Tribute gala to honor three 'Sparks of Light'

Life Directions, Detroit’s peer-to-peer mentor organization, will host its 44th Annual “Spark of Hope” Tribute Gala fund-raiser at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, at the GM Wintergarden in the Renaissance Center. Lear Corp. is this year’s “Spark of Hope” presenting sponsor.
The “Spark of Hope” Tribute event will include dinner, a silent auction and entertainment.  

A number of alumni of Life Directions’ Youth Board and Peer Mentors also will be recognized.  All proceeds from the event will support Life Directions. 

“This year’s event will honor three outstanding citizens from the Detroit community who have done much to benefit and make a positive impact on the young people of the City of Detroit,” said Fr. John Phelps, CEO of Life Directions. “Both have ‘gone the extra mile’ for young people in Detroit time and again.”  

Joan Duggan will receive the Life Directions Lifetime Achievement Award.  

Early in Life Directions’ history, she served as the organization’s first Development Director. She gave her time, considerable effort, and talent to put in place the solid foundation for Life Directions’ sustained success, growth and ongoing service to the community over the past 44 years. 

Duggan is the mother of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the wife of retired U.S. District Judge Patrick Duggan. 

Frank Venegas Jr., of the Ideal Group, has been chosen to receive the Life Directions Guiding Light Award. 

He has been a role model for young people and actively engaged in giving back to the community in Southwest Detroit. His company’s success provides an example of the potential and a beacon of hope to the community of Southwest Detroit. 

The Co-founders’ Sustainability Award will be given to Gerald F. Diez, chief executive officer of Delaco Steel Corp, and his family for their profound impact on the sustainability of Life Directions.  

April Diez has served as the lifeline that supported Life Directions with their time, talent and generous contributions during the financial meltdown that hit Detroit. 

“We’re delighted and honored to provide recognition for the considerable impact Joan and Frank and the Diez family have made through their many years of selfless support to the community and City of Detroit. Their efforts stand as examples to us all and underscore the limitless possibilities for our youth,” said Fr. Phelps. “We’re also most grateful for all our sponsors and especially for Lear Corp., our presenting sponsor.

Without their involvement, leadership and support this event and our work would not be possible.” 

Dropping out of school and into crime is a problem that can be solved and Life Directions has been part of the solution by empowering young people to be self-responsible and to challenge their peers.  

Recognizing that more than 60 percent of young people who drop out of high school do so during or before 9th grade, Life Directions works with at-risk 8th-graders to ensure they make it through 10th grade and on to graduation. 

Since 1974, more than 85,000 Detroit students and young adults have received Life Directions’ support and reinforcement through a unique “peers inspiring peers” approach. 

“We know the strong positive impact Life Directions has made on the young people and communities we serve, and we know the continuing need.

We’re humbled and honored to receive the support and contributions of people like Joan Duggan, Frank Venegas, and our generous sponsors,” said Phelps.  “Without them, Life Directions would not be possible.”


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