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Posted on Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Money woes threaten 18th annual Ypsilanti pre-Thanksgiving dinner

By Katrease Stafford


People gathered at Perry School in Ypsilanti for the 17th Annual Behavior Workshop Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner in 2011.

Joseph Tobianski I

A 17-year-old Ypsilanti holiday tradition is in danger of being canceled this year.

A lack of funds may prevent the serving of the annual Behavior Workshop pre-Thanksgiving dinner, organizer Tyrone Bridges said.

Bridges, who is a community activist and director of the Behavior Workshop, said event organizers are scrambling to gather funds for the dinner, which feeds hundreds of low-income families. He said it's been a struggle to put the dinner on for the past three years.

Bridges said Ypsilanti Public Schools, which owns the Perry Child Development Center, where the dinner is usually held used to waive all of the administrative fees, but no longer does.

Bridges said the district is charging $135 to use the gymnasium, $75 to use the kitchen and $84 for a food service worker. Bridges said the district is requiring him to get liability insurance,and the lowest quote he could find was about $312. Bridges said last year, he only paid $60 to the school.

Ypsilanti Public Schools Superintendent Dedrick Martin said in an email to that the district rates have been the same since 2008.

"As of today Mr. Tyrone Bridges has failed to show proper proof of insurance, and has not paid the fees associated with the use of the building," Martin said. "We do not discriminate against any organization that is interested in using our facilities as long as they abide by district policies and building use regulations."

Altogether, including what is owed to the school and food, Bridges said the event costs close to $1,000.

"I feel bad because every year I pay out of my pocket," Bridges said. "I feel like I would be punishing the public if I pulled it. I talked to (Superintendent) Dedrick Martin and he just wasn’t hearing it. He said they couldn't waive the fees. We didn’t expect to go through this many hoops."

He said he can't afford to pay for the dinner out of his own pocket every year.

Bridges acknowledged Ypsilanti schools has been a partner for many years and he understands the financial duress it is under as it begins to navigate the process of merging with the Willow Run. Bridges said he has turned his attention to reaching out to other community partners.


Serving food during the 17th Annual Behavior Workshop Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner in 2011 are Kory Grimbs of Ypsilanti, Tajon West of Ypsilanti, Betty Frierson of Ypslianti, and Washtenaw Community College culinary arts student Rania McClellan of Ypsilanti.

Joseph Tobianski I

"We're kind of stuck," Bridges said. "We don't want to look like the bad guys, but we need contributions."

Bridges said he looked at possibly moving the event to the Parkridge Community Center, but it wouldn't work because the center is not equipped with a commercial kitchen.

Bridges said the food has just about been covered by donations from Food Gatherers and once again, the Washtenaw Community College Culinary Arts department has agreed to cook all of the food free of charge.

"We get tons of food, but no cash donations," he said. "When you don’t get cash it becomes a burden."

In previous years, the event has seen as many as 350 individuals and families come out for the dinner. Bridges said the number of people searching for meals around this time of the year continues to grow. Bridges said for the first time last year, a group home participated in the event as well as several children who attend Ypsilanti Public Schools.

"It's touching to see the faces of people grinning like they're opening a gift," Bridges said. "It's just like a family reunion with all hands on deck. It's a wonderful atmosphere and it's something to see."

The event is tentatively set for Nov. 15 from 4:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., and Bridges said he isn't sure if the district plans to set a deadline for when the funds are due.

"It's been a major necessity for the city," he said. "I’m pretty sure someone out there can help. We really don’t want to pull the dinner. I'm caught between a rock and a hard place because I'm trying to keep it going."

Bridges said there are individuals who have attended every single year and he's afraid of the impact this would have on their morale as they continue to push through financial struggles.

"It allows us to give them all of the bells and whistles that they can't afford to purchase," he said. "This dinner needs to happen."

Across the city, other dinners and drives are being held for Thanksgiving:

  • Holy Trinity Student Parish in Ypsilanti will hold a community Thanksgiving meal at 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the social hall of the church, 511 W. Forest Ave.. The church is having a traditional turkey dinner. Contact: 734-482-1400.
  • SOS Community Services will be providing homeless families with a turkey this holiday season. Families had to be registerd by Nov. 1, but the food pantry will be open Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monetary donations can be made to the SOS Administration Office at 101 S. Huron St.. All food and items can be delivered to the Housing Center at 114 North River St., on Nov. 14 between 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.



Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 5:32 p.m.

