructed community members on attaining financial wealth and mentored youth through its Boys to Men Barbershop Talk.
Ford Fund recently named each shop a grand prize winner of $10,000 for its community partnership and efforts during the challenge.
Allen is a member of The Brotherhood, a student organization that Wayne State created as a safe space for Black males. He said barbershops are integral to their communities because they can also be a safe space.
“You build a level of trust with your barber and the people who are regularly there. The conversations are enriching. You’re able to talk to someone about something you’re not able to share with someone else,” Allen said.
One of the things Mgbeafulu relishes most about barbershops and the events he recently attended is the ability to talk with people who have the experience and resources needed to help young men get through difficult situations.
“The dude who is 35 was once 22, and the dude who is 60 was once 18. They can give advice and be mentors. These events bring everyone together,” Mgbeafulu said. “All in all, this opportunity was a great, wholesome experience from beginning to end. Seeing men from different walks of life, hearing what they value and learning about what they specialize in is valuable. These events encourage people to come out and make a mark in the community, to put their best foot forward.”