When Kristen Lingenfelter and her husband Ken - owner of the private Lingenfelter Car Collection in Brighton - heard about Ele's Place, an Ann Arbor-based organization that helps children who lost a family member, they knew they wanted to help in some way.
The collection, which consists of more than 200 classic and exotic cars, will be the site of Mission Possible, a charity benefit for the group on Oct. 5 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
"We attended a dinner and heard a testimonial," Kristen Lingenfelter said about Ele's Place. "One of the families had been attending, lost a family member. And just hearing the struggles they went through and how Ele's Place had helped them just inspired Ken and I to want to get more involved with the organization."
The first Ele's Place opened in Lansing in 1991, after the death of Betsy and Woody Stover's 11-month-old daughter, Ele. After looking for a grief support group for their three older children, but finding none, they opened their own in the basement of a church - exactly how Ele's Place in Ann Arbor operates now.
The Ann Arbor location opened in May 2007 and operates out of the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 40001 Ann Arbor-Saline Road, on Monday and Tuesday nights. The group supports an average of 130 kids and is looking to add another night of sessions, so that children will not have to be put onto a waiting list.
The Oct. 5 benefit proceeds will go directly to the Ann Arbor location.
Wendy Brightman, managing director of Ann Arbor Ele's Place said that Ele's Place is important because it gives kids the support they deserve. She said when kids don't get that support, there are concerns of drug and alcohol abuse, suicidal tendencies, sleeping issues, eating issues, acting out behaviors and grades dropping in school.
"We know when kids have a death and they go back to school, their friends don't know how to talk about it, their friends don't know what to say, so often they don't say anything because they don't want to upset their friend," Brightman said. "The grieving children themselves don't want to talk about it at home because, if dad died, they don't want to upset surviving mom. Or if there's been a sibling that's died, talking to parents who are wrapped in their own grief is so difficult. So Ele's Place is this one, safe, welcoming place where everybody can just let their guard down and talk about their feelings."
According to Brightman, it costs Ele's Place about $600 for one child to come for a year of programming.
"I just want to create awareness for Ele's Place," Lingenfelter said. "It's such a good organization. They don't charge for their services. They rely on donations alone. And there's so many families when a parent passes away, you lose that source of income and they don't have money to go to counseling every week for their kids. So this really is just a great organization."
Silent auction, Rolex raffle will raise money
The benefit will be cocktail attire only, with live music and award-winning chef Brian Polcyn cooking on site. Sue Snyder, Michigan's first lady, is a big supporter of Ele's Place and will also be there.
There will also be a silent auction, to which many of the Brighton area business have donated items.
Impulse clothing boutique will donate three Diesel brand leather women's jackets in small, medium and large sizes, to the silent auction. Impulse is the only store in Michigan that carries Diesel fashions. Impusle is partnering with Diesel to offer the jackets.
"That's going to bring in a lot of money because these jackets are between $600 and $800 retail value," Impulse owner Gail Sherman said. "We don't typically give such a large auction item because we get hundreds of requests for donations and auction items between all the local high schools and benefits for people in need, you just can't give that much. But this fundraiser - it's such a great cause."
One of the big events will be the Rolex raffle. Rottermond Jewelers is donating a Rolex worth $6,300 towards a raffle. Raffle tickets cost $50 and only 250 will be sold. The winner will get a certificate to go into the store and pick out the Rolex of his or her choice.
Cindi Rottermond, Rottermond Jewelers vice president, said they are doing it that way so the winner doesn't spend a bunch of money on a watch he or she doesn't like. She also recommends purchasing raffle tickets at the same time as benefit tickets. She expects them to sell out quickly.
Tickets cost $75 and will include h'ordeurves, premium wine and beer. There will only be 300 tickets sold. To purchase tickets, call Rottermond Jewelers at 248-684-5453 ext. 18 or visit www.rottermond.com.