‘Can Do’ autistic teen belies stereotypes

Photo by Sue Suchyta Autistic teen Dillon Marshall-Alley of Lincoln Park delivers food that he collected for Blessed Hope Food Pantry as part of his “Can Do” drive. He hopes to teach others that autism does not limit what he can do.

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Autistic teen Dillon Marshall-Alley of Lincoln Park delivers food that he collected for Blessed Hope Food Pantry as part of his “Can Do” drive. He hopes to teach others that autism does not limit what he can do.

Food drive helps Blessed Hope Food Pantry

By SUE SUCHYTA
Downriver Sunday Times

LINCOLN PARK – Inspired by his “can do” philosophy, autistic teen Dillon Marshall-Alley of Lincoln Park hopes to change perceptions about autism while helping others with projects like his recent food drive.

He delivered a pickup truck bed full of food June 5 to Blessed Hope Food Pantry, 3804 Hazel Avenue. No newcomer to volunteering, Marshall-Alley collected and distributed fleece blankets and socks for at-risk veterans Downriver last November. He has also initiated toy and cereal drives for local charities.

Marshall-Alley said he collected food donations from his school, Lincoln Park High School, and from area businesses and organizations. He also purchased shelf-stable foods with cash donations he received.

The Dearborn Agency, an area insurance company, had a collection box on-site, and the Shielded Souls, a law enforcement motorcycle club, collected food for the drive.

“I’m glad I’m helping people,” he said, as he looked at the pickup truck bed full of donations.

His stepfather, Homer Alley Jr., said Dillon will collect homemade fleece blankets and new cotton socks again this fall for local veterans in need.

“He and his mom like to help people,” he said. “He likes to give back.”

City Councilman Chris Dardzinski encouraged Marshall-Alley to participate in the city’s May 20 Memorial Day Parade to promote his food drive. His nieces, Ella Dixon and Cali Wedge, carried a “Can Do” banner promoting his group Facebook page, and he rode with his stepfather on a motorcycle with the Shielded Souls.

Blessed Hope Church and Food Pantry, which received the donations, is run by the Rev. Crystal Schippling, who leads it with her husband, the Rev. Gary Schippling. She said the pantry is open 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday. Meals are also served at noon and 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, and at 4 p.m. Sunday.

The Blessed Hope outreach also includes a volunteer social worker, shower and laundry facilities, a clothing closet, meeting rooms for recovery groups, daytime warming and cooling center space and a winter night warming center for sub-zero weather.

Schippling said the pantry receives leftover food from the Lincoln Park school lunch program, but with summer approaching, those donations will be suspended, and the need for shelf-stable food donations will increase.

“We rely on private donations,” she said. “The schools help us out – we repurpose food from the lunch program – and we have other churches who get fresh produce through programs, and we get their extras, and Meijer helps us. Organizations like the Exchange Club and Rotary help out.”

Schippling said caterers also give her leftovers from events, including TV’s Deli and Diner in Trenton.
For more information about Dillon Marshall-Alley’s food drives and other collections, go to his group page, Facebook/groups/1766707976967881.

To learn more about the Blessed Hope Food Pantry, call 313-388-1499, email pastor@blessedhopechurch.net or go to blessedhopechurch.net.

(Sue Suchyta can be reached at sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)