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Detroit Heroes: Shadora L. Ford

Highlighting the Essential Workers of Detroit

It was a late afternoon in March 2020; the beginning of the pandemic. Shadora L. Ford answered her phone, hearing a frail voice on the other end: “The meal you dropped off was the only meal I had for the week. I tried to ration it, but I hadn’t eaten anything in 3-4 days.”

Ford, the founder of Destined for Greatness Mentoring Initiative, gets calls like that all too often. This one happened to be from a senior citizen, but it’s not uncommon to receive similar calls from young mothers in need of resources.

When she was just 19 years old, Ford started the non-profit organization. The mission is to provide resources and mentoring to at-risk young ladies.

Ford, who was considered at-risk, knows what it’s like to live in a challenging environment. “I was born into poverty on the east side of Detroit and lived in a single-parent household. I saw coffee pots filled with white substances and I smelled marijuana all the time,” said Ford.

Destined for Greatness Mentoring Initiative started in 2010. Over the years, its services have expanded to include a food pantry and a clothing closet.  

Today, the organization helps over 10,000 families per year with resources. Those families are serviced out of the Samaritan Center on Detroit’s east side. But just like most of the state, the center was forced to shut its doors once COVID-19 hit.

Ford, who is also a District 4 liaison for the City of Detroit Department of Neighborhoods, knew the pandemic would be hard on a lot of people–especially those who needed help regularly. But Ford wouldn’t let the coronavirus stop her.

“Once COVID-19 started, we brought what we did inside to outside, and we call it Curbside Pickup,” said Ford.

With support from Metropolitan Detroit Diaper Bank, Detroit Police Department, Gardner White and others, Ford and her team distribute diapers, baby food, hygiene products, even breast pumps to those who are nursing. All items are free and can be collected every other Thursday at 5555 Conner St. in Detroit.    

“In order to help heal a girl, you must first help heal her household” is part of the organization’s slogan, said Ford. It simply means it’s important to provide men with resources as well.   

“If a woman goes home after she’s made whole and then connects with that bad parent or young man in the house who needs guidance; like an infection, the problem will spread again.”

And as COVID-19 has spread through Detroit communities, Ford has gained a personal perspective after losing her grandmother to the virus. She was able to leverage her relationships with local businesses to provide personal protective equipment like masks and gloves to residents.  

Ford says that despite her mother’s shortcomings, she always had her in church. She credits those Sunday mornings for teaching her the significance of assisting others.

In addition to seeing the joy in the people she helps, she can also see distress in others as the pandemic persists. With that in mind, she has a message for Detroiters.  

“Detroit is a city that is painted in diversity, rooted and grounded in love, and expounding on its greatest future. Detroit, you are destined for greatness.”

Learn more about Destined for Greatness Mentoring Initiative and Curbside Pickup here.