The Shu Foundation, in partnership with Radio One, Forgotten Harvest and Central City Integrated Health, held its 6th annual Red Carpet Backyard BBQ for the homeless and hungry on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Detroit at Bert’s Warehouse. The program provides hot meals, grocery give-a-aways, and vital access to human service agencies to more than 10K homeless and hungry citizens in Detroit. This signature event was designed to empower, uplift and encourage individuals who live in public housing, those who are either uninsured or underinsured, veterans, homeless and the underserved.
At this year’s event, free meals were given out to thousands of homeless and underserved people in the Detroit area. As a part of the event, there were health and wellness checks, celebrity appearances and live entertainment. As a special treat for children, the Harvest Fest Shu Kids Candy Give-a-Way was an added bonus. Event chair Natalie King, Esq. said, “This event was founded on the heartfelt belief that everyone has value and deserves to be treated as a VIP. While there is a great deal of revitalization and development surrounding downtown we can be proud of, it is very important that we don’t forget about those Detroiters who may sometimes feel invisible and unnoticed.”
“Comerica is proud to return again as a silver sponsor of the Backyard BBQ for the Homeless & Hungry, which serves those who are most vulnerable in our community,” said Jaunice Keller, assistant vice president and Community Reinvestment Act market manager for Comerica Bank. “Our sponsorship reflects our continuing commitment to our community. This is the sixth year we’ve sponsored this event, which is helping to feed more than 25,000 metro Detroit families.”
Rolling out had the opportunity to speak with the event chair Natalie King and Robert Shumake, founder of the Shu Foundation after this year’s annual event. They spoke about the event’s mission, the Shu Foundation and the importance of being a resource to Detroit’s hungry and homeless community as the largest feeding event in the city of Detroit.
What has it meant to you to chair this event for the past six years?
Natalie King, Esq: It’s something that I saw the vision that Robert [Shumake] had for this event. And it was something that connected to my heart and my spirit because as a young girl I grew up in community service. My father ‘s a pastor and he started a soup kitchen across the street from our church. So, when I was younger I serviced the community two to three days out of the week after school. From that, I’ve developed a passion and a heart for helping people. So, when Robert formulated the event for the Detroit Red Carpet Backyard BBQ it was something that I wanted to be a part of. So, I took it on to bring the resources, to bring the team together, bring all of the aspects together to really carry out that vision and for the last six years, it’s been so rewarding. It’s a labor of love. It’s so rewarding to be able to see God’s love shown to His people. Every year it grows, every year it gets fine-tuned and it gets better and better. Our community partners are built up and it’s just a wonderful experience.
You all had a goal to feed 10K this year. How do you feel as if you’ve done this year?
RS: Our minimum is about 5K every year, but we touched the community. So, as many people who are hungry comes out. This whole event was about the homeless and the hungry. Of course, most of the people you saw today were homeless, but then there were a small growing contingency of people who are hungry. So, that means people that are not homeless, they have a home, but they can’t afford lights, they can’t afford their gas [bills] and they can’t afford groceries. So, the groceries makes the little difference. So, if we can help get somebody groceries, we can help to keep them financially stable.
Robert, you founded the Shu Foundation, tell us a little more about that.
RS: The foundation really started with just me and a few friends. We travelled abroad, and we travel all over the world. Say if we go to a country, we all go out to the dollar store, spend $100 and buy pencils and pens and those types of things and we take it and we contribute to the communities that we participate in. And in doing it over the years came the idea to actually create a real foundation. Of course, my last name is Shumake, and Shu is a star in the sky that represents benevolence . The foundation is about student scholars, homelessness, giving back to the community and you know all those ideas that we’re passionate about. Of course, Natalie sits on the board of the foundation as well and we’re growing. This is our sixth year and I think we’ve fed over 25K people throughout this event. It’s grown from just a conversation to a few small lunches, to now the largest feeding event in the city of Detroit.
What is the mission of the Backyard Bar-b-que?
NK: The mission of the event is to provide through provision of food, resources, and groceries, our mission is to show the residents of the city of Detroit that there are people, as a community, that honor them, that love them, that respect them, and that understand where they are. Most of us either have been there or may even be one paycheck away from being there. When Robert came up with this vision, the whole semblance of the red carpet was to show individuals that at some point they all deserve to be treated like a VIP. The whole ambiance of this event is to show them that they are all God’s children, they are made in his image. They are beautifully and wonderfully made, and that they deserve to be treated with that respect and honor and dignity as VIPs.
If there’s one take a way that you want these families to go home with, what would it be?
NK: You are cared for.
RS: We’re all one.
Where can we find more information?
NK: You can go to www.DetroitBackyardBBQ.com to find out all about the event and the Shu Foundation.
Backyard BBQ for the Homeless & Hungry is made possible with the support of dedicated sponsors such as General Motors Supplier Diversity, Dunamis Clean Energy Partners, Abayomi Community Development Corporation, DTE Energy Foundation and a host of other metro Detroit community partners and volunteers. For volunteer, donation and sponsorship opportunities, visit www.detroitbackyardbbq.com. Additional questions, please send an email to [email protected]
Photo gallery credit: Hobson Media Group