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Author Archives: Evelyn McGovern

At Women of Colors, We …

At Women of Colors, we celebrate the strength of diversity. The forum Time to Have a Conversation helps people resist systematic racism and learn more about it by listening to experts and those who have experienced it. Our speakers send a message of working together between and among races, for we are more similar than different.

At Women of Colors, we develop relationships to overcome barriers. WOC has led initiatives that serve at-risk youth ages 6–18 with after-school programming. These students have worked with mentors, learned coping skills, and gotten involved in community-building activities. If we want to reach children and teens, we need to first develop positive relationships with them.

At Women of Colors, we foster community through storytelling. The forum How I Overcame encourages an open dialogue among women of colors who are passionate about overcoming challenges as a community. Our panelists help others by telling stories of what and how they overcame.

At Women of Colors, we teach skills for wellness and a healthy, happy lifestyle. From December 2019 to February 2020, we administered the Prime for Life program to youth in juvenile detention, measuring their understanding of prevention strategies before and after completing the training. Our participants saw an increase in average test score from 57% to 67%.

At Women of Colors, we give kids and teens a voice. The event Your Voice Your Choice involves young people as not only beneficiaries but ambassadors of WOC’s mission to give back to the Saginaw community. Our youth consortium plans fun, productive workshops for other middle and high school students.

At Women of Colors, we help students develop skills and confidence. WOC has offered an after-school program called Students and Future Technology (SaFT). Students from second to twelfth grade learn about robotics and computer programming, work on hands-on projects, and collaborate with partners or small groups.

At Women of Colors, we build a better community. Why does Women of Colors sponsor a program called I’m Still a Man? WOC started the men’s and women’s forums to reach parents. Our volunteers are passionate about promoting safe places for transparent dialogue within and among families.

At Women of Colors, we acknowledge that it takes community to make a difference. We want all youth in the Saginaw community to have a safe and warm winter. Thanks to the help of our donors and volunteers, WOC has made the holidays happier for hundreds of children and families through our annual Warm a Child for Winter event. Learn more about the coat giveaway here: womenofcolors.org/warm-a-child-for-winter

At Women of Colors, we are here for our community. Evelyn McGovern, WOC’s president and cofounder, views community as a key value. “Women of Colors is a community organization,” she says. “We are here for the community. We can’t do what we are doing unless we have collaboration with agencies, businesses, churches, and schools.”

Our Community Impact

Women of Colors is proud to serve the Saginaw community. Our leaders and volunteers always feel humbled when we measure the impact of our work. Join us in celebrating the impact our programs and initiatives have on individuals and families who live, work, or play in the Great Lakes Bay Region!

Seven out of eight participants surveyed indicated that they enjoyed the topics discussed in WOC Prevention sessions. Eight of eight found their mentor knowledgeable. (February 2020)

20 of 20 people who returned surveys about our forum How I Overcame noted that they would attend similar events in the future. (July 2020)

Nearly 100 students participated in our annual Students and Future Technology program.  (2019)

Over 40 kids and teens in the Saginaw Bay Area attended WOC’s forum Your Voice Your Choice. (January 2020)

Women of Colors hosted five forums in a year attended by a total of 300 people. (2019)

Of the 33 people who returned surveys about the forums Time to Have a Conversation and How I Overcame, 27 noted that they were left feeling “hopeful” and 31 noted that they were left feeling “inspired.” (2020)

In the annual Warm a Child for Winter event, Women of Colors distributed more than 400 coats and winter accessories to children up to 16 years old. (2019)

In a six-month period, Women of Colors reached more than 1,000 community members, including 700 youth. (November 2019–April 2020)

Meet a Member: Spotlight on Lynn Brummell-Presley

Congratulations to Lynn Brummell-Presley, a Women of Colors featured member! Lynn is an active member of the WOC Prevention Team. Since her parents and siblings migrated to Saginaw, Michigan, from Guyana, South America, she immediately began her involvement with working, volunteering, and knowing the community in which she was about to live.

