The city of Detroit has suffered a lot in recent years. The city that once thrived on auto manufacturing has seen its overall population fall, and the number of residents living in poverty rise.
Despite a small fall in the number living below the poverty line in 2016, Detroit still has the highest poverty rate (35.7 percent) of the 20 largest cities in the United States, according to census data.
With so many people in need, Erica Guido has her hands full trying to give the residents of Detroit a hand up.
Guido lives in the affluent neighborhood of Grosse Pointe, but it wasn’t always that way. She grew up in a modest home on Detroit’s east side and remembers watching her mother struggle.
“Having grown up on the other side of the tracks I know what it’s like,” Guido told CNN.
Knowing that pain motivates her to help as many Detroiters as she can. Six days a week, often for 12 hours a day, Guido collects and drops off donated wares to those in need.
Her operation is simple: she posts a wishlist on Facebook of items she knows families in the area need, and people respond. Items are either dropped off on her porch, or she drives out in her pickup truck and collects them.
Guido started the Facebook group “To Detroit, With Love” as a way of connecting with those wanting to help a family in need.
To Detroit, With Love is Guido’s hub of operations. She accepts a wide range of donations.
Food, beds, washing machines, and dining sets are among the many items she couriers around town.
“You see the privilege here and you see the disparity across Alter [Road], and I really wanted to build a bridge,” Guido told the Detroit Free Press.
As a fifth-generation Detroiter, she does it for the love of the residents of her city. Once she helps someone, she considers them part of her family.
“I want to show how easy it is to love a stranger,” she said.
In her first 12 weeks, Guido helped 85 families. Felicia Wilson, a 31-year-old single mother was one of them.
Felicia Wilson’s home is furnished with a number of items that Guido tracked down for her. Wilson, who was living in shelters and out of a car for several years, doesn’t hold back her affection for the Good Samaritan.
“I love this woman!” Wilson said to the Detroit Free Press. “She’s a friend for life.”
When Wilson moved into her first home, she was ecstatic. But she owned nothing, and her family was looking at an extended period of sleeping and eating on the floor.
Guido, and the help of her web of Facebook donors, helped furnish the house with all the necessities.
“She says, ‘Just text me everything you need … and then she comes with it, immediately,” Wilson said.
Guido’s grassroots operation is growing faster than she anticipated. She is already making plans to grow the outreach
As it stands, Guido is mostly a one-woman operation.
But she has something bigger in mind. In addition to working with a lawyer to establish a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, she is looking to acquire a vehicle dedicated to her purpose.
To this point she has been using her husband’s pickup truck.
“I see in my future a warehouse, a fleet of trucks, and us being the Fed Ex of the needy,” Guido said.
She also hopes to establish a program in which more affluent families “adopt” a family in need. She said she found someone to take on the Wilson family, and the results have been superb.
“If each family of means took on one family, one household with a single mother and a few kids, and just helped ease their burdens, it’s amazing what we could do.”