I could definitely use volunteers, financial assistance, operational costs—for everything and anything. People who want to come and make themselves a part of something bigger than themselves, a place where they know they’re glad they came, because once you’re here, everybody knows who you are. And you can come and find your spot here. That’s what makes Auntie Na’s different—I don’t need the warehouse assembly line. I want those that want to shine and have fun with what they’re doing.
ALLISON TORRES BURTKA | TUESDAY, JANUARY 10, 2023
Sonia Brown, aka Auntie Na, is executive director of Auntie Na’s Village, a nonprofit community organization on Detroit’s west side that provides meals, a community garden, emergency temporary housing, tutoring, and other services.
Auntie Na’s Village had to make some adjustments because of the pandemic in the past couple of years. Did some of those adjustments result in permanent changes?
We had a smaller food program prior to COVID and when COVID hit we collaborated with other organizations and nonprofits, putting out 20,000 to 40,000 pounds of food a week. So that geared us to increase our food program. I’m thankful because Kresge and Ford and Detroit Future City and others worked with us during COVID so that we were able to pivot into a project that was definitely more needed at that time than just my nutrition home could have serviced. It made a big difference. But right now, I’m focused on getting back to what the original agenda was—to put together a full, complete, sustainable program.
Now, we’re converting our pandemic food pantry into its own complete home—a nutrition hub, where we will have a kitchen banquet area and a food pantry. We’ll also be collaborating with nutritionists to help us in how to prepare the meals and put menus together as we offer up what’s in our food box program. We’ll be expanding our gardening program to incorporate more fresh vegetables not just suitable to one particular culture, but to serve many cultures, as we’ve noticed the diversity that is now taking place in our area.
Auntie Na’s Village recently received a Lowe’s Hometowns grant. How will you use that?
We’re rehabbing a home on the block, the nutrition home, and incorporating nutritional programs. One of those is a corner store program that’s allowing us to teach community members how to go into the corner store, where many tend to shop, and purchase more nutritious, healthy items. We’re also teaching people how to do their own little gardens, so that they will have—right there at their fingertips—their own sources of food and produce.