Rodnesha Ross started her nonprofit to bring art to Detroit students. She found her passion helping those who felt forgotten.

DETROIT, MI — Harriett Holmes, 35, heard of Rodnesha Ross and her Youth Community Agency nonprofit through her sister last year. At the time, the mother of four did not consider herself to be someone who needed the organization’s services. A year later, that abruptly changed.

“I was living with some people and they put me and my kids out,” Holmes said to The ‘Gander.

Suddenly, she had nothing. Holmes and children—Azmire (11), Jayshon (10), Christian (9), and Inspire (8)—had been living with family friends. She later learned they were abusing her children when she worked her shifts as a manager at a local Burger King. 

Shortly after she paid her rent one month last year, she was evicted. Her former friends moved away, using her rent money to fund their next venture.

“I felt stupid,” she said. “I felt numb.”

Holmes and her children moved in with her sister who suggested they contact Ross and YCA. They helped her secure housing, clothing, food, and social security cards for her children.

“I was a little nervous at first, but my sister said she’s [Ross] really good and to put my faith in her,” Holmes said. “And sure enough, she helped me. She’s a blessing.”

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‘God Put it on My Heart’

Ross founded her nonprofit in 2013 with the hopes of bringing art to Detroit’s public school students. She quickly saw a need within the schools that she felt she could fill.

“God put it on my heart to give a little bit more attention to a group that I felt was swept up under the rug a bit,” Ross told The ‘Gander.

In the early days of her Youth Community Agency (YCA) nonprofit, Ross met a high school student who became pregnant as a result of an abusive relationship. The teenager felt she had no options other than to drop out of school and hide her condition. Ross says she felt like she should help.

Since then, YCA has assisted 300 teenage mothers and their families with diapers, clothing, life-skills training, housing, and mentoring, with Ross meeting more women and girls in need of assistance each day.

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Trials Breed Bigger Blessings

When Ross met Holmes, YCA had a $0 annual budget. She sourced donations from her personal network to assist teenage mothers and families in need for the first five years of the nonprofit’s existence. During that time, YCA established annual events like Hotdogs for Hope—an event where lunches, hygiene kits, and resources are given to less fortunate families in Detroit’s Cass Corridor area in Midtown.

Then, the coronavirus attacked everything she once knew to be normal.

“I had no idea what was happening, nobody knew it would be to this capacity,” Ross said. “So, I started doing more research about what we’d do to sustain during the pandemic.”

Her research paid off to the tune of $20,000 in grants and donations to assist low-income families and teenage mothers. Wayne Metro Community Action Agency, DTE Foundation

and the United Way of Southeastern Michigan made major donations to the group.

“This is our first year having a budget so we have a goal of helping over 200 families,” Ross said. “I always tell people this has been a passion and faith walk for over five years. This is a blessing.”

YCA will host a COVID-19 resource giveaway on Saturday, Sept. 12. Families in need can apply for support at The giveaway location will be given to registered families only.

YCA accepts donations for ongoing services and support via PayPal and Cash App: $youthcommunityagency.

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