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Mike Riehls
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Grosse Pointe Farms resident Emily Alber works with children housed at COTS. Photo courtesy of Emily Alber

December 13, 2012
Emily Alber does more than talk about donating. She walks the walk, makes the connections and totes the donations. And she is asking Grosse Pointers to do the same — make contributions.

For the entire month of December, Alber of Grosse Pointe Farms, is collecting contributions and transporting them to Coalition on Temporary Shelter as part of her project ­— Donate December.

"I'm encouraging people in Grosse Pointe to make donations to COTS. This is a call to action, to do this year 'round," said the Grosse Pointe South High School graduate.

And it's a perfect month because so many people are donating and thinking about year-end donations, she added.

"I care very much for people. I learned to give without expecting anything in return," Alber said.

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While a student at South, Alber learned, through her friends, about co-COTS which, as she explained, is a bridge between students and COTS and an idea she would like to reinstate at South.

"That's how I knew about co-COTS. I didn't officially become involved (with COTS), but I did get involved doing stuff with my family. We did sponsor families through church. My grandmother was a volunteer at SOC and we did Meals on Wheels."

Choosing COTS as her donation focus came about because she witnessed how COTS staff treated their clients.

"It is all about preserving dignity and helping people rehabilitate. As a former hotel supervisor, I was always concerned with our guests and their overall experience. Trish DeWald (COTS development coordinator) feels the same way about her guests at the shelter," she said. "COTS had every component to a non-profit that I wanted to support. It's high impact, has a great Head Start program, drug and alcohol counseling and has requirements for those who stay."

Alber said new clients are cleaned up and provided a safe environment.

It seems Alber's goal has been to take care of people.

After high school she followed a path of serving people by working at Sunrise Assisted Living and in the Boston hospitality industry. Moving back to Grosse Pointe in 2010, Alber said she spent a lot of time looking for work and networking.

"I decided to design a project that would help me occupy my time. I wanted to share my resources, support my friends that are in the non-profit sector and to engage the community in something big during the holiday season so I started Donate December," she said. "I put my idea out there by creating a Facebook group and page, called up everyone I knew who were in the position to donate and the donations started rolling in — money clothing, toiletries, office supplies; so many donations I had to borrow SUVs to drive them all down weekly to the shelter."

She said she accepts any kind of donation for COTS clothing, money and furniture. However, the focus of Alber and her best friend, Leah Schroeder of Troy, is twofold.

She would like an individual or company to take over supplying toiletries to COTS' guests and to replace the beds at the temporary shelter.

"Last year my mom's law firm, Crimando & Cleland P.C. in Mount Clemens, supplied the toiletries. I want to continue that," Alber said. "I found a website to buy quality items in bulk."

Her father's law firm, Alber Crafton PSC in Troy, has taken on the responsibility of supplying toiletries as a company project this year. Next year, she would like to find a new sponsor.

To help purchase new furniture, Alber and Schroeder have created Best Friends Buy Beds for the Homeless annual fundraiser and birthday party in February held at a yet-to-be-determined local restaurant.

"Watch for that event in February of 2013. This is a great way to get involved," Alber said.

Cash donations can be given through her website citizeneffect.org/users/1907. Alber can be contacted to pick up donations at donate.detroit!gmail.com. She can provide receipts for the donations.

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