Williamston couple’s charity helps children locally, in Haiti

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Tucked into one of Williamston’s neighborhoods, the Monette house greets you with a large chalk drawing on the driveway and a wall of paint tubes in the garage.

Barbara and Dean Monette said they have always loved children, whether it be teaching or simply helping the neighbor kids with painting which started with their own children. To channel that love, the couple created The Monette Children’s Enrichment Fund. The fund became an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit about a year ago but the Monette’s have been raising money for about four years.

The fund is for promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) programs in local schools as well as in Haiti. Barbara Monette said that she cannot let the arts die and with the fund her and her husband started, it now has the arts incorporated into various curriculums at different grade levels.

In order to incorporate the new STEAM curriculum, Barbara Monette did not have to have a teaching degree, instead, she partnered with St. Mary’s church in Williamston to implement it locally. Barbara Monette said she was extremely passionate about helping children of all ages but she became mostly homebound because of a chronic illness. In 2007 Barbara had meningitis that left her with chronic migraines.

“I’m disabled from this chronic migraine that was in 2007 and there was a lot of things I couldn’t do,” Monette said. “I had to stop working and stop doing a lot of things and so that kind of made me mad, so I just didn’t want to focus on the can’ts…I wanted to focus on the cans and I’ve always been an artist and I love children so I needed to start doing things that made me happy.”

The couple also chose Haiti because Dean had been volunteering with a couple other organizations that specifically raised funds for Haiti.

“One of the obvious things that Haiti struggles with is it’s quality of education and without a quality education, they’re really not going to get out,” Dean Monette said. “So, Barb is creating a curriculum that only happens at St Mary’s, but we want to be able to try to implement that in Haiti.”

The Monette’s raise money through donations and by Barbara’s artistic talents. Barbara paints different images on canvases and sells them either on her personal facebook or The Monette Children’s Enrichment Fund Facebook page. Her paintings could sell for as much as $50 or $1,500 each.

Soon, however, Monette’s works will also start being sold in The Studio Shop owned by Will Long. Long invited Monette to auction her works at the very first Alleyfest on Sept. 22. The Studio Shop is a creative boutique with Michigan-made gifts but also does have a rental photography studio in the back.

“Her art is just very unique, very colorful and what she does for the community is just tremendous,” Long said.

Since the fund has become a legal nonprofit, it has begun to receive a lot of attention from a couple of large corporations. An employee from Google has reached out to the Monettes about collaboration, and Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company, has reached out to buy some art. The Monette’s have been making the most of their situation and their fund has been raising money and awareness while only being a few years old.

Barbara Monette 517-899-2174

Dean Monette 561-400-2448

Will Long 810-844-1309

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