Angela Reyes, DHDC’s Executive Director, had been working with youth in Southwest Detroit since she was a teenager in the 1970s and founded the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation in her living room in 1997 because she “was tired of burying children.”
A few other folks and I were working with young adults who were in gangs during a time when our community was experiencing a lot of violence and death,” Reyes said. “Many of these young adults were parents and didn’t want the same life for their children and also wanted to make sure they would be around for their children, so they were ready to talk about doing something different with their lives.”
With Devil’s Night, 1997 approaching, the late Rev. Robert Duggan, pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church, agreed to host a meeting of the leaders. Fr. Duggan, then-Detroit Police Chief Isaiah McKinnon, and gang leaders gathered in the Fr. Gabriel Richard Chapel of St. Anne’s. “Fr. Duggan was very much a social justice pastor who was concerned and interested in the community. He believed young people could make other choices and turn their lives around.” Many of the young adults agreed to “retire” from gang life in return for jobs in local Hispanic-owned manufacturing companies.
DHDC Was Born
What resulted was the DHDC’s Gang Retirement and Continuing Education and Employment program. “We partnered with the owners of the Hispanic Manufacturing Center (HMC), which had moved into the abandoned GM plant on Clark Street. A number of young people who had been rivals became co-workers and friends,” said Reyes. “It set the groundwork for significant change in our community where we no longer had the same level of violence.” Fr. Duggan became one of the founding board members along with several others, including Carmen Munoz and Frank Venegas, two of the owners at the HMC who helped get DHDC up and running.”
DHDC moved to 1211 Trumbull Street in Corktown in 2001 since the building was in “neutral territory”. This 28,000 sq. ft. building, formerly Fife Electric, has been transformed into a multi-service community center where over 5,000 youth and adults come every year for programs.
DHDC’s Mission & Vision
DHDC’s mission is to make a difference by creating life-changing opportunities for youth and their families. We are committed to meeting the needs of our community by providing quality, innovative, and culturally appropriate services, primarily in Southwest Detroit.
Our vision is to create a stable and safe community where youth and families have quality opportunities for self-empowerment, education, and personal wealth.