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Toni McIlwain announces her retirement; plans to keep fighting for Detroit non-profits

October 31 2013 | no comments

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What’s the value of a life’s work?

In Toni McIlwain’s case, it’s much more than the few dollars that the sale of furnishings and fixtures of a community center  will bring in.  What Toni McIlwain has given to the Ravendale Community  over 32 years is the true measure of this champion for Detroit.

“It’s hard, you know, it’s been my life,” McIlwaine told Detroit 2020.

McIlwain has made the difficult decision to retire as head of Ravendale Community, Inc., the non-profit she founded.  Ravendale Community Center will close its doors to for good on November 15th.

“Ravendale has been a haven, this building has been a haven for them,” said McIlwain. “They come in. They feel safe. They feel comfortable and they feel wanted.”

85 percent of residents of the lower east side community live at or below the poverty line.  Two thirds of them do not own a car so access to Ravendale–for tutoring and educational programs, computer literacy, and job referral resources–has been a lifeline.  It’s also been a home for seniors and kids.

“I’ve prayed about it, I’ve thought about it, I’ve cried about it, I’ve smiled about it,” McIlwain said of her decision.

Approaching her 66th birthday and with no successor coming forward to take over the essential and tough job of fundraising—she’s closing this chapter of her life.

“It’s a job that has to come from the heart and it’s a job where you have to love the people unconditionally, no matter who they are,” she said.

Still, McIlwain will tell you she’s not the retiring type.  She plans to give voice to other non-profits so they have an easier time than she had helping those who need it most.

“We’re falling apart. Detroit is falling apart, you know, and they can’t keep doing it the way they’ve been doing it,” said McIlwaine.  “I’m going to be out there fighting and hopefully I can bend some ears and make some changes for the city of Detroit.”

Count on it.

A retirement celebration is planned for Saturday, Nov. 2 to honor Toni McIlwain for her service to the community. It will be held from 5:30 to 11 p.m. at the American Serbian Memorial Hall, located at 19940 Van Dyke in Detroit.  Tickets are $25 and are available at the door.  For more information, call (313) 527-1603.


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