Dear friend and neighbor,
Those who spent any amount of time around Voices for Earth Justice over the last few years know L'Oreal Hawkes-Williams.
L'Oreal first came to VEJ as a garden intern in 2016. Two years later, she became VEJ's contract garden program manager. Anyone who came to VEJ's Hope Garden since 2018 learned from L'Oreal and worked with her side-by-side. In 2019, L'Oreal started VEJ's Sunday Dinners program as a monthly community meal at Hope House & Garden. In 2020, L'Oreal started her own nonprofit, NEW LEAF Detroit, to teach Detroiters how to take control of their own healthy, sustainable lifestyles. VEJ contracted NEW LEAF to run its Hope Garden programs in 2020 and 2021.
L'Oreal is passionate about Earth justice, but in ways that are as practical as parenting her three children. In fact, it was her children who inspired her to start on the path that led to Voices for Earth Justice. L'Oreal was working as a Meijer cashier several years ago when she saw a news report on a national lettuce recall. That news report got her thinking about what she fed her kids. She didn't know what was in the food she gave them or where that food originated. L'Oreal resolved to learn to grow her family's food. She set out to lead her family toward self-sufficiency and sustainability.
That love for her family became L'Oreal's passion and purpose for life. She went back to school, eventually got a scholarship to get her degree at the University of Michigan, and finally led to Voices for Earth Justice and NEW LEAF Detroit.
L'Oreal's husband, Dennis, was with her every step of the way. Dennis not only worked to provide most of the financial support the family needed, he became L'Oreal's hardest-working and most loyal volunteer. Most people who ever worked at VEJ's Hope Garden would know Dennis because he often came to work alongside his wife. Whenever Dennis was at the garden with L'Oreal, their three kids, Corey, Taylor, and Dennis, Jr., were almost always working with them, too.
On December 13, 2021, Dennis suffered a massive stroke. This stroke paralyzed the left side of his body and affected his cognitive abilities.
Since Dennis is young, his doctors hope that he can make a strong recovery in time. However, the foreseeable future will be difficult in the extreme with no guarantees.
This family is living through a nightmare than any one of us would think of as our worst.
Dennis has been in the hospital since the stroke and L'Oreal has been at his side the entire time. His doctors hope to send him to a rehab facility in the near future. There is no timeline for how long he will be in rehab. However, once he goes home, he will need constant care and help for quite some time.
L'Oreal is taking on the role of Dennis's caregiver. In addition to her contract job with Voices for Earth Justice, L'Oreal also works other contract and part-time jobs to supplement the family's income. However, she is stopping work outside the home so that she can give Dennis the care he needs.
Dennis is the primary income-earner for the family and will not be able to work for a long time. L'Oreal reducing her hours or stopping some jobs altogether to care for Dennis puts the family in a very bad financial position for the foreseeable future. While Dennis recovers and L'Oreal cares for him (plus their kids!), money will not be coming in to pay for food, rent, school expenses, transportation, and utilities.
Since you know that L'Oreal teaches self-sufficiency, you may guess that she is not the kind of person to ask for help unless she really needs it.
One of L'Oreal's friends, Lakwiita Garbarini, started a GoFundMe page to raise funds to cover the Hawkes-Williams family living expenses for the next few months. L'Oreal agreed to let Lakwiita do this for her and she agreed to let me share it with you, the Voices for Earth Justice community.
So I am asking you to come alongside Dennis, L'Oreal, and their kids as they try to recover from this crisis in their lives. Out of your abilities and means, I hope you will share some of your plenty with them in their time of lesser abilities and lesser means.
Please make a generous contribution here and please spread the word.
If you have any questions or suggestions for other ways you may help, please reach out to me at (313) 355-6042 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grace and peace,
BT Irwin, Voices for Earth Justice