Jody Turner
Fast Company

As a design student in Detroit, Veronika Scott was keenly aware of the increasing numbers of homeless people suffering deeply during the relentless winters. At the tender age of 21, she created The Detroit Empowerment Plan not to solve homelessness, but to provide much-needed warmth to the city's 20,000 street dwellers.

From Scott's blog:

This is my story about the humanitarian project called The Empowerment Plan. Meet the re-designed coat: Element S. It is self-heated, waterproof, and transforms into a sleeping bag at night. It is made by a group of homeless women who are paid minimum wage, fed and housed while creating these coats made for those living on the streets. The focus is on the humanitarian system to create jobs for those that desire them and coats for those that need them at no cost. The goal is to empower, employ, educate, and instill pride. The importance is not with the product but with the people.

We recently had the opportunity to interview Scott about her design-driven, sustainable, self-empowerment model for a segment of the population that needs it most.

Jody Turner: What inspired you and how did you feel empowered to create such an amazing product and give back project?

Veronika Scott: What inspired the empowerment plan was a school project. I am a product design student at the College for Creative Studies. I was working in studio class and a humanitarian group came in to sponsor our studio and really became a catalyst. They said to "design to fill a need" and from there I realized that as a college student, I had ramen and a roof over my head, so my needs were being met. From there I reached out to the homeless community, which in Detroit has a pretty large number of people, an estimated 20,000 individuals living on the street. I spent three days a week, every week, for five months working in a homeless shelter downtown. The people there became an integral part of the entire design, they were there every step of the way and tested all four prototypes. When the semester ended the project did not; it couldn't because I didn't feel it was over. I continued the project not just because I was passionate about it but because actual people needed, wanted, and desired it. I realized I had to take it to the next level and make it a system.

How has it changed and evolved from the original spark or inspiration?

Click HERE to read the rest of this article!
The Windsor Star

Windsor International Film Festival has something for you to chew on. The annual blowout for film buffs every fall has expanded into the summer by serving up three tasty flicks as part of the third Eat Your City festival on now.

The three movies this Saturday at Capitol Theatre, 121 University Ave. W., all have a culinary theme.

Ratatouille, 2 p.m., is the animated family film about a French rat that heads to Paris to pursue as career as a master chef. The screening is free.

Grown In Detroit, 5 p.m., is a fascinating documentary from Dutch filmmakers Mascha and Manfred Poppenk about efforts by an inner-city Detroit high school to develop urban gardens in povertystricken neighbourhoods. Tickets $10.

King of Pastries, 7 p.m., follows the annual pastry competition in Lyons, France, as 16 chefs reveal the secrets behind their mouth-watering recipes. Tickets $10.

Adriano Ciotoli, organizer of Eat Your City, said movies and food are a natural pairing.

"We love to go out to dinner either before or after a movie," said Ciotoli. "This just makes your choice a little easier."

Think of the films as an appetizer to an evening on the town.

Nick Cacciato, president of Windsor International Film Festival, said the three films are a way to keep the fall festival front and centre in people's minds.

"We hope this becomes an annual attraction," he said.

Along with the movies there will be a free, interactive sushi workshop following the screening of Ratatouille, and a demonstration of how to build your own urban garden following Grown In Detroit.

Film tickets can be purchased at the door.

For more information about Eat Your City or the movies, check out these websites: windsoreats.com; windsorfilmfestival.ca.
Detroit was once known for dominating the world's automotive production, creating the Motown Sound, and its one-of-a-kind blue-collar work ethic.  Currently, however, the Motor City finds itself at a crossroads. Global competition, a global recession, and a declining population have taken a severe toll on what was once America's industrial backbone. Despite these challenges, die-hard Detroiters still have not given up on restoring this once thriving metropolis.

In a world premiere television event, Planet Green and General Motors present DETROIT IN OVERDRIVE, the story of a diverse citizenry working together to overcome tremendous odds to rebuild their cherished Motor City -- and create a 21st Century Detroit. The three-part documentary, DETROIT IN OVERDRIVE, premieres on Planet Green on Thursday, August 4 starting at 8PM ET.

"It's been an honor to partner with General Motors on this inspiring project, as there is no more steadfast supporter of the Detroit community," said Laura Michalchyshyn, president and general manager of Planet Green. "It was our goal to document and inspire new awareness of a once-thriving city being resurrected by its devoted citizens and communities. We are thrilled to offer America a close look at the struggles Detroiters have had to face -- and how they are fighting back for the city they love."

"In addition to doing everything we can to support the city of Detroit, we also need to support the efforts to communicate the City's progress and positive stories," said Joel Ewanick, General Motors Chief Marketing Officer.  "Working with Planet Green, we are pleased to present this story about the great American spirit and the great stories behind the rebirth of this important American city."

