Welcome to Local Heroes, our new series featuring Detroiters working during the COVID-19 pandemic to take care of one another. We hope you’ll check in to meet and support these men and women who are truly making a difference and restoring our faith in humanity.

K9 Handler Greg Roberts (Left). Wayne State University Old Main Building (Right).

The hardship Detroit is facing is bringing the community closer and it starts with our first responders.

Police K-9 Handler at Wayne State University Greg Roberts and his two canine partners Wolverine and Bruno have a lot of ground to cover. Wayne State University’s campus sprawls down and across Woodward Avenue. The Wayne State University Police Department (WSUPD) sprang into action very early declaring an emergency mobilization effort requiring all officers to report for duty regardless of previously scheduled time off to ensure the campus and the midtown community remain safe.

During a time of crisis Roberts has been able to develop great relationships and build trust with the people of Detroit who are out for walks in the city every day. Most of whom are walking their dogs and striking up conversations regarding Bruno and Wolverine.

“One of the greatest joys of my job is having a connection with dog lovers in the city.”

In addition to WSUPD patrolling and responding to the community, they are also conducting senior wellness checks three days a week in the neighboring community of Woodbridge. Wayne State Chief of Police Anthony Holt joined efforts with Serving Our Seniors which is organized by a local minister and activist Rev. Dr. Yvette Griffon. Pilgrim Baptist Church boxes up care packages and WSUPD drops it off to vulnerable senior citizens in the neighborhood.

Family Receiving Pure Heart Support (left). Sherelle Hogan and Child (right).

The COVID-19 pandemic has many layers and one that’s often overlooked is being tackled head on by Sherelle Hogan.

Hogan is the President and CEO of Pure Heart Foundation and she is helping the children of incarcerated parents with essential resources, support, donations, and social + emotional support.

In the wake of COVID-19, the Michigan Department of Corrections placed inmates at four prisons on partial lockdown as the number of inmates testing positive for COVID-19 when the numbers rose over the last two months. A high amount of incarcerated parents still care for their children through daily phone communication or face-to-face visits, which has ended due to lockdown measures in place. Speaking to a parent daily is essential to a child’s wellbeing, especially in a time of crisis.

Hogan has been an advocate for children of incarcerated parents. Her non-profit has served over 100 children during the pandemic. Her work is molded within her own story, spending most of her youth with both parents incarcerated between 6-14 years old. 

“During these times, we as a community may forget about the children, who have also suffered a shift in their normalcy. We hold an established mission serving children of incarcerated parents, whereas 1 in 4 children in Detroit will have a parent incarcerated.”

To support Pure Heart Foundation’s efforts to provide children of incarcerated parents relief, click here to donate.

Populace Small Business Support Program

Populace was built on community and in late March when COVID-19 rocked Michigan’s economy and significantly impacted small businesses, the local wholesale coffee roaster launched a Small Business Support program.

Andrew Heppner, Founder of Populace has stores in three cities: Detroit, Bay City, and Petoskey. His team put together the idea to give back to their wholesale customers who didn’t have an option for a new revenue stream. The idea is simple: the small business sends their logo file, Populace creates a label and puts it on a coffee bag. Populace sells the coffee for $18 and give that business $9 for every bag sold and it’s paid out weekly. It started with 6 businesses and in early May skyrocketed to 135+ and is still growing.

“We believe in our communities when times are good and when times are scary. Without our local communities our businesses wouldn’t survive. We have seen our business turn into a source of joy for many people during this time.”

The efforts demonstrated by Heppner have taken social media by storm. Each small business participating is highlighting one another in support of their community and the people that make it so special.

Click here to buy a bag of coffee and support a local business.