In fashion: Court workers display style in annual holiday project

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By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

While the holiday season is still a few weeks away, scores of employees at the U.S. District Court in Detroit already have gotten dolled up for the occasion as part of a project to benefit area children.

For the third straight year, federal court workers have dressed dolls for the Detroit Goodfellows to distribute in holiday gift boxes to needy children in Detroit, Harper Woods, Highland Park, River Rouge, and Hamtramck during the yuletide, according to Julie Owens, case manager generalist/case coordinator for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Some 90 dolls, sporting a variety of custom made outfits and creative themes, recently were on display in the lobby of the 5th floor training room of the downtown courthouse, Owens indicated.

“The project has grown each year and I was absolutely overwhelmed with the participation this year,” said Owens, who has worked for the U.S. District Court for the past two decades. “We had 41 people, women and men, take part in this year’s project. It was very heartening to see so many people get involved for such a good cause.”

Owens, who in years past has worked for federal judges Avern Cohn and Gerald Rosen, said she was inspired to launch the project in 2015 after working on a similar holiday effort sponsored by FEW (Federally Employed Women), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting equality for females in the federal workforce.

“We dressed up 40 dolls the first year, so this year’s number has more than doubled that,” Owens said.

Kim Grimes, case manager supervisor for the U.S. District Court in Detroit, also has helped spearhead the project that has “spread the holiday spirit” across the federal courthouse.

“With each year, we are seeing more of a friendly competition among participants,” said Grimes, a 38-year veteran of the federal court. “People are going all out in terms of the styles, outfits, and accessories for the dolls. It’s been great to see the diversity of the dolls – Muslim, Hispanic, African American, Caucasian – and the creativity that everyone has showed. It gets better every year.”

The Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund of Detroit is a “103-year-old charity founded in 1914 by James J. Brady whose mission is to ensure that there is ‘No Kiddie without a Christmas,” according to David Ashenfelter, public information officer for the U.S. District Court.

The website for the Detroit Goodfellows notes that each holiday “box is stuffed with an array of books, warm clothing, dental kits, toys and candy, but since 1924, the carefully and imaginatively dressed dolls given to little girls aged 5–9 have brought the boxes real razzle-dazzle.”

For those participating in this year’s project, the joy of bringing light into the life of area children is particularly meaningful.

“We know the need is great around the Detroit area and we want to make sure that we continue to do our part to help make the holidays a little brighter for the children in this community,” said Owens.

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