Kappa Psi childhood literacy campaign helps Auntie Na’s Village

By Joseph Paul Javier

On the corner of Yellowstone and Elmhurst streets on the west side of Detroit stands a house that serves as a haven for the local community. For over five generations, this house has been the home of a family that has been a vital force in supporting its neighbors through the rise, fall and rebirth of the Motor City.

Sonia Brown, aka Auntie Na
Sonia "Auntie Na" Brown

Sonia Brown, lovingly called Auntie Na by neighbors and friends, is proud of her family legacy. From the cornerstone of Yellowstone, they have weathered the storm of urban rebellion and government crackdown, factory closings and white flight, drug epidemics, mass foreclosures, school closings, financial collapse, bankruptcy, emergency management, water shutoffs, and fire.

Auntie Na started connecting with other organizations in 2013 and began building Auntie Na’s House as a community organization, going beyond being another caring neighbor on the block. In just a few years, with the help of fiscal sponsors and dedicated volunteers, Auntie Na purchased several abandoned homes and vacant lots on the block and began the work of turning the cul-de-sac into a village of community centers complete with a community garden and park.

“Auntie Na’s has been a solid rock in the floods of time,” said Brown about the 501(c)3 nonprofit. “Through it all, we have maintained, we have survived, we have rebuilt, and we have struggled to bring the unity back to our community. We have expanded beyond our humble beginnings in the living room of one compassionate person’s home and have begun the beautiful and challenging process of becoming an interdependent village.”

Over the years, Auntie Na and her family have helped raise dozens of children and have stayed true to their roots. Today, neighborhood youth are nurtured and supported with after-school tutoring, free clothing, school supplies, toys, and summer enrichment programs. Community meals are served three times a day Monday through Saturday to the Village’s youth and families, as well as to hungry and homeless people in the area.

Kappa Psi brothers deliver books and supplies
Kappa Psi fraternity brothers from left: Jad Kawas, Lucas Crum, Noah Trotter and Johnie L. Bailey

“When we heard about Auntie Na’s Village, we knew that this was something we wanted to support,” said Noah Trotter, president of Wayne State’s Mu Omicron Pi chapter of Kappa Psi pharmaceutical fraternity. “Service to our local community is a cornerstone of our fraternity. Our philanthropy committee saw Auntie Na’s work with neighborhood kids, specifically her education programs and reading corner, and our brothers immediately knew we had to help this local hero in these efforts.”

Over the past year, Kappa Psi has been actively involved in promoting childhood literacy through their fraternity’s national philanthropy campaign Reach Out and Read. From recording videos of brothers reading children’s books to collecting cash donations and organizing book drives, the fraternity is excited to bring the spirit of this initiative to Auntie Na’s Village.

Auntie Na book nook
Kappa Psi helped stock the cozy reading nook at Auntie Na’s Learning House.

“Through Reach Out and Read, we have managed to collect hundreds of donated books,” said Kappa Psi Philanthropy Chairman Jad Kawas. “Aside from donating these books to local hospitals and clinics, we wanted to share them with grassroots organizations in our city as well. We are part of the next generation of pharmacists tasked with serving out local community, and supporting vital organizations like Auntie Na’s Village is very important to us. We hope other students from our college will join our efforts to volunteer and help initiatives like Auntie Na’s.”

The brothers of the Mu Omicron Pi chapter of Kappa Psi hand-delivered donations of childhood literacy kits, school supplies, educational games and four boxes of books for Auntie Na’s Learning House.

Brown’s outreach programs primarily support low-income families but also work with people with developmental disabilities, those recovering from drug addiction and those surviving domestic violence. In the last decade, although this neighborhood has seen many houses abandoned and many stores boarded up, Auntie Na’s House has remained as the cornerstone of the community.

Kappa Psi brothers tour Auntie Na's Village
A tour of Auntie Na’s Village and its Medical House, which provides free checkups, first aid and medical access.

Currently, Auntie Na and her team are working hard to expand their village. Already, they have transformed many of the houses in the neighborhood to include: The Medical House to provide free check-ups, first aid and medical access; The Nutrition House for their Community Meals program, Free Food Box program, and a Community Kitchen; The Learning House for after-school tutoring, computer/internet access and educational programs; and The Clothing House for accepting and distributing clothing, which doubles as a Village Home for emergency temporary and long-term housing for several residents. Over the coming years, Auntie Na’s Village has plans to create a Mercy and Grace House for outreach to survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and an Art House for creative arts youth programs.

To donate, volunteer or learn more about how you can help, visit Auntie Na’s Village website.

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