In February, the DTE Energy Foundation partnered with Mittens for Detroit and Empowerment Plan to provide community members with essential winter items.

Through the partnership, both nonprofits received a grant allowing them to purchase mittens and coats for those they serve, which were then distributed to a variety of shelters by seven of our very own Corporate External Affairs (CEA) team members. 

The Empowerment Plan received almost $19,000, equaling 150 coats, for well-deserving individuals throughout Michigan. This is the third time the Foundation has partnered with the Empowerment Plan after providing funding for 490 coats to the organization in 2020.

“It’s incredible because it helps us grow and stretch our reach to as many people as possible who are either living on the streets or don’t have a home,” said Empowerment Plan Development & Outreach Manager Lauren Knill.

The Empowerment Plan creates significant economic impact by serving as a stepping stone out of poverty into a state of stability through a two-year employment model focused on providing job readiness training and support services to its workforce.

Through the two-year program, parents experiencing homelessness learn how to create coats. But these aren’t ordinary coats – the innovative and weather-resistant EMPWR coat can transform into a sleeping bag or be worn as an over-the-shoulder bag for individuals experiencing homelessness. The Empowerment Plan’s hope is that when someone is seen walking down the street in one of the coats, no one will know they’re without a home.

“Right now, I have a waitlist upwards of 7,000 coats, and we don’t have the manpower to fulfill all that, and we don’t always have sponsorships,” Knill stated. “So, having the DTE Foundation saying, ‘we can sponsor coats and help distribute them for you,’ helps us meet that increased need.”

The coats were paired with mittens through a grant to Mittens for Detroit – a nonprofit organization that collects, purchases and distributes new mittens and gloves to children, teens and adults in Detroit who need them.

Mittens for Detroit received a grant for $5,000, allowing the organization to purchase more than 500 pairs of adult mittens.

“I bought a lot of men’s gloves with the DTE Foundation grant, and that filled a big need,” said Mittens for Detroit’s Executive Director Wendy Shepherd. “When we get those donations, I am able to really target what’s needed at that moment.”

Corporate External Affairs volunteers distributed the coat and mitten bundles to seven shelters throughout the state, including:

The remaining mittens were donated to Pope Francis Center and Covenant House in Detroit.

“The DTE Foundation saw mittens and gloves as not a luxury, but a basic need, a human need,” explained Shepherd.