Joanne Ewald is keeping scrap automotive parts from landfills while helping survivors of abuse.
Ewald, herself a survivor of child sexual abuse, founded Mend on the Move in 2015 after jewelry-making helped her heal. The nonprofit employs women who have escaped abuse and teaches them how to make jewelry out of automotive scrap.
While all of the bookkeeping is done in West Bloomfield Township, the creativity is unleashed in a 30-foot motor home that Ewald converted into a studio. It allows her to come to the survivors, many of whom reside in recovery homes and lack personal transportation. “I’ve always really loved social business, where you give people the tools to help themselves,” Ewald says.
Some of the jewelry is simple enough to make, meaning sellable pieces can be created right away. The quick turnaround helps boost victims’ self-confidence early on. From there, they learn how to make more complex jewelry.
“It’s not just any kind of jewelry, and it’s not just any kind of job,” Ewald says, adding that survivors feel they’re standing up to the challenges they face and giving back to the community.
Using automotive parts is symbolic of the Motor City, and Ewald says some jewelry resonates with customers because it includes pieces from particular vehicles, such as cuff links and tie bars made with carbon fiber used in Chevrolet Corvettes donated by General Motors Co., or the “Living in the Light Necklace,” made with retainer ring washers used in Ford Mustangs.
Automotive seat leather from Southfield’s Lear Corp., metal seat component scrap from BAE Industries in Warren, aluminum from Ralco Industries in Auburn Hills, and more also make it into the jewelry.
Ewald started the company by creating fashion accessories herself and then raising $10,000 to get off the ground. Now she employs up to six makers at a time, and personally oversees the operation and the design direction.
COVID-19 put the jewelry-making on pause, but Mend on the Move continues to sell its existing inventory. While employees have traditionally stayed with Mend only while in recovery programs, Ewald is shifting the company’s focus to create permanent positions.
The jewelry is available at mendonthemove.org and at retailers listed on the site. The makers also sell the jewelry at events and art fairs.
While the overall operation is successful, Ewald says her goal has always been to help survivors. “It just takes someone being kind and respectful, and giving them that daily boost of confidence” for the women to see themselves in a positive light, Ewald says.