Lauren Henrikson, Founder of The Free Store/Free Change
High School: Wayne Memorial High School
College: Wayne State University
How she’s making her mark on the city of Detroit:
“Growing up in Metro Detroit, I knew that many people weren’t able to make ends meet within our economic system. After working with a number of non-profit organizations in my teens, I wanted to start a program that would offer a unique solution to the problems that my community was facing, a program that would encourage people to work together to help themselves and each other.
In 2005, as a part of my second semester work in Wayne State University’s Honor’s Program, I developed The Free Store, a place where those in need could obtain clothing, food, and other necessities at no cost. Since our beginnings in the Cass Corridor, the event has moved around Detroit and has run on a weekly and monthly basis in donated spaces within Detroit, Highland Park, Hamtramck, and currently, Romulus, Michigan. I also work full-time as a researcher at the Center for Urban Studies on initiatives which aim to improve the safety and vitality of the Midtown area. ”
Photo by Detroitblogger John
On why she chooses to stay in Metro Detroit:
“I think Metro Detroit provides unique opportunities that aren’t available anywhere else. Even when I was considering universities as a teen, I chose Wayne State because I thought that even the “best” universities, the Ivy League schools, wouldn’t provide the hands-on experience with urban issues that I could receive in Detroit. We’re living in Detroit in a very interesting time–the city is a laboratory. It’s ripe with potential”.
On how she accomplishes her goals:
“In many ways, Wayne State University was the catalyst for me, whether it was through encouraging me to pursue this idea in the real world, providing opportunities for research, or helping the organization receive non-profit status through the Community Legal Resource Center. I don’t think I could have done it without the support and assistance of family and friends. My mom has been my partner in this through and through.”
On her favorite things about Detroit:
“I think the city is poetic. Its history, its current condition. And the fact that at this point, if you have enough energy, you can really try anything here.”
On what she wishes you knew about Detroit:
“I wish that people knew about all of the the efforts of those working to improve Detroit. I also wish they knew about all of the interesting events and attractions that the city has to offer.”
On future plans:
“I plan to continue working with Free Change/The Free Store to obtain a permanent place for our operations. I also want shift the Free Store into a cooperative, so that everyone that benefits from the Free Store will give back through donating their time/skills to fellow members. Ideally, I’d like to see sustainable communities around The Free Store with members sharing skills and services outside of our economic system.
I also am currently developing a small business that sells natural and unique home and body products, Renaissance Verite. I also plan on working on music and a comic in the near future.”
Lauren’s words of wisdom:
“Anything is possible, you just have to take the first step and try. Have confidence in your vision, but be realistic. Don’t take negative people seriously.”