Park West Foundation – A year of caring

 In Albert Scaglione, By Mitsie Scaglione, Philanthropy
Park West Foundation director Saba Gebrai (top row, right) poses with youth affiliated the foundation's work to help local children aging out of foster care.

Park West Foundation director Saba Gebrai (top row, right) poses with youth affiliated with the foundation’s work to help local children aging out of foster care.

The Park West Foundation had a busy year of empowering youth in Michigan, and is already gearing up to continue and improve that care.

Since its founding in 2006, Park West Foundation has partnered with the Michigan Department of Human Services and other agencies to provide counseling, education and support for foster youth and those aging out of the system. The foundation was founded by Park West Gallery Founder and CEO Albert Scaglione and his wife, Mitsie, who serves as the foundation’s executive director.

“We’re not taking a profit for anything, we’re not asking anybody for anything, we’re just trying to help the kids,” Mitsie said.

According to Park West Foundation Program Director Saba Gebrai, the foundation recognizes that foster care youth aren’t always those whose parents lost their rights, nor do they fit the stereotype of being troublemakers. They could have entered the system due to a parent suffering from a terminal illness or a parent serving overseas in the military.

To care for foster youth of all walks of life, Park West Foundation provides clothing and housing assistance as well as programs that bolster social and educational success throughout the year. These include college fairs and community service opportunities for more than 1,000 youths.

“It’s inspiring and empowering the young people themselves to guide us to lasting and sustainable solutions,” Gebrai said.

For instance, Park West Foundation worked with the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative to hold “Jump Shot Your Future,” on Jan. 25. The college fair provides current or former foster care youth a venue to learn about resources and services. Gebrai said the third annual college fair will be held Jan. 24, 2015.

On Feb. 24, 2014, the foundation co-sponsored KidSpeak, an event where foster care youth spoke directly to Oakland County and Michigan legislators about their lives in foster care and what they believe could be improved. The foundation plans on returning for the 2015 KidSpeak on Jan. 26.

In June, the foundation, in conjunction with the Department of Human Services, held a graduation ceremony for high school students, complete with caps and gowns, food and speakers. Mitsie said this stood out among the foundation’s other functions in 2014, as many of the students that celebrated do not necessarily have someone to help rejoice in their accomplishment.

park west foundation

Park West Foundation held a graduation ceremony in June for its Blue Babies at Park West Gallery.

The support lasts beyond high school. Park West Foundation assists students with enrolling into college through its Blue Babies program, whether it’s with applications or tuition.

In October, the youth participated in the Focus: HOPE walk in Detroit, and on Halloween, the foundation once again volunteered during the Detroit Police Department’s annual children’s Halloween party. Gebrai said events like these are important for teaching the youth to give back.

The Halloween event was bittersweet due to the recent loss of Elaine Frinkley, who served as community officer for 27 years. Gebrai said she was a mentor who worked with the foundation’s youth for seven years, and in memory of Frinkley, Park West Foundation named a scholarship after her.

From October to December, the foundation held a donation drive in order to provide 200 youths with a happy holiday. Click here to read more about it.

“Sometimes they can hit rock-bottom during holidays, those moments where they think ‘I don’t have a family,'” Gebrai said. “For those moments we try to be there.”

For its efforts, Park West Foundation received the Child Advocate Organization of the Year Award on Nov. 13 during Child’s Hope annual meeting.

Lacea Zavala, recipient of Child Advocate of the Year Award and Park West Foundation Director, Saba Gebrai

Lacea Zavala, recipient of Child Advocate of the Year Award and Park West Foundation Program Director Saba Gebrai

More is on the way in 2015. Gebrai said Park West Foundation is part of a pilot program to create a specialized school for young men ages 16 to 19 that will address both emotional and academic needs. She said the school is bringing in professionals to help educate students in technologically-advanced programming.

“We’re talking about a lasting and creative solution, and we constantly partner with those that are ready to do that, so it’s going to be an exciting 2015,” she said.

For more information or to contribute, go to http://www.parkwestgallery.com/the-park-west-foundation or e-mail info@parkwestfoundation.com.

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