Meet Hilltop View’s New Social Worker!

Hello Everyone!
Spring is almost here and change is in the air!

Over the past few years, many people have worked together to get to this point – and it is finally here – Hilltop View Apartments in Dexter will be open by April! Springtime is a fitting season for this new beginning as twenty-four households are blooming into a new and exciting chapter in their lives.

I am thrilled to introduce FIA’s newest social worker, Bennice C. Byles. Bennice was hired in February to begin onboarding as the primary Social Worker providing supportive services at Hilltop View Apartments.

Prior to joining FIA, Bennice worked in social work for 12 years.  She has worked in both inpatient and outpatient facilities, working with conditions of comorbidity, mental health, substance use disorder, and addiction. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Michigan State University and her Master’s Degree in Social Work at Eastern Michigan.

“I decided to go into social work specifically because of my passion for people,” explains Bennice. “I have a passion for all people and not just one specific race, class, gender, sex, or otherwise identified.”

In addition to planning and growth at FIA, many community members and groups have generously donated to furnishing the apartments in preparation for new residents. Many-many thanks to all who are helping! We’re humbled and grateful to see that the list is long.

Local veteran Jim Dempsey and his wife, Jane, are not only furnishing an apartment, but Jim has also coordinated the veteran groups in their efforts to outfit the living spaces. The veteran groups include,

  • American Legion, Post 46
  • Viet Nam Veterans of America, Chapter 310
  • Ladies Auxiliary of American Legion, Post 557
  • Roger and Chris Gatward
  • VFW Post 423

The Knights of Columbus groups in Dexter, Chelsea, and Ypsilanti have given money for the veterans’ apartments, as well as private donors. State and local veterans’ groups have also donated funds for the veterans. The Veterans Administration and FIA will use this money for additional needs the veterans may have, such as clothing.

The nine housing insecure apartments are being furnished by,

  • Dexter Rotary Club
  • Dexter United Methodist Church
  • Chelsea First United Methodist Church
  • St. James Episcopal Church
  • Former FIA Director Nancy Paul’s family and friends
  • LaFontaine Chevrolet in Dexter
  • Dexter United Methodist Women of the Word
  • Webster United Church of Christ

Other mentions:

  • Dexter Lions are providing funds for a commercial freezer and refrigerator for the new food pantry. The local Lions Club obtained funding from Lions International for bedding.
  • St. Joseph Parish is donating money to help stock the pantry.
  • Dexter Family Services is providing household items such as shower curtains, towels, and other bathroom supplies.
  • Philanthropic Education Organizations of Dexter and Chelsea

Dexter Community Schools are also getting involved:

  • DHS Key Club is providing cleaning supplies.
  • Mill Creek Middle School CS&L is providing trash containers and other household needs.
  • Student Councils at Creekside and Wylie are also providing support.

In a report to the Dexter City Council, FIA Associate Director, Sarah Shugart, succinctly said, “It is clear you don’t have to look very far to find someone in this community who is helping,” Shugart told the Council.

Shugart also passed along a message from someone moving into one of the income-based apartments.

“Tell them all ‘Thank You.’ I know it wasn’t easy, but I don’t think they will ever know how much this means to me and my health. But let them know this is so great!”

It has been a long few years, but the FIA staff and our community partners are deeply appreciative of the support and advocacy we experienced over the years and in recent months. We know this is important work and we are glad to see that the community knows it too. On a daily basis, we see how impactful and helpful the work of FIA is for the community, and we are glad to be part of it.

With excitement and gratitude,

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