2016 Powered by Women

DBusiness readers nominated eight metro Detroit women who hold leading positions in the automotive industry, sponsorships and event planning, health care, logistics, insurance, and nonprofit organizations.


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Haifa Fakhouri 

President and CEO 

Arab American and Chaldean Council, Troy 

Employees:  137 | Budget: $12 million 

It has been reported that social service agencies in Michigan expect more than 5,000 refugees to arrive in the state this year. Since the Syrian civil war began in March 2011, Michigan has received 335 refugees from Syria alone — more than any other state. Overall, more than 30,000 refugees from the Middle East have settled in Michigan in recent years.

The dilemma of the refugees strikes a nerve with Haifa Fakhouri, who herself arrived in Detroit from Jordan in 1967 to study at Wayne State University. Later, Fakhouri saw immigrant issues up close and personal while serving as an international adviser to the U.S. Agency for International Development. She also worked with the United Nations Development Population in Jordan as a consultant on women and population policies in the Middle East. 

“I saw the impact of the wars in the Middle East, the civil war in Lebanon, the Iraq-Iran war, and I witnessed the plight of refugees from Middle Eastern countries stranded in European airports,” Fakhouri says. “When I came back, I met with my priest and a few other community leaders and said, ‘We have to have an institution to deal with the future problems of refugees coming to the United States.’ ” 

In the late 1970s, Fakhouri began applying for foundation grants, meeting with government officials, and holding fundraising events to turn her vision into reality. With the support of the late Father John Badeen, former president of the Eastern Orthodox Churches of Metropolitan Detroit, and others, she co-founded the Arab American and Chaldean Council in 1979. 

Under Fakhouri’s leadership, the nonprofit organization has become the largest community-based social services organization focused on Middle Eastern communities in the nation, with 44 outreach centers in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties. It’s headquartered in Troy, the city with the second largest non-
native-born population in southeast Michigan. 

“We’re basically a human service agency,” Fakhouri says. “We have medical clinics, employment training, social services, behavioral health programs, youth and senior citizen programs, and food distribution programs. We have an affiliation with community centers in California and Chicago, but 80 percent of our work is in Michigan.” 

The organization, which delivered 391,469 services to 69,249 clients in 2015, provides translation and interpreting services to federal, state, and local government agencies, and it has applied for a grant to conduct U.S. citizenship test preparation classes for English as a second language to individuals. Its $12 million annual operating budget comes from donations, foundation grants, and other sources including General Motors Co., United Way of Southeastern Michigan, and the Central Intelligence Agency. 

“My priority right now is the Seven Mile Project,” Fakhouri says, referring to the ACC’s $16-million plan for redeveloping Seven Mile Road in Detroit between Woodward Avenue and John R. “We established an ACC campus there with an employment training center, a youth center, adult services for needy families, and a behavioral health clinic. We coordinate with major community organizations in the area, like Detroit Community Health Connection, which provides services to the underserved population in the area.”  

The project also has brought about the makeover of seven storefronts, along with sidewalk improvements and the installation of planting beds and park benches. “We’re working with people to encourage economic development of specialty shops — coffee shops and restaurants — around the Seven Mile area,” Fakhouri says. She also is in talks with the city about the development of a multi-unit housing complex. 

After 37 years in the community, ACC can point to many accomplishments, but Fakhouri says her work is never finished. “Many refugees are already involved in our economy, and many have established their own shops,” she says. “They are young entrepreneurs building a new life. Immigrants are assets, not liabilities. We look forward to welcoming everyone.” — Tom Beaman

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