During that time, she met Yvonne Riggins Thomas and Evelyn McGovern while they were recruiting membership and planning programs for the youth of Saginaw. She first utilized their volunteer services for Saginaw African Culture Festival and Family Youth Initiative (FYI) Programs, for which she served as Vice Chairman and Coordinator, respectively.

Since Lynn was a Licensed Clinical Family Therapist, Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor, and Certified Prevention Specialist, she was approached by Evelyn to help make a dream come true. Together, they implemented a prevention program to provide service for youth and adults under the umbrella of WOC. “With my education, organizing, and leadership skills in programming, we were able to complete the tasks before us,” Lynn recalls.

Lynn celebrates the growth and community impact that has come from collaborating with like-minded leaders to make a difference: “We organized and supervised a Prevention Team for WOC. We started with 2 Prevention Specialists, and now we have 11 staff members, which includes 4 volunteer members.” The Prevention Specialists are provided with ongoing trainings throughout the year and utilize evidenced-based programs as defined by Women of Colors, the State of Michigan, and Mid State Health Network.

“I love serving and helping the people of my community, and that’s why I became a social worker,” says Lynn, who shares that they are working with the Prevention Specialists to become certified by McBAP and ICRC very soon. The WOC Prevention Team is already reaching thousands of viewers of all types through virtual and face-to-face programming. Prevention Specialists have been working in Saginaw Middle and High Schools, Saginaw County Juvenile, churches, and homeless shelters, to name just a few!

Our Programs and Mission

At Women of Colors, we promote multi-cultural diversity and enhance community relations in Saginaw County by performing community service, mentoring youth, and collaborating with other organizations. Have you ever thought about your personal mission as a member of the Saginaw community? Read on for more information about our programs, plus some fun prompts designed to inspire thought and action around our mission statement—and yours!

1) In the Time to Have a Conversation forum, we hear new perspectives on systemic racism from a variety of panelists who are active community leaders. What conversations have you started or joined?

2) At Women of Colors: Prevention, we give students tips and training on how to cope with anxiety, manage anger, evaluate risk, build self-esteem, and develop social and life skills. What else would be valuable to include in a youth curriculum?

3) In the forum How I Overcame, we hear transparent stories from female panelists who want to inspire listeners to sit more comfortably with or even give voice to their own stories. What have you overcome?

4) We provide STEM training and empower students to take charge of their lifelong learning process through Students and Future Technology, a program for elementary, middle, and high school students. What does “lifelong learning” mean to you?

5) In the event Your Voice Your Choice, we collaborate with Saginaw youth to plan workshops and a talent presentation. Why is it important for young people to have a voice in their community?

6) In the forum I’m Still a Man, we hear from a variety of panelists about their experiences with manhood and what it means to navigate and negotiate that role in today’s society. Why is it important for men to tell their stories?

7) At Warm a Child for Winter, we provide children with warm winter clothing and an event to warm their hearts. How will you spread kindness to others?

Meet a Member: Spotlight on Leslie Eschenbacher

Congratulations to Leslie Eschenbacher, a Women of Colors featured member! Leslie works as a Prevention Education Coordinator for the CAN Council and is also instrumental with WOC’s prevention initiatives. Evelyn McGovern, WOC President and Cofounder, nominated Leslie for this member spotlight because Leslie is always willing to help and she embraces diversity, working with a wide variety of individuals from Bay City to Saginaw.

“Women of Colors partners with the CAN Council to provide substance abuse prevention programs to parents,” explains Evelyn. “That’s a great collaboration! Leslie does a parenting program through the CAN Council. She has definitely been an asset to our organization and to the community, and we love having her as part of our team.”

Leslie decided to get involved in prevention activities through WOC after she and her supervisor noticed that a lot of the families they were working with were dealing with substance abuse issues. Leslie’s goal was to become better equipped to help these families. “My supervisor began working with Women of Colors, but I figured I was Caucasian so I wouldn’t be able to work with them to receive the education I was looking for,” Leslie recalls. “Evelyn and Lynn reached out to me, and to my surprise, they agreed to supervise me. I was informed that it’s Women of Colors because all women are accepted. I thought that was amazing. I was excited to be able to get involved with their Prevention Team.”