DETROIT IN OVERDRIVE is a case study of the dynamic individuals who are tackling issues -- both big and small -- and working together to re-establish a community that has slowly fallen apart due to years of an ailing economy. Each hour-long episode features four stories of residents working to revitalize, and bring attention to the city, with hopes of boosting its struggling economy. Individuals and stories featured in each episode include:



Episode One: Reinventing the Motor City

World Premiere: Thursday, August 4 at 8PM ET

Fashion designer Joe Faris moved back to Detroit from New York City to start a garment company. His line of jeans, Motor City Denim, are designed and constructed in a retrofitted factory -- TDIC -- that has made protective covers for robots for the automotive industry for more than 30 years. Joe's new denim designs incorporate seatbelts, rivets and other car inspired elements found around the factory. Five-time Grammy nominated rocker and Detroit native, Kid Rock created his own beer label, Badass Beer, to create jobs and give back to the city he loves. John Bradburn is an environmental engineer at General Motors, whose family has worked in the automotive industry for multiple generations. The Bradburns have adapted to changing times and a shifting economy. FIRST Robotics is an afterschool program created by American inventor Dean Kamen for high school students to pique their interest in robotics. A local Detroit high school, Finney High, is a prime candidate to introduce underprivileged students to the world of engineering. Meet 18 year-old-senior, Jacob Durrah, who has acquired a newfound interest in robotics and engineering through this groundbreaking program.

Episode Two: Art Saves Detroit

World Premiere: Thursday, August 4 at 9PM ET

Tyree Guyton, best known for the Heidelberg Project, is an artist recognized around the globe. His new installation, Street Folk addresses Detroit's homeless problem head-on. In a sweep of inspiration, Tyree plans to pave an entire city street with 10,000 shoes collected from all over the world. In the wake of record moguls like Barry Gordy, Woodbridge Records is a start-up record label with three bands under its belt and a drive to make a mark on Detroit's illustrious music scene. Andrew Beer, the founder of the label is at the helm of nurturing, producing, promoting and distributing the bands on the label. College for Creative Studies is one of the leading design schools in the world with a distinct focus on automobile design. Here, adjunct professor, John Manoogian, a 33-year veteran car designer for General Motors, teaches a rigorous, yet gratifying design studio class. The Sphinx Organization puts musical instruments in the hands of Latino and African American children to expose them to classical music and encourage a career in the arts. High school senior China Leitner has been playing trumpet in the Sphinx Program for years, has an upcoming audition with Wayne State University where a big scholarship is within reach, a determining factor as to whether or not China will go to college.

Episode Three: It Takes a Village

World Premiere: Thursday, August 4 10PM ET

Veronika Scott, a fourth year student at the College for Creative Studies, has designed a heat-capturing coat that turns into a sleeping bag. Made for the homeless, and constructed by the homeless, her product has become a multi-stage program that aims to provide housing, food and jobs. Viewers sit in on a monthly event called "Soup," where young artists pay a small fee to come together for a simple dinner of soup and bread, and pitch projects to better their community of Hamtramck (a neighborhood completely surrounded by metro Detroit). The Russell Industrial Center (RIC), originally a 1925 auto body plant is a 2.2-million-square-foot, seven building complex. A community unto itself, RIC is now home to many artists, craftspeople, and small businesses. Eric Novack, operations manager, visits with Mike Dion, an artist who makes sculpture out of junk and Andy Kem, a furniture designer and digital sculptor at General Motors.

Some Detroiters are spearheading a local food movement. Edith Floyd takes matters into her own hands and starts an urban garden where abandoned and blighted houses once stood. She is one of a growing number of Detroit's urban poor, determined to eat healthy and become self-sufficient in a city with very few food options. Kristyn Koth and Malik Muqaribu feed Detroiters in their 1956 Airstream, "The Pink Flamingo," delivering fresh organic food to Detroiters in a unique mobile food truck.

DETROIT IN OVERDRIVE is a co-production between Planet Green, Discovery Studios, LLC and General Motors. Michael Selditch is director and executive producer.  For Planet Green, executive producers are Lynne Kirby, Lynn Sadofsky and Laura Giacalone. For Discovery Studios, LLC, executive producers are Robin L. Sestero and Bill Gardner.
The Detroit Historical Society’s Past>Forward campaign received a boost last week thanks to metro Detroit’s young professionals.

On Thursday, July 28, the Detroit Historical Society welcomed more than 200 supporters onto the Streets of Old Detroit to launch its latest donor cultivation program, Detroit 313.

An innovative new fundraising effort, Detroit 313 has a straightforward mission – to reach 313 Detroiters who recognize the value of the region’s history and will help raise funds for the expansion and preservation of the Society’s exhibitions and collections.

