Piston Group Donates $1M to Pope Francis Center


Piston Group Chairman and CEO Vinnie Johnson today announced a five-year, $1 million lead gift to support a new facility for the Pope Francis Center, a day center in Detroit that provides vital services to the city’s homeless population.

Piston Group Chairman and CEO Vinnie Johnson (L), and Father Tim McCabe SJ, executive director, Pope Francis Center.

The Pope Francis Center team is currently working with the city of Detroit to identify and assess a location for the new center. A capital campaign is underway with a goal of reaching $22 million.

“For 30 years, the Pope Francis Center has been at the forefront of serving the chronically homeless in Detroit,” said Johnson. “While there’s been significant economic rebirth in our city, we cannot forget about those who don’t necessarily see or feel the benefits of Detroit’s economic renewal efforts.

And unfortunately, the pandemic has exacerbated the problems the homeless face on a daily basis. The need for a new center to serve the homeless is now and paramount. We hope our contribution to the capital campaign serves as a catalyst for more awareness and support for our city’s homeless population.”

“This very generous gift is another example of the Piston Group’s commitment to meeting the needs of the underserved in our city,” said Fr. Tim McCabe, SJ, Executive Director of the Pope Francis Center. “This center will be a linchpin in the effort to end chronic homelessness in Detroit and our recent move to the TCF Center highlights the urgent need for the services we can provide through it.

“Vinnie Johnson is one of the unsung heroes in Detroit and we are extremely thankful for his partnership, his leadership and financial support. This support will be critical to the success of the new center and help provide shelter to the homeless for years to come.”

The Center’s current services include two nutritious meals each day, along with access to laundry and shower facilities, various medical clinics and housing assistance. The new center would support a long term plan for ending chronic homelessness in Detroit by building a bridge housing center in the heart of Detroit that would help people experiencing homelessness access services to move them to an affordable housing solution.

The proposed center would include 40 residential units, a health clinic, gymnasium and meeting rooms. Residents would stay up to a 120-day period and be provided with trauma informed care including healthcare and treatment for mental health and addiction issues. Onsite job readiness training will also be available. The new center will also continue to maintain the current day center provided to hundreds of guests daily.

Piston Group, comprising of Piston Automotive, Irvin Products, Detroit Thermal Systems, and AIREA, is headquartered in Southfield, Michigan. It designs, engineers, assembles and manufactures a wide variety of automotive parts and systems. AIREA is an office design studio and furniture dealer. Piston Group was founded in 1995 by industry magnate and former NBA champion Vinnie Johnson, and is one of the largest private, minority-owned automotive suppliers in North America.

Today, Piston Group employs nearly 10,000 people at more than 20 locations across North America. Last year, the firm posted revenues of $2.9 billion. Visit www.pistongroup.com for more information.

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