Q&A with Bay City community activist Ali Smith

Born and raised in Bay City, AH-shehnri “Ali” Smith, a recent merit award recipient from the Bay County Realtor Association, has nothing but love for his community. He works at Ayre/Rhinehart Bay and is involved in numerous community activities. He volunteers for the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Bay County Realtor Association, and sits on multiple boards in the area including Bay City Downtown Management, the Bay City NAACP, and River Jordan.

Smith is an alumnus of the Real Men Wear Pink Great Lakes Bay Region Class of 2018, and the organizer of the Drink Pink & Socialize Fundraiser to benefit the American Cancer Society. Drink Pink & Socialize recently had its second annual event at VNO Wine Warehouse & New Age Restaurant.

Local real estate agent Ali Smith is involved in a wide range of community organizations.Q: How do you balance out all your work and community involvement? I imagine it keeps you quite busy!

Yes, it can be quite busy at times and challenging, but I still manage to accomplish what needs to be done and have time for family as well. It’s important. Thankfully, none of the boards or committees that I sit on schedules conflict regularly. There may be an event here and there that I may have to choose one or the other, but that’s life. Also, it’s all about choices. That just means that I have to cut some of my leisure time and I’m OK with that sacrifice.

Q: Tell me about Pink Drink & Socialize.

Drink Pink & Socialize is a fundraiser meant to bring people from all walks of life together to raise breast cancer awareness and funds for the cause. I do this in October the Sunday after the Saginaw/Bay Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. It’s kind of like a fun wrap-up of all of the October events. I came up with the idea in 2018 when I was doing the Real Men Wear Pink event. I had the idea to do a festive pink party, have some food, entertainment, and just raise awareness and raise money in that way. RMWP is a group of 20 to 25 men from the Great Lakes Bay Region who volunteer their time and resources to raise breast cancer awareness by wearing pink the entire month of October and pledging to raise a minimum of $2,500 for the American Cancer Society. I did a couple of fundraisers — Sunrise Pedal Trolley was generous enough to donate one pedal trolley for a two-hour tour and we got a group of eight people on there raising a total of $240. Also, Susan Fassbender was nice enough to host a Stick a Fork in Cancer fundraiser at the now-closed Asian Noodle. Restaurants like Old City Hall, Tavern 101, American Kitchen, G’s Pizzeria, and Washington Street Pub & Grill donated gift certificates for us to be able to stop and utilize those on our trolley ride as well. Drink Pink & Socialize was just the main idea that I had to raise the majority of the funds and the fundraiser went well. We raised about $4,700 in the first year, and in the second year we doubled that total. We made $9,621.


Q: And what inspired it?


I’ve lost a few family members and friends to cancer, but it struck me the hardest when I lost my father in 2005 shortly after being diagnosed. Cancer has stricken pretty much everybody in some type of way, whether directly or indirectly. I also have family members and friends who are survivors including a close aunt who has beaten breast cancer twice. I feel this is a great way to honor them all.

Smith serves on River Jordan, an organization devoted to helping youth who age out of the foster care system. The organization is holding a fundraiser on Fri., Dec. 13.Q: What is River Jordan, and what’s your involvement there?

I’m on the board of directors for River Jordan. It’s a non-profit organization created to help empower current and former foster care youth to take responsibility for their own individual lives and become productive members in society. We help them to make that transition after aging out and turning 18.

Q: What do you get out of all your community involvement?

For one, I get to meet and interact with genuine good-hearted like-minded people, build new relationships, and make a difference in the community that I grew up in and have grown to love. Those are some of my selfish reasons. Second, I feel that leading by example for my children and being a positive role model in the community is important to inspire them and other minority youths of future generations to pursue leadership positions. I also get joy out of helping others and like to get involved with causes that I am passionate about.


Q: What do you see as our community’s strengths?

I see rapid growth. It’s starting to change a lot from when I was a kid. I do see that as a strength. We are starting to implement new ideas and ways of thinking to attract new businesses to the area. We are also starting to engage and utilize our young professionals more and giving them a platform. Another strength is that Bay City a positive place to live and the people in our community are amazing! I witness that firsthand with the outpouring of support for the 2nd annual Pink Drink & Socialize fundraiser. Also, just through social media, you see how our community pulls together to help families and people in need.


Q: What about or community’s weaknesses?

Retaining/attracting young professionals is one and incorporating more diverse cultural events to attract more tourism to the area is another.

Q: What types of events would you like to see?

Events like Juneteenth and Cinco De Mayo that celebrate the diversity of our community. Maybe even an all-inclusive cultural festival with food, music, and art from all of the cultures that make up our great area. I’m really open to learning about any and all cultures that make up our region. It’s time we are more inclusive and celebrate what makes all of our cultures unique. Representation is essential.

Smith’s fundraiser, Drink Pink & Socialize, raised $4,700 in its first year and double that in its second year.Q: What opportunities exist now for people to get involved?

With the Bay County Realtor Association, we’re doing a hat, scarf, and mitten drive. Anybody who would like to donate to that can drop off items at 901 Saginaw Street.

Also, River Jordan is having its first Deck the River Jordan Halls Holiday Fundraiser. That’s Friday, Dec. 13 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at 3432 Kiesel Road. And that’s to bring the public out to see our new facility, learn about the services that we provide and, of course, to raise money to help out foster care youth and program.

Our Leadership Bay County Class of 2020 has selected our class project and we are eager and excited to be helping the Good Samaritan Rescue Mission here in Bay City. The Good Samaritan offers shelter, meals, and clothing to those who are in need. To donate, contact the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.