Leslie is currently a Prevention Specialist with Women of Colors. She is trained in Prime for Life and Racial Justice and Wellness and hopes to be trained in the Botvin program soon. Her team reaches many different types of audiences through their programming: “We train in middle and high schools, churches, other agencies, and juvenile facilities. We will train a class of two or three if they are interested and could benefit from the program. Even being able to help one person is better than helping none.”

From serving her community in this capacity, Leslie has learned that there is always more to learn! “Working with WOC has opened my eyes up to so many things,” she says. “I was not educated in substance use disorder, but I knew it was an issue in the community I served. The trainings and experiences I’ve received will help me serve as a better leader in my community.”

Leslie feels excited and humbled by the potential impact her work could have on people who receive training from the Prevention Team. “I hope that after they leave the trainings, they take everything they have learned and use it to benefit themselves. I hope they look for other resources that will help them become a productive part of their family and community. It is never too late.”

Meet a Member: Spotlight on Vera Harrison

Congratulations to Vera Harrison, this month’s featured member! Vera works with the Women of Colors Prevention Team to effect change in the community. Evelyn McGovern, WOC President and Cofounder, nominated Vera for this month’s member spotlight because Vera has shown great dedication by volunteering at many different events to represent WOC’s prevention program and teaching the Prime for Life curriculum.

“Vera is helping to bridge a gap in the community, and the partnership and relationship that WOC has built with her have been very positive in that we’re able to reach more people and service more families through her efforts,” says Evelyn. “She is also employed at the CAN Council, where she teaches a parenting class and is very instrumental in helping a lot of parents in the community.”

Vera became interested in getting involved in WOC after watching some of the parents she worked with at the CAN Council seemingly struggling through addiction. She decided she wanted to receive her Certified Prevention Specialist certification through MCBAP, in order to be educated on substance abuse prevention to better serve these parents. “I reached out to Evelyn to see if WOC would be willing to take me under their wing,” Vera recalls. “WOC was known for their work with substance abuse prevention.”

Vera is now a Prevention Specialist with Women of Colors. “I am trained in Prime for Life, an alcohol and substance abuse education program,” she explains. “We offer the training to the community and schools. I also train Racial Justice and Wellness.” Vera hopes to eventually be trained in other programs that will benefit community members and educate them on making low-risk choices when it comes to alcohol and drugs.

Vera strongly believes that education is the key to prevention: “We work with middle and high school students, businesses, faith-based organizations, and individuals in the juvenile justice system. We are always looking for places to teach our programs.”

Although it was not easy switching from doing education on preventing child abuse to substance abuse prevention, Vera learned a great deal about herself as a leader from this experience. “I really enjoy working with the WOC Prevention Team,” she says. “They supported me as I learned, offering extra help and going above and beyond to make sure I was successful.” Vera also learned that when she sees an issue or concern, she will do whatever she can to help her community overcome it.

Vera hopes that her impact on the community and on anyone receiving training from WOC will include them making choices that will help them protect the things that they value most: “Sometimes we make unhealthy choices that cause us to lose things that we value like family, friends, and employment. I want the trainings that we offer through WOC to be an eye-opener for people. I want them to leave our trainings thinking about the choices they are making and questioning whether they are healthy and have their best interest at heart. I want to be part of the change.”

Your Voice Your Choice 2022

Women of Colors is excited to announce our 2022 Your Voice Your Choice Youth Explosion, a free event for middle and high school students ages 12+. The event will take place on Saturday, January 29 from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Learn to Earn Academy in Saginaw.

“The purpose of Your Voice Your Choice is to give youth hope and inspire them to plan for the future,” says Evelyn McGovern, WOC President and Cofounder. Youth who attend will have the opportunity to connect with peers, learn about teen entrepreneurship, build their financial literacy skills, participate in mental health workshops, and much more!

For more information or to register, call Women of Colors at 989-737-9286 or visit www.womenofcolors.org.

