This is the second part of a two-part series.
It’s been just more than a year since Gilda’s Club and the Lake House merged to form Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit Lake House Location. From the start, both organizations have been dedicated to providing free support to those whose lives have been touched by cancer, as well as their families and friends — Gilda’s Club since 1998, the Lake House since 2011.
Post-merger, that mission has not changed, though the format has taken on a new look in recent weeks.
Gilda’s Lake House members, who have been meeting at the Nonprofit Center at Pare in St. Clair Shores since 2016, now participate in support groups and social and wellness activities online.
“We have moved all of our support groups online (Zoom), so what was offered at our location is online, as well as the support groups from the Royal Oak location,” said Gilda’s Lake House Executive Director Madeline Bialecki. “We are also offering some yoga, Zumba and wellness programs online, including educational talks. … We offer free cancer supports for anyone touched by cancer, any cancer, any age.”
A list of virtual programming available through Gilda’s Club can be found online at www2.gildasclubdetroit.org/Events/Calendar.
Bialecki said discussions are focusing on what Gilda’s Lake House will look like once the physical location re-opens.
“I imagine that we will do a combo of in-person and online, especially because some people will continue to be more comfortable keeping their distance,” Bialecki said. “We (the staff) have been calling our members and so many of them say, ‘I miss everyone at Gilda’s.’ It is heartwarming to hear how much our members value what we offer.”
During April, Gilda’s Club hosted an online version of its annual fundraiser, Gilda’s Big Night Out — this year appropriately renamed Gilda’s Big Night In.
“This raises 20 percent of our funds,” Bialecki said. “All the funds go to support people who are facing cancer and to let people know that no one has to face cancer alone.”
The virtual fundraiser was “an amazing success” for Gilda’s Club, said Megan Hengesbaugh, director of marketing and events.
“We ended up surpassing our goal and raising more than $280,000,” she added, noting while the online event is closed, donations to Gilda’s Club are always welcome.
While not a fundraiser, The Family Center’s springtime effort to unite Grosse Pointers through the global Light it Up Blue campaign for autism awareness was doused with the spread of COVID-19 concerns. The postponement was one of many the organization has put on hold during the pandemic.
“Because The Family Center provides programming and events that facilitate bringing people together to learn from experts and each other through presentations, panel discussions and question-and-answer sessions, the requirement to cancel the lineup of programs we had in the works created a huge disruption in our ability to meet the goals we set for spring,” said Patty Sunisloe, executive director. “With the cancellation of Light it Up Blue and the subsequent programs we would have done on the topics of autism and bullying, there was certainly a gaping hole in what would have otherwise been a very deep dive into a very critical issue. We toyed with the idea of shifting the information to an online format, but opted instead to hold these programs until spring of 2021, when we will again bring the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods together to Light it Up Blue. It felt important to address these issues in a more personal and interactive way.”
However, the organization still provides virtual tools, Sunisloe said, including posting resources on social media as well as regularly posting YouTube videos.
“The Family Center is preparing to shift our fall programming lineup to podcasts, which, even before COVID, we had intended to do as a supplement to our regular programming,” she added, “but should the worst-case scenario become reality and social distancing makes it impossible to bring people together safely even in the fall, we will still reach out to our community to address issues. The Family Center has always endeavored to have its finger on the pulse of the community and provide what is most needed and we will continue to do so.”
While The Family Center’s offices at The War Memorial are closed, its administration continues to work hard and welcomes questions, concerns and requests for specific information from the community.
“People can and should continue to call The Family Center number and we will quickly respond,” Sunisloe said.
“Because there are so many variables and questions left unanswered, we are unsure as to when we can return to business as usual,” she added. “Of course, safety will always be a No. 1 priority and we fully intend to implement all guidelines as recommended.”
Hosting smaller groups of people and providing adequate space for social distancing are among plans.
Meanwhile, The Family Center has developed a COVID-19 resources page on its website that is updated regularly to help people through the pandemic.
Also offering coronavirus-specific information is the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce, which is continuing to do what it does best, supporting local businesses.
“We are supporting our local restaurants by encouraging the community to order carryout, curbside and/or delivery and shop retail by visiting your favorite store online and/or their Facebook page, where they are also offering curbside pickup and delivery,” said Jennifer Boettcher, chamber president. “You can also support the restaurants and retail stores by purchasing gift cards.
“The chamber’s website also provides resources and assistance to help small businesses get through this time, such as loan and grant information and daily updates on COVID-19,” she added.
Chamber administrators have had to rethink their strategy to be the best resource for its members and the community, Boettcher said.
“Local businesses and nonprofits are being challenged financially, mentally and even physically more than ever before and it’s the chamber’s role to stay on top and communicate resources provided by local, state and federal (governments), while also providing professional and educational webinars and toolkits,” she said.
“More people are turning to online content,” she added. “The chamber has ramped up its social media presence promoting our small businesses and showcasing their entertaining and inspired promotions. Many businesses have also taken the lead by increasing their online presence with fun and creative posts, but the greatest feature of all is the active effort everyone is making to follow and share posts of fellow small businesses. It’s admirable to see individuals and organizations coming together to offer support to one another.”
While it’s uplifting to see the community coming together and supporting one another, Boettcher said the chamber is working on plans for the future.
“The shelter-in-place rules forced everyone to shop, work or play virtually online — the new norm — and from the chamber’s perspective, we will continue to connect our members through virtual networking events, convening local response, promoting products, people and our communities, which will also help support our economic recovery,” she said.