Dawn Wood mended her ways and got a new lease on life.
A drug addict for 24 years, she’s been clean for the last year. After serving time in jail, she found Mend on the Move and that’s made all the difference in the world for her.
Mend on the Move is a non-profit social enterprise serving metro Detroit that empowers and employs women survivors of abuse by teaching them to make jewelry out of reclaimed auto parts.
Dawn was introduced to the group while in Samaritas House Detroit (Heartline), which provides a transitional place for women on probation, leaving a drug rehabilitation program, escaping a home broken by addiction or are in a battered or in an abusive relationship.
Wood, who is 45, was one of five people chosen for the Mend on the Move program. It was an immediate fit. She began by crafting the jewelry and also figured out how to make pillow boxes for the pieces.
The organization had been purchasing the boxes but Wood told Joanne Ewald, founder of Mend on the Move, she made boxes in prison and could do make some with some simple tools – paper, tape and scissors.
Ewald told her to go ahead and left for a little while. By the time she got back Wood had made 25 boxes.
“Dawn set an example for the others,” says Ewald. “It was a turning point for her. Someone listened and believed in her.”
Wood was so successful she was promoted and is now the organization’s creative supervisor. She works there, along with waitressing and dishwashing at a local restaurant.
“I didn’t want to live like that anymore,” she says. “I struggle every day, but my worst day sober is better than my best day high.”
It’s been tough life for Wood. Chaz, the oldest of her five children, was born with a heart defect and was 13 months old before he came home. The stress of his condition and the associated medical bills was unbearable and one day at party she tried cocaine.
“It made all my problems go away,” she says. It was also the beginning of her 24-year addiction, which cost her her marriage and her children.
Today not only is Wood clean, she has also found faith in herself and credits Ewald for giving her that confidence.
“I tried to get into recovery plenty of times but everyone thought I would mess up, so ….” Wood says. “Joanne was one person who had faith in me and knew I could do it. She made a huge difference in my life.”
That difference was not just Wood’s faith in herself. Ewald shared her unwavering faith in God and that led Wood to church. She now attends every Sunday.
Mend on the Move has helped many women like Wood move forward with their lives and away from addiction, trafficking, homelessness and domestic abuse. Many of those women were sexually abused as children.
Ewald was one of them. While she was able to heal and her abuse didn’t lead down any of those roads, she wanted to do something for those trying to find their way. Mend on the Move was her answer.
“Through Mend on the Move, I hope to help break the silence of abuse and trafficking, empower survivors and be their voice until they become strong enough to find their own,” she says.
The organization is working with 20 women this year. Most will move on when they finish the recovery program.
“We don’t focus on where the women came from. We focus on where they are going,” Ewald says. “We offer hope and opportunity.”
She also encourages women to speak up, make their voices heard and raise awareness about abuse. One way we can all do it is by purchasing some of the jewelry.
It’s catching on. Mend on the Move sold $16,000 worth of jewelry in 2016 and $45,000 worth in 2017. Necklaces go for $24, earring for $18. There are also key chains and charms. All are made of donated reclaimed auto parts.
There’s a good reason. Small, recycled auto parts, symbolize Mend’s efforts to help “Mend the Motor City” by serving women survivors of abuse right here in Metro Detroit.
Cut-out Michigan mitten necklaces emphasize Mend on the Move’s broader mission to educate and create awareness about the prevalence of human trafficking here in Michigan. Detroit and Grand Rapids are top cities for trafficking.
The women have also learned to silkscreen t-shirts and they are available as well.
The dollars raised will help the group work with other recovery organizations in metro Detroit. Ewald says her dream is to get an auto sponsor for the program.
Mend on the Move is currently working to overhaul a motorhome, donated anonymously, into a mobile studio to make it easier to transport supplies. Right now it’s totally gutted. It’ll take about $60,000 to refurbish it.
Ewald’s goal is to keep expanding the skills of the women involved in Mend on the Move, who range from as young as 19 to those in their 40s.
“It’s never too late to turn things around,” she says. “They still have the rest of their lives ahead of them.
“We give the women a reason to move forward and rise above. It is our little piece of a comprehensive recover program.”