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Read on to learn about De’Niel Phipps, a special guest at this year’s Your Voice Your Choice event:

Born and raised in Saginaw, MI, De’Niel Phipps’ story did not begin on the Red Carpet. Growing up in one of the most dangerous cities in America, in a home that was both Fatherless and Motherless, De’Niel lost many friends to Homicide and Incarceration. He would sit in his room late at night, daydreaming of a better life for himself and his family. Through his faith, the love of family, and mentors in the community, De’Niel changed his life. It is a story of determination and perseverance.

As a 2-time Telly Award Winner, 6-time Emmy Award Winner, 22-time Emmy nominated Director, Cinematographer, and Content Creator, De’Niel has made a mark in the film and television industry for over 20 years. He was first introduced to the business at age 13, helping to produce his Church’s weekly television program. An opportunity that paved the way to his dreams becoming a reality.

Professionally, De’Niel’s film and television production credits include the 51stDove Awards TBN’s worldwide broadcast special “Carry The Change ”, in which he became the first African American Director of the biggest Christian and Gospel Music Award Show. His national commercial productions include McDonalds, Nationwide Insurance, Miami University, and Goodyear Tire. He has helped produce television programming for MTV, ESPN, ABC, NBC Universal, and a host of other television networks. His studio feature films include Lions Gate film “One for The Money,” Paramount Pictures, “Fun Size,” and the Independent film, “Tomorrow Your Gone.” Adding to his list of credits are numerous short films. “Fin Del Ano,” is the most recognized, which was highlighted at the Sundance Film Festival. De’Niel also produces music videos for national recording artists from various genres.

His list of production credits, combined with years of experience led to him becoming an Adjunct Professor at Miami University. Teaching film production to aspiring filmmakers. He has also pioneered his own Film and Entertainment Camp, teaching youth and young adults, in underserved communities around the country, the ins and outs of the film industry.

De’Niel’s passion to tell stories has continued to drive him to new heights. Always looking for a new challenge to create and market visually. De’Niel has recently published his first book that he is eager to share with the world. He believes that through the arts you can reach, teach, entertain, and inspire.

Project Spotlight: Discovering Barriers to Behavioral Health Services

As you may know, Women of Colors recently received a $200,000 discovery grant from Michigan State Endowment to explore racial inequities in access to follow-up healthcare. The grant award, which is part of a one-year pilot program, focuses specifically on behavioral health. Both substance use disorders and mental health disorders fall under the behavioral health umbrella.

Michigan State University reached out to WOC after finding out how much we do in the Great Lakes Bay Region, particularly with regard to community engagement. They thought we might be a good fit and encouraged us to apply for the Racial Disparities in Behavioral Health Follow-Up Care Grant. WOC was awarded the grant on August 12, 2021! “They reached out to us to apply because they thought we qualified for this grant, they saw the work we were doing in the community, and they felt we had the trust and we were engaged,” says Evelyn McGovern, WOC President and Cofounder. “We’re very honored to have received the grant and for them to trust us to fulfill the obligations required.”

Compared to any other race, African Americans receive 20% less follow-up care for behavioral health needs, including substance use and mental health disorders. With the funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, we plan to identify the reason—or more likely, a set of reasons—for these racial disparities.

Right now we are most interested in gathering information and clarifying the problem at hand. If an agency tries to solve a problem before knowing exactly what factors contribute to the problem, then their efforts won’t be nearly as effective as they would be if they began by speaking to people who are impacted by the problem.

Evelyn shares her excitement that WOC was awarded a data discovery grant rather than a traditional research grant: “With a discovery grant, we’re discovering as we go what the outcome is going to be. We have more room to explore and determine what’s best for our community to find answers.”

WOC plans to tackle this challenge in three ways. First, we plan to set up one-on-one interviews with clients who have not received follow-up care for behavioral health needs. Second, we will host listening sessions where facilitators can hear stories from individuals impacted by healthcare inequity in a group setting. Third, we will distribute e-surveys as well as hard-copy surveys to gather knowledge about whether and how African Americans make use of the behavioral health services available in their communities. “We want to get our discovery data from different sources, triangulating the discovery,” says Evelyn. “I am interested to see the differences in the response we receive from a one-on-one interview versus a listening session versus a written survey.”

