Ypsilanti youth arts nonprofit uses pop-up shop to fund winter coats for those in need

Elevation Youth, an Ypsilanti-based youth arts nonprofit, will host a Youth Pop-Up shopping event starting at 2 p.m. Nov. 21 at Dreamland Theatre, 26 N. Washington St. in Ypsilanti. Proceeds will be used to purchase new and gently-used coats for distribution to local families this fall and winter.

Yolanda and Keith Ragland launched Elevation Youth just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Michigan. The nonprofit offers classes to teenagers on topics from fashion to photography to jewelry-making. Class offerings are free, but in return, participants are expected to take part in a variety of community service projects, including adopting a stretch of highway to keep clean and an annual winter coat drive.

Yolanda Ragland says the organization had "a wonderful success with our summer program," with 20 youth members registering for classes in hip-hop, multimedia, and jewelry-making. Youth participants cleaned a section of highway and held a car wash in conjunction with UAW Local 3000.

"The kids showed up flawlessly each week, and we kept it COVID-free," says Keith Ragland. 

Yolanda Ragland says the group was looking for new fundraising opportunities and also wanted to branch out into entrepreneurship classes, so the idea of holding a pop-up shop with youth vendors was born during a board meeting.

The event is open not only to youth participants in Elevation Youth but also to any young vendors in the community. Elevation Youth participants who don't vend during the event can still rack up community service hours by helping with setup and breakdown. Yolanda Ragland says the public should expect to find desserts, candles, jewelry, clothing, and more. 

The organization hosted a coat donation drive last year and distributed 86 new and used coats. This year's pop-up shop proceeds will supplement another coat drive this fall. Community members can drop off new or gently-used coats to four local businesses: 734 Brewing Co., 15 E. Cross St. in Ypsilanti; Headspinners Salon, 870 Ecorse Rd. in Ypsilanti Township; Mo P's Restaurant, 2071 Golfside Rd. in Ypsilanti Township; or This, That, and ODDer Things, 50 E. Cross St. in Ypsilanti.

Keith Ragland notes that Elevation Youth is still seeking volunteers. More information about the organization, its events, and volunteer opportunities is available here.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of Elevation Youth.