Mitch Albom is an author and columnist for the Detroit Free Press, and he is pretty well known and widely read in and around the Motor City. He’s also known for his charitable work. In 2006, he founded Super All Year Detroit, better known as S.A.Y. Detroit. The name refers to Detroit’s hosting of the Super Bowl, which was a pretty big deal, though it didn’t actually have much of an impact on the city. One day of football and a whole lot of out-of-town traffic didn’t save a city that has been struggling without much help from the state to deal with its problems for decade.
With S.A.Y. Detroit, Albom wanted to help the neediest and most vulnerable people in the city all year long instead of just helping people off the streets so they didn’t embarrass the city while rich people visited to watch football.
Since then, the charity has set up the nation’s first full-time medical clinic aimed at helping homeless mothers and children, a full-time daycare center to help homeless mothers who are starting or seeking jobs, and refurbishing homes for poor families. In a city with high homelessness and a lot of vacant buildings, these actions are a big help.
Recently, though, Albom started a new venture that will have a much smaller impact, but an impact nonetheless. On August 4th he opened Detroit Water Ice Factory, a store that serves a frozen treat called “water ice,” which has only really ever been popular in Philadelphia and South Jersey. Basically it’s like Italian ice, and comes in a variety of locally themed flavors, with names that make more sense to Michiganders than anyone else.
So far, the shop employs four people, recruited through Goodwill Industries, and the proceeds will go towards keeping the store running and then to support S.A.Y. Detroit. Albom is from New Jersey, where he grew up eating water ice, and he’s hoping the treat is a big hit in his adopted home.