Dwayne Wilcox, 23, left, and Andrew Sanders, 22, work at the Full Circle Foundation’s Upscale Resale Shop Sept. 26.

Dwayne Wilcox, 23, left, and Andrew Sanders, 22, work at the Full Circle Foundation’s Upscale Resale Shop Sept. 26.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Full Circle Foundation celebrates 10-year anniversary

Annual gala set for Nov. 7

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published October 1, 2019

GROSSE POINTE PARK — Anyone perusing Full Circle Foundation’s Upscale Resale Shop on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons is sure to receive a warm welcome from Dwayne Wilcox.

Wilcox, 23, is in the store three days a week working the cash register as customers shop for women’s and men’s clothing, jewelry, shoes, coats, men’s ties, knickknacks, artwork and more. Hours of operation are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays. The store is closed Sundays.

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, Wilcox heads to his filing job at Bob Maxey Lincoln Inc. in Detroit. In between, Wilcox is in class. The Full Circle Foundation, located at 17006 Mack Ave. in Grosse Pointe Park, is a nonprofit organization that serves, fosters and nurtures young adults with special needs ages 18-26.

The foundation, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, houses a number of programs in which the students gain their independence, learn several life skills and find jobs in the community. The young adults develop cooking skills, do laundry, receive tips on how to get along in the workplace, maintain a paper-shredding business and more. Students also sell clothing online through eBay and PoshMark.

In addition, students find employment in the community. This past summer, for example, a group of students worked the concession stand at the Grosse Pointe Shores Osius Municipal Park. Students also have held jobs at Ace Hardware, Beaumont Hospital, Biggby Coffee and Ascension St. John Hospital.

Schooling is also an important component, as Full Circle incorporates a Community Campus program composed of two Grosse Pointe Public School System classrooms. The Circle remains strong with a board of directors and an advisory committee. About 25 students are in the school program with another 15 in the Team 26 program, which offers a curriculum that includes both training and education.

Director of Operations Sue Banner said Full Circle began a decade ago when a group of people sold clothing inside a hallway at Grosse Pointe North High School, located in Grosse Pointe Woods.

“We have been able to remain a constant for many of these kids,” she said.

Ted Coutilish has been a volunteer for several years, and two months ago was named Full Circle Foundation executive director.

“I love it. The love you get through your time, your efforts and your skills is returned in the appreciation and the love the kids give you,” he said. “They gain real-world experience. The whole idea is to get them to live independently or in a group home with others. The community has been so supportive of this organization.”

Coutilish has dedicated his life to special needs, as his son Andrew, 18, has autism and fragile X syndrome. Fragile X syndrome is a genetic condition that causes a range of developmental problems, including learning disabilities and cognitive impairment. Coutilish said that his son is a senior at North and will attend Full Circle next year.

During spring and summer, students take care of the “Edible Garden,” which grows vegetables and flowers that are then sold in the community.

“I love it,” Kevin Sperry said of the garden. “It’s a great experience. I like the wonderful atmosphere and the sun shining. It’s cool.”

Sperry, who also works at Bob Maxey Lincoln Inc., is known as the classroom comedian.

“He tells great jokes,” Coutilish said. “It’s natural.”

Something Sperry, 23, displayed in class recently was his piece, “Hotel Burrito California,” a parody of the Eagles’ “Hotel California.”


Coming Full Circle
To operate, the Full Circle Foundation receives grant money and private donations. Proceeds from the upscale resale shop go back into the program.

The nonprofit also will get some financial help with its annual gala. This year’s benefit — An Evening Under the Stars — will take place from 6 to 10:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Roostertail, 100 Marquette Drive in Detroit.

Tickets cost $175 each and include an open bar, a sit-down dinner, an auction and entertainment. The students will entertain with songs during the evening. Student Yarnell Waller, 23, has been tapped to sing “Amazing Grace.”

“It’s the second time they invited me back again, and I’m honored,” said Waller, a Community Campus student. “I can say I have matured a lot. It shows me I’m not just this teenager in a wheelchair; you’re an adult now. Grow up and make good decisions.”

Waller was among the students who worked at the concession stand this past summer.

“It was just a privilege,” he said. “You’re giving someone a hot dog knowing you’re going to make their day, bringing them a smile.”

Waller also is an associate minister at a local baptist church.

“It’s one of the biggest accomplishments in my life,” he said. “You’re going to be able to lift people up. You can give people kind words. You can give God.”

“I’ve seen him in action,” Banner said. “He’s inspiring.”
Evie Ansell will again be at this year’s gala.
“I love it. It’s such an awesome night,” Ansell said. “We celebrate the kids. We celebrate the donors. It’s a chance for everyone to get dressed up.”
Her daughter Julia, a 2017 graduate of Grosse Pointe South High School, has autism and participates in Full Circle.

“It’s such a great environment,” Ansell said. “The kids are fabulous. The whole program is so purposeful. It gives a community for the kids to be a part of.”

Gala tickets can be purchased at the Full Circle building. For ticket information, call (313) 469-6666 or visit fullcirclefdn.org.