Temple group helps adults in transition

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published August 21, 2019

 Courtney Palen, Grace Centers of Hope director of education and career development, right, helps Emily, who received her GED diploma July 29, celebrate her achievement.

Courtney Palen, Grace Centers of Hope director of education and career development, right, helps Emily, who received her GED diploma July 29, celebrate her achievement.

Photo provided by Grace Centers of Hope

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TROY — Emily, 32, is getting a new mindset through the life skills program offered through Grace Centers of Hope, a nonprofit shelter in Pontiac — with the plan to stay on a good path, free of the addiction, homelessness, domestic violence and incarceration that she had experienced in Wichita, Kansas.

On July 29, she was awarded her GED diploma, with help from sponsorship funds and tutors from the Bharatiya Temple of Metropolitan Detroit SEVA, which stands for Society Enrichment through Volunteer Activities.

“I felt like crying,” said Emily, who requested that her last name not be used for this story.

Courtney Palen, Grace Centers of Hope director of education and career development, explained that clients come to Grace Centers of Hope in a number of ways, including via the court system.

“We are so grateful for the SEVA sponsors,” Palen said, noting that SEVA has sponsored 12 GED students with the supplies needed to pass the GED tests. She explained that SEVA sponsorship paid for four GED tests at $37.50 each and prep materials — a book, practice tests and a calculator.

Palen said the one-year life skills program through Grace Centers of Hope serves, on average, 135 men, women and children each year.

Bela Shah, co-chair of SEVA at Bharatiya Temple, is a psychiatrist who said she understands the challenges of battling addiction and recovery.

She said that SEVA aims to provide financial and physical help to the underserved in the community.

SEVA’s projects have included:

• Providing winter clothes and basic essentials for the South Oakland Shelter.

• Sorting, packing and delivering clothes and food items to Extended Hands, a nonprofit organization that supports the homeless and underprivileged.

• Donating laptops and books to The Children’s Center in Detroit.

• Delivering school supplies to Harrington Elementary School in Pontiac.

• Donating books to The Front Porch, an after-school activity center for Detroit schoolchildren.

• Donating 80 shirts for Heart2Hart Detroit for homeless men.

• Supporting Oakland Family Services’ foster care program by providing backpacks with school supplies for middle school and high school children.

“We started reaching out to different agencies to identify people who are struggling through their lives and help them make further progress in life,” Shah said.

She explained that the temple members support SEVA’s efforts. IBM also awarded SEVA a $2,000 grant.

“We’re constantly scouting for worthy causes,” she said. “Our hope is to grow.”

Emily has a few more months in the life skills program. She plans to focus on getting a job, then plans to pursue studies to become a paramedic, because she believes she would be good at helping others.

“I actually achieved something,” Emily said of earning her GED. “Doors will open.”

For more information on Grace Centers of Hope, visit gracecentersofhope.org.

For more information about SEVA at Bharatiya Temple, visit bharatiya-temple.org/seva.

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