If you are not familiar with the term listening session, think of a loosely structured focus group. “In a listening session, facilitators ask some initial questions to spark a dialogue, then listen to how participants feel about their health and how their health is being managed,” Evelyn explains. “And if their health is not being managed, we want to learn why not.”

Evelyn stresses the importance of empathy and good listening skills when working side-by-side with community members on a project of this size and urgency: “We need to better understand what has caused these disparities in people’s lives. We have some ideas about the types of problems our community members are facing—for example, transportation issues and lack of insurance. But there could be other barriers we don’t know about yet.”

WOC has already identified some questions we will pose to the community in order to begin addressing these disparities. We plan to reach out to staff, and most importantly, clients at a variety of agencies and organizations. “If a participant has not followed up with a visit to the Emergency Department or even a regular physician visit, we are interested in the reason they haven’t followed up with their care,” says Evelyn. “For example, a participant might have gone to a substance abuse facility to get help but not completed the program.

“By speaking with this person, we could determine if they left due to lack of insurance, lack of transportation, lack of trust, or a combination of these factors.” Community members may face a variety of barriers, Evelyn adds, including physical barriers, financial barriers, and emotional barriers.

WOC is collaborating with many other agencies in the Great Lakes Bay Region to bring this project to life. Our collaborators and stakeholders include the Saginaw County Health Department, the Saginaw County Mental Health Department, the Saginaw County Prevention Coalition, the Saginaw Community Foundation, the Great Lakes Bay Health Center, the Saginaw County Jail Correctional Facility, Solutions Behavioral Health, Saginaw Citizens for Equity and Justice, PEER 360 Recovery Alliance, T.D. Holden Jail & Prison Ministry, ReEnvision You Counseling and Therapeutic Services, and Michigan State University.

Collaboration is the key because each agency has their own expertise. For instance, the county health department has performed many needs assessment surveys, trying to figure out how they can better serve the community. The community mental health agency in Saginaw County mainly focuses on behavioral health issues. “It’s very important that we find out what data other agencies already have, so we’re not reinventing the wheel,” says Evelyn. “Sometimes we aren’t sure how best to move forward, and these partnerships are a great resource to help us answer a lot of questions.”

An agency like Women of Colors plays an important role in engaging the community. Where other agencies focus many of their resources on serving people when they walk in the door, WOC hopes to reach clients before they walk in the door. Evelyn explains that our collaborators provide great services, and not all community members know where or how to access these services: “Women of Colors is trying to connect the dots.”

Earlier this year, WOC and some of our collaborators gathered to complete a stakeholders’ assessment, where we identified potential barriers African Americans face when accessing behavioral health services. Evelyn is excited about the number of agencies that are open to trying to figure out how to make behavioral healthcare more accessible for African Americans. “We realize there is an issue and there needs to be a change,” she says. “Something has to change in order for the situation to get better and for these barriers and disparities to be eliminated.”

By August 2022, WOC hopes to identify the barriers to equitable healthcare. “We may already know some of the reasons for the barriers,” says Evelyn, “but we don’t want to make any assumptions. This project will either confirm or challenge our ideas.” WOC is excited to report our findings to our funder, partner agencies, and the public: “We don’t just want to file this information away. We want the entire community to know the outcome!”

If you are interested in sharing your experience(s) with accessing behavioral health services, please call the Women of Colors office at 989-399-8775 ext. 5. WOC is offering $50 Visa gift cards for participants that qualify to complete a one-on-one interview or to participate in a listening session. Qualifying individuals will be African Americans who did not receive follow-up care related to mental health or substance use disorders within the last five years. Participants should be willing to discuss their personal experiences with behavioral healthcare services. The aim of this project is to improve behavioral healthcare services for clients in the Saginaw community.

Note. The grant information was received from Michigan Public Health Institute for the Racial/Ethnic and Geographic Disparities in Behavioral Healthcare in Michigan Medicaid Final Report and Recommendations.

