Mitch Albom’s Brown Bag Popcorn gives 100 percent of profits to his charity SAY Detroit which helps homeless Detroiters of all ages.

Photos courtesy of Brown Bag Popcorn

To many, popcorn is as simple as a snack you get at the movie theater. To Jewish Detroiter Mitch Albom, it means so much more.

Before we talk popcorn, it’s crucial to learn about Albom’s charity, SAY Detroit.

The author of the bestselling novel Tuesdays With Morrie and recent release Finding Chika, Albom has spent the past 34 years living and working in Detroit. Though he was born in New Jersey, you wouldn’t know it by the way he talks about Detroit.

“I love it here,” Albom said. “The people are fantastic; it’s a great community and they’ve always made me feel tremendously at home. Above all else, the people care about one another, and they’re very charitable even when we have terrible economic downturns.”
In this spirit, Albom gives back to communities at home and worldwide. One such local venture is SAY Detroit, a charity that helps homeless Detroiters of all ages.

SAY Detroit began in 2006 when Albom wrote a column about how homeless people were being treated during and after the Super Bowl. He realized that, after providing a three-day “Super Bowl party” for homeless citizens, the city of Detroit went back to essentially ignoring them. With more than $300,000 raised by readers of his Detroit Free Press column, Albom set out to enact substantial change.

Mitch Albom

“When we talk about tikkun olam, about helping the world, we don’t distinguish between only Jewish causes,” Albom said. “We include Jewish causes, and we include causes that may not necessarily be of the same faith, but they’re of the same city or the same country. We’re trying to do that with SAY Detroit.”

SAY Detroit is comprised of nine different charities, all with the mission of helping people in need. Not only do they provide homes for homeless families, but they also opened the nation’s first medical clinic for homeless children in Highland Park as well as a rec center where children learn about sports, music, dance, art, science, robotics and more.

Brown Bag Popcorn
As with any charity, SAY Detroit needed a steady source of funds to keep these programs alive.

“I had the idea that we could start selling something, a product that people wanted, and they didn’t even have to know we would just dedicate all the profits to charity,” Albom said. “We started Detroit Water Ice Factory downtown in Campus Martius, and that did well.

“In the winter months, we started to experiment with popcorn. That took off and the people at Somerset were nice enough to offer us a space. Nate Forbes, in particular, was kind enough to say, ‘We have an actual store you can use.’”

Brown Bag Popcorn has savory options like barbeque (“J’s Sweet BBQ”) and cheese (“Cheese Louise!”) and many sweet flavors that you can’t find elsewhere. Examples include white and dark chocolate-drizzled (“Double Drizzle”) and Albom’s personal favorite that’s topped with nuts, pretzels and caramel (“Mr. Mitch’s Nutty Munch”).

For Chanukah this year, they’ll also be offering a special caramel popcorn that’s drizzled with blue and white chocolate (“The 8 Pops Of Chanukah”).

In addition to being completely made in Metro Detroit, all the profits from Brown Bag Popcorn go into SAY Detroit.

“It’s not like 90 percent or 80 percent. We don’t keep a little for ourselves. We give 100 percent of it away,” Albom stressed. “I get no money from it … all the money goes directly to needy Detroiters.”

With the holidays coming up, Brown Bag Popcorn guarantees that orders placed before Dec. 11 will get delivered in time for Chanukah and Christmas. You can order tins from their website (brownbagpopcorn.com), and bags are available for purchase at Detroit Water Ice Factory and their Somerset storefront.

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