Local charity lends warmth to Detroiters

By: Kurt Buesching | January 27, 2012

Detroit 1-8-7 actress Erin Cummings doesn’t live in Detroit, but she’s working to make it a better place. The Los Angeles resident travels to  Detroit several times a month during fall and winter to run Mittens for Detroit, a year-old charity that started with a simple act of kindness.

Cummings was visiting relatives in Southfield on Halloween, when a child came to the door crying because her hands were cold. The homeowner, Kathi Moss, took the girl in and gave her some mittens.

“It was just this simple act of kindness to a stranger that made me realize we can do this on a larger scale,” Cummings says.

And so on Nov. 1, 2010, Mittens for Detroit started with mitten and glove collections around town and ended the season with 10,000 pairs collected and distributed to men, women and children in need. This year, Cummings is hoping to collect 15,000 pairs.

The charity, which this year obtained its 501(c)(3) status, has a simple, direct goal: providing gloves and mittens to those in need. Its operation is equally simple: drop boxes and business collections around Metro Detroit feed into a pool that serves Detroit charities, which in turn distribute the gloves and mittens to the needy.

“People who are in need don’t know about Mittens for Detroit,” and that’s okay, says Cummings. “But they know about Covenant House. They know about COTS.”

Mittens for Detroit partners with 11 charities in distributing its wares. Economic times are making it more difficult for charities to care for the needy, says Cummings, and if Mittens for Detroit can take care of gloves and mittens for them, it’s helpful. “If we can help them provide warmth to the people they serve, that’s one less thing they have to worry about.”

Mittens for Detroit also partners with groups like the Red Wings and Detroit Tigers in collecting mittens and gloves at games. Fans are encouraged to bring new mittens and gloves to donate.

Mittens for Detroit

Cummings says she’s hoping for some corporate sponsorship to hire some employees for the charity next year. She’s also hoping to get some monetary donations that will enable Mittens for Detroit to purchase some of the mittens and gloves they distribute.

The Mittens for Detroit season officially begins with a kickoff party at Detroit’s American Coney Island on Nov. 1 each year, and ends the last day of winter. Cummings looks forward to a time when Nov. 1 can be Mittens for Detroit day in Detroit Public Schools, and every student in need can get a pair of new mittens or gloves to wear for the winter.

“It’s so easy for us to get consumed by the drama of our jobs,” says Cummings. “My salvation has been in making my life about something else – something other than me.”

Mittens for Detroit has more than 100 collection boxes around Metro Detroit, including those at Aco Hardware stores, Just Baked bakeries, Emagine Theatres, The Fisher Theater and American Coney Island.

For more information, visit http://www.mittensfordetroit.org/.