Children are one of our most vulnerable populations, and they’re also our future. It’s critical that we do everything we can to raise strong, confident, considerate kids. However, that’s often easier said than done, especially when the children come from households where there’s been serious abuse and neglect.

Enter Love Centers, a non-profit dedicated to reaching Metro Detroit’s hurting children and building lasting relationships with them. The organization uses the creative arts as a platform to encourage children to express themselves, build their confidence, and explore their creativity.

It’s the brainchild of Joseph Savalle, a Macomb native, who experienced firsthand the healing power of music. Savalle explained that when he moved back to Metro Detroit, he wasn’t happy in his day job and dreamed of doing more.

“I realized going through tough times in my life that music was an escape for me. I was better able to express myself through the arts than I was through anything else.”

However, the idea for Love Centers didn’t really take shape until he saw how music affected children. “I was actually in India where there were a bunch of orphans performing a song for us. And I realized that there was my vision in front of me: working with music and working with kids to give them something they really deserve.”

Savalle brought that vision back to Detroit and founded Love Centers. The non-profit works with two local organizations, Orchard Family Services and the Macomb County Health Clinic, to identify children who would benefit most from the Love Centers program.

Love Centers only works with underprivileged or foster care children between the ages of six and 16 who are victims of severe abuse or neglect. Abandoned children also fall into this category. These children have no foreseeable future. Savalle estimates that without specialized help and support, 60 percent of them will drop out of high school and likely find their way to drug and alcohol abuse.

The children who are chosen go through a 10-month long musical program. They first go through a week-long summer camp that exposes them to different events and situations. Volunteer staff review each child based on his or her week at summer camp and determine which elements of the program would provide the greatest benefit. This way, each child receives a program tailored to his or her specific situation.

After the summer camp, the kids are enrolled in a six-month long music or dance program, during which they attend studio or dance sessions regularly. At the end of that six-month program, the kids start a three-month mentorship program that focuses on life skills and helps the kids self-identify and express themselves. During this program, the children work one-on-one with a mentor, but they also wok in groups, where they get to talk about their situations.

It’s not about giving kids music lessons, though. Savalle explained, “We’re not trying to teach kids music. It’s more about the one-on-one attention that these kids are looking for. All of our mentors are trained and equipped to help these kids.”

The Love Centers model is unique in that the organization emphasizes its relationship to the children. “We’re not an average charity who asks for money and once a year we help a massive group of children and never see them again. We prefer quality over quantity. We’d prefer to help 100 kids dramatically change their lives instead of 1,000 kids and never see them again.”

Savalle has definitely hit on something. The children who go through the Love Centers program emerge with a new outlook and a new attitude. According to Savalle, “Most of the kids have behaviorial issues. They come to us diagnosed with anger, depression, anxiety. Most are on medication to change their behaviors. We realized that their behavior changes after the program, and we can give that information to their counselors and doctors who can legally change their diagnosis and medication.”

If you want to help support Love Centers in its mission to transform underprivileged children’s lives, you can either donate to the organization or join its ranks as a volunteer. For more information about donating or volunteering, click here.

Savalle explained, “We’re tyring to rebuild a sense of hope for these kids who want to pursue the life they’ve been given. Most of these kids don’t know anything but torment and terror. We try to rebuild value where value is stolen.”

Love Centers has taken on one of the most difficult challenges that has huge potential to change Metro Detroit’s future. At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids.

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