Toyota Family Learning: Southwest Solutions’ Holiday Giving

After discussing the issue of homelessness in Detroit communities, around 15 families from Southwest Solutions’ Toyota Family Learning volunteered to prepare and serve food and hand out homemade scarves at an Elevate Detroit distribution site this past Saturday.


The parents and children fixed spaghetti casseroles, macaroni and cheese, and individually bagged sandwiches and fresh fruit – and parents were shown how cooking together as a family can help children better grasp fundamentals like measurements, sequencing, and following directions.

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SWS Adult Educator Janis Traynor taught the parents how to make fleece scarves during Parent Time so that the moms could make scarves with the kids for at-home Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.

“Our families, who are very much in need themselves, were humbled and moved by the knowledge that they have so much to give others,” said Lynn McGregor, manager of Early Childhood & Family Literacy programs at Southwest Solutions. “The experiences were eye-opening as families learned more about the issues that impact their communities.”

That same day, another group of Toyota Family Learning IMG_0156parents from Munger Elementary-Middle School in Detroit gathered at the Southwest Solutions office to wrap donated toys, non-perishable food items, and gift cards totaling $400 that they had collected for five families-in-need. Ham potatoes, and other holiday-dinner fare was also purchased for the families with additional funds raised by the Toyota Family Learning group.

The families also put together packets of information about community resources, including parent education classes, United Way’s 211 info line, mental health counseling services for adults and children, GED class info, fire safety tips, and information from FEMA related to recent flood damage.

IMG_0131Their children helped by making holiday cards and decorating slice-and-bake sugar cookies that they decorated with icing and sprinkles. The family recipients will pick up their packages later in the week.

Similarly, Maybury Elementary School’s Toyota Family Learning families connected with Black Family Development, Inc.’s Promise Neighborhood program to have gifts donated for children in six needy families. The children participated in wrapping and making cards, and the parents held a party for the recipients and served coffee and hot chocolate donated by Café Con Leche and pastries from Mexicantown Bakery. The parents had visited these local businesses with a letter they had written about their project in order to seek donations.

“These were amazing projects to be a part of,” McGregor added. “Participation in the projects supported a heightened sense of community and strengthened the bond that the program families share. Parents were thrilled to be able to involve their entire families and are already talking about next steps.”

More photos from SWS’ events can be found here.

Toyota Family Learning, a 6-year nationwide initiative led by NCFL, was created to address educational needs and provide opportunities for low-income and ethnically-diverse families to roll up their sleeves and build stronger communities. NCFL knows that when children and families solve community issues together, they are simultaneously learning and applying 21st century college and career readiness skills.