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Index in the Region

Melissa Anders

From police officers to financial counselors, professionals throughout metro Detroit are working to improve the region’s well-being and make it a better place to live, work, and play. They are putting well-being practices into action, like engaging with residents, developing programming for young professionals, ensuring food safety in restaurants, providing financial literacy workshops, and facilitating workforce re-entry. Because they speak the language of health and wellness, their insight can serve as an inspiration for the business community to bolster its involvement in cultivating a thriving Detroit region.

The Detroiter spoke to professionals who work to improve our communities every day. Here’s what they had to say:

PURPOSE

DAN VARNER

CEO, GOODWILL INDUSTRIES OF GREATER DETROIT

Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit helps people unlock their potential. The nonprofit helps people entering the workforce, and particularly those with mental illness, developmental and intellectual disabilities, or criminal records.

Goodwill facilitates independence and dignity through development work, from job interviewing assistance to occupational training. The program’s 100th welder graduated last year, said Varner.

Yet employers can do more to help, he said, such as building job requirements based on the skills needed for a job rather than credentials, like a high school diploma or GED.

SOCIAL

WHITNEY GRIFFIN

PRESIDENT, DETROIT YOUNG PROFESSIONALS

According to Griffin, social well-being is vital to attracting and retaining talent as well as developing strong leaders.

Detroit Young Professionals encourages members to create meaningful relationships through programming like social hours and open houses. Griffin wants to see more employers provide more opportunities for community involvement.

“The young professionals who don’t develop a network here, they struggle to embark on meaningful relationships — they quickly leave. They’re dissatisfied and unfulfilled,” Griffin said. “So that’s why connecting and building relationships is super important to me and Detroit Young Professionals.”

FINANCIAL

EVA TORRES

FINANCIAL WELL-BEING COACH, OPERATION HOPE

Torres educates metro Detroiters on financial literacy through workshops and one-on-one counseling. She helps people manage debt, navigate budgeting, and improve their credit score.

“When an individual has a credit score of 700 or above, think of all the possibilities. They have an opportunity to purchase a home, purchase a vehicle, and do so many other things,” she said.

Once someone invests in a home, they’re more likely to maintain the property and do what they can to ensure their community is a great place to live.

COMMUNITY

MICHAEL PATTON

CHIEF, WEST BLOOMFIELD POLICE DEPARTMENT

Patton said his department recognizes the importance of engaging with the community to build positive relationships so citizens are better prepared for emergencies and aren’t afraid to call the police.

“It’s important to have that kind of buy-in, so if and when something bad does happen, we’re already linked with all of our community partners,” Patton said. “And I think that really makes us a more robust and productive police department because we have all these relationships.

PHYSICAL

LEIGH-ANNE STAFFORD

HEALTH OFFICER, OAKLAND COUNTY HEALTH DIVISION

Whether it’s licensing restaurants to ensure food safety or sending a nurse to a new mom’s home for breastfeeding support, Oakland County’s Health Division works to promote physical well-being in the region.

The county collaborates with a wide range of partners, including businesses, health providers, nonprofits, and government entities to address worksite wellness, mental health, substance abuse prevention and treatment, and more.

“We know that no one single entity or agency can really move the needle on health. It takes all of us to make a change,” Stafford said.

Melissa Anders is a metro Detroit freelance writer.