It is understandable that the Ypsilanti Public Schools is trying to make more money, especially when educational budgets are decreasing, but they could at least make an exception for the SOS Thanksgiving dinner. Tyrone Bridges, who coordinates the dinner every year, does such a good service to the community, bringing people together and providing for them at a time of giving, and so why can't the school system help to make things easier? Increasing the cost just makes things harder on Bridge, which makes things harder for anyone who benefits from this event. He pays for this event out of his own pocket, and it is such a good cause that so many--including myself--would say it is the Ypsilanti school system's duty to help in any way possible.

Julie Baker

Mon, Nov 12, 2012 : 11:32 p.m.

Tyrone Bridges told me today that the event is still on, from 4:45-7:45 Thursday.


Sat, Nov 10, 2012 : 12:01 p.m., will do you a follow up /Update on this story?


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

The person to contact is Tyrone Bridges at 734/444-4841. I did and am waiting for him to come by my workplace as I have a check ready for him. I have a legitimate receipt that he sent me via email and he will sign it. It's all on the up and up!


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

The organizations name is Behavior Workshop (BWs) and they bank with Citizens Bank, I am sure they will accept your donation if you want to drop them off. Or you can mail them to: Behavior Workshop (BWs) c/o Annual Pre-Thanksgiving Community Dinner, P.O. Box 980731, Ypsilanti, Michigan 48198 or contact the Program Coordinator Tyrone Bridges at (734) 444-4841 or email


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 3:29 p.m.

Has he tried WedSafe insurance? They do events as well as weddings. Very affordable.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

What kind of country do we live in? $6 billion is spent on a presidential election and a Thanksgiving dinner costing $1000 for 350 needy folks held in a school gymnasium has to be cancelled. I guess the multi-millionaires are pretty busy fueling their private jets these days.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

Your president spent over 1/2 of that and I fueled his jet! Blame the president not the working rich as you refer to them, go to China if you have a problem with Capatilism that's the system we have! Love it or leave it!


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

I agree with the school district, policies are there to be enforced. It's not as if these people are starving, it's just another free meal. A civilized society lives under rules not exceptions. If it sounds harsh , then think about the middle class they are really going to be taxed unfairly. Think about the unborn child getting all that Chinese debt, is that right?


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

Ron, I am in agreement with you. Tyrone Bridges should pull the event from that venue and hold it somewhere else. I don't think one dime should be paid to the school district for this event. However, at this late date it might not be a good thing to try and move it. I WOULD NOT hold the dinner at the school next year. The school District should be ashamed of themselves. In the meantime, let's come together as a community and make it work this year.

Katrease Stafford

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

Individuals interested in donating or receiving more information can contact Tyrone Bridges directly at 734-444-4841.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

It saddens me as a tax payer in the school district to see how open hearted the district can be. For them to pull something like this at the wrong time is just sickening. Let's try to put our heads together as a community and raise the money. BUT let's do it some where that the school dostrict does not own. If they can't open their hearts to the people of the community for something so good, then why should we work hard to raise the funds and then give it to the district. I bet we could find another spot to hold it some where close to town with the type of kitchen needed and having the kitchen use donated for a special cause. Ypsilanti School District, this one is for you. For you to come up with this type of thing at this very moment looks like you are not kind hearted. And you expect the tax payers to approve a take increase when you need it for school functioning? Forget it. You want extra money for something, you may as well reach deep down into your own pockets because I for one don't think you deserve any money if you can't for one day open the doors for a good cause to see a bunch of smiling faces and knowing you did a good thing and made quite a few people happy by putting a nice warm meal in their stomachs. Maybe I will start looking for a place to buy close to a school if possible to hold something like this and be able to snub my nose up to you just like you did to these poor folks.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

everything costs.u don't have the bucks you can't do it.It's that simple.I would think that a business an individual, or several of each should be able to raise the money for this worthy event.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 3:51 p.m.

I thought the government took care of all our needs??


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.'t you think there is some vital information missing in this article? No contact phone number, no information on how one might contribute money?


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

Please update the story and tell how the community can contribute. I also would prefer if Ann or a bank was the drop off point for donations.

Morris Thorpe

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

This strikes me as particularly sad after seeing the vulgar amounts money spent during the campaign season. I donated $0 to political campaigns. Would be happy to use that money for this cause instead.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

Yes. If would serve as a conduit, I'm sure the public would find the money.

Susan Montgomery

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 11:46 a.m.

Any word on how one could donate?