The new program sets forth a challenge to attract 313 new members who will each pledge a total of $313 over the next three years to the Society. The money will directly benefit the Past>Forward campaign which has the goal of raising $20.1 million towards new and expanded exhibits, technology upgrades, educational offerings and enhancements for the Detroit Historical Museum, Dossin Great Lakes Museum and Detroit Historical Society Collection.

Amid a festive atmosphere within the Detroit Historical Museum, the Detroit 313 event July 28 garnered a total of 43 new commitments for this initiative.

“Membership in Detroit 313 is an opportunity to connect the exciting things the Society will accomplish through this campaign to a group that has the energy and commitment to support the continued growth of our region,” says Kristin Lusn, Detroit Historical Society trustee and 313 committee member.

For more information about Detroit 313, visit www.detroithistorical.org, or call 313.833.1980.
The Chevy Rockin’ on the Riverfront concert series just kicked into high gear. On Aug. 5, the GM Riverfront Stage will host not one, but two legendary performers.

In the 1960s, as a member of the elite Wrecking Crew, Leon Russell played on hundreds of hit records. In the ‘70s he founded the legendary Shelter Records. He toured with Edgar Winter in the 80s, teamed up with Bruce Hornsby in the 90s and, by 2006; he earned a Lifetime Achievement Award. In his 50 year career, Russell has played on, arranged, written and/or produced some of the best records in popular music including Tight Rope and Hotel Heartbreak.

Hamtramck-born Motor City rocker Mitch Ryder is credited for giving Detroit its gritty heart and blue-eyed soul. Backed by his Detroit Wheels, Ryder hit the Top Ten charts in the 60s with the hits Jenny Take a Ride and Little Latin Lupe Lu before breaking through with the smash Devil with a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly. Ryder pursued a successful solo career throughout the 80s and 90s and continues touring.

Catch Leon Russell and Mitch Ryder performing a phenomenal double bill Aug. 5 on the GM Riverfront stage for the fifth show of the 2011 Chevy Rockin’ on the Riverfront concert series, presented in partnership with Detroit’s Classic Rock Station 94.7 WCSX-FM.

Rockin’ on the Riverfront features classic rock headliners on select Fridays during the summer making Riverfront Plaza a great destination for food, fun and free concerts. Don’t miss the final show of the series next week - Bachman-Turner with opener The Eddie Leighton Project on Aug. 12.

Admission is free and no advance tickets are necessary. Viewing space will be on a first-come, first-served basis and people are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets. In addition, boaters on the Detroit River are invited to anchor near the riverfront and enjoy the view of the stage from the water.

Andiamo Detroit Riverfront will provide refreshment and food concessions at several locations on the plaza. Outside food, beverages or coolers will not be permitted. Convenient parking is available for $5 per vehicle at the GM surface lot at the intersection of St. Antoine and Atwater, adjacent to the GM Renaissance Center.
“Last one out, turn off the lights” is a saying often heard in Michigan, referring to people leaving the state to find work in other parts of the country during the recent economic downturn. However, RTT USA, Inc. (RTT) is breaking this trend by attracting talented technology and design professionals to metro Detroit.

Most recently, Marlon Montgomery relocated to Michigan from Singapore specifically to work as studio manager for RTT, the leading provider of realtime 3D visualization solutions for product design, marketing and sales. In his new position, Montgomery is responsible for developing presentations, overseeing production, ensuring high-quality client deliverables and contributing to the company’s human resources initiatives, as well as research and development.

“I chose RTT and Michigan because I think that RTT is a great cultural fit for myself and that the area is a wonderful place for my family and to raise our children,” said Montgomery.

Montgomery comes from a long line of major production companies including Dreamworks in California, Vanguard Animation in London and most recently, Lucasfilm Animation Company in Singapore.

“The animation industry is very migratory, and I've had the opportunity to live and work in a number of wonderful locations such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, London and Singapore,” said Montgomery. “I just love the energy and resiliency of Detroit. I hope and look forward to being able to play any little part that I can to help raise Michigan and the Detroit area to the prominence it deserves in the world.”

Since January 2010, RTT has added 15 full-time employees – eight of which relocated to Michigan for a job with RTT – further proving the company’s commitment to the state’s economic future. RTT currently has 82 employees at its Royal Oak office.

“RTT has been successful at attracting non-native prospects to Michigan since we opened our Royal Oak office in 2007,” said Peter Stevenson, co-CEO of RTT. “People are looking for high-quality positions in the technology industry, and we’ve proven Michigan can offer that; we’ve proven that Michigan is a desired career destination.”

RTT is still seeking and recruiting talented professionals in 2011. For more information about RTT, visit www.rttusa.com.
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