Lessons from Our Leaders

From helping those in need to providing a sense of purpose and community for our volunteers, Women of Colors focuses on activities that benefit the Great Lakes Bay Region. What does WOC mean to you? In this feature, we share a little about what it means to us.

“Every time I have an opportunity to interact with our youth, I get a chance to see the world through fresh eyes. Their infectious energy, curiosity, and imagination remind me how exciting the world can be and encourage me to continue to fulfill my own dreams. For me, there’s no greater sense of accomplishment and fulfillment than knowing you are changing the youth’s outlook and direction in life for the better.”

—Michelle McCoy, Leader in Your Voice Your Choice

“Women of Colors is all about mentoring the youth and empowering women. As we looked within the communities, we discovered many families living in poverty and many underprivileged children who were going without even the bare necessities such as warm coats. By the grace of God and supporters, we [helped fulfill] that need.”

—Vicki Hill, Coordinator of Warm a Child for Winter

“I’m Still a Man was essential to my development as a leader. It was important to be able to talk about issues I have experienced and to let others know they are not alone in their quest to become a better person.”

—Chris Packard, Panelist for I’m Still a Man

“I think I’m a much better person than I used to be because of the work and the experience that I’ve acquired with Women of Colors. It has given me a passion and a humbleness that I never thought were in me. I’m just so blessed! People say we bless them, but I’m also receiving the blessing. I’ve proven to myself that I can serve my community well. It took me a long time to accept myself as a leader or president; now I accept my service for what it is. I hope that Women of Colors will become a nationwide organization one day because our mission is beyond Saginaw. This organization should be an organization that’s all over this country to form unity and love among people.”

—Evelyn McGovern, WOC President and Cofounder

“I was one of the fastest to complete [WOC’s science and technology] programs. I love it. They told me that I can do whatever I want to do. Now I am planning bigger and better things for the future. I want to go into computer science or engineering because I love technology. [The Students and Future Technology program] has opened my eyes. Not many girls know about this or do it. It improves your chances for scholarships and getting into colleges and other opportunities.”

—Kelcei Schultz, Mentor for Students and Future Technology

“Many variants have transformed our group through collaboration with other Great Lakes Bay agencies. My perception of how far Women of Colors has come is due to the leadership and volunteers as we have learned to pivot during this pandemic since last year by doing remote sessions. WOC has shown fastidious decision making during the highs and lows that many nonprofit organizations experience.”

—Lula Woodard, Volunteer of 20+ Years

“Given the present state of the world, especially where race relations are concerned, the subject matter [systemic racism] can be very challenging because the topics are emotionally stirring and it’s a lived reality that goes beyond a conversation. I hope that others were inspired to speak up, and to have conversations wherever they may find themselves.”

—Omar Jones, Panelist for Time to Have a Conversation

Warm a Child for Winter 2021

Join Women of Colors for our annual winter coat giveaway! This year’s Warm a Child for Winter will take place as a drive-thru event on Saturday, November 13 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

WOC started the WACFW initiative in 2017. The event was originally a collaboration with a business owner who brought the idea to our organization. We embraced the idea and have been hosting the event every year since! Our coat and winter clothing drive has now been running successfully for five years.

Thanks to the help of many, many donors and volunteers, WOC has given away 3,200 coats in past years! The most rewarding part about putting on this event for us is seeing the smiles on children’s faces as they receive warm clothing and get the opportunity to meet Santa!

Interested in participating in this event? Read on for answers to your frequently asked questions!

What types and sizes of winter clothing will be available?

We will have coats for all children from newborn to age 16 as well as hats, scarves, gloves, other winter clothing, and household items. Clothing is sized between newborn and size 18.

What is the best way for community members to reach WOC about donating winter clothing to Warm a Child for Winter?

Donors may email Evelyn McGovern, WOC’s president and cofounder, at ewmtoday@aol.com or call the office at 989-399-8775 ext. 5 or 989-988-2083.

How do parents sign their children up to receive a coat?

Parents may print a registration form from the Women of Colors Facebook page or by visiting our website at womenofcolors.org. They should bring their children and the registration form to 100 Tuscola St. on November 13.

Happy holidays from Women of Colors!