Ellen DeGeneres Gifts Mama Shu a New House!

'Mama Shu' Harris of the Avalon Village meets Ellen DeGeneres on 9/13/16

We are a bit overwhelmed after a whirlwind start to the week that included an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres show! The show, which airs on NBC stations nationwide, is watched by close to 4 million people per episode! 4 million people! What an incredible opportunity! To top it off, Ellen has tens of millions of followers and fans worldwide on social media. And now – they’ve heard our story. We are truly humbled and amazed by the outpouring of love we’ve received. Words can hardly describe it.

Here’s how it all went down! On Monday, we boarded a flight from Detroit to Los Angeles. We arrived at LAX and a car took us straight to our hotel as the excitement and anticipation grew.

“I’m feeling very excited and very honored to be on the show,” Shu said in the car. “It’s just a wonderful feeling right now. My adrenaline is up. Butterflies fluttering like I don’t know what.”

A few weeks earlier, a camera crew and a producer from Ellen visited Avalon Village. They spent two long days with us in the sweltering August heat speaking with Mama Shu and other members of the team, witnessing the construction of The Homework House, meeting some of our students at Hood Camp, and getting a feel for Highland Park and the blighted neighborhood we are transforming. We were so proud to show them all we’ve done and all we plan to do in the future.

Back to LA. Tuesday morning, we woke up to the sun peeking out from the hazy horizon (the Hollywood hills visible in the distance). The big day was finally here! 

img_2435We were picked up at 12:30pm sharp and taken to Warner Brothers studios. Our dressing room even had our name on it! How awesome to see “Ellen” and “Mama Shu” on the door! We went over a few things with the show’s producers, paid a quick visit to hair and makeup, snacked on lunch and watched the first few segments of the show from a flat screen TV in our room. The crowd at Ellen loves to have fun! (Behind the scenes, there’s a lot of upbeat music and dancing!)

A few segments in, it was OUR TURN to walk toward towards the stage. Wow.

“I’m sitting up here wondering, ‘Oh my god, how is this experience gonna take place?’” Shu said just before we left the dressing room. “I’m excited to meet Ellen, I’m excited to be out there, and I’m excited to just share, share my story.”

We caught the tail end of Ariana Grande singing “Into You” as we walked backstage. Following a quick commercial break, the next thing we knew, there was ELLEN talking about Avalon Village. A videotaped story showed the footage and an interview the camera crew recorded during their visit. Then, Mama Shu came dancing onto the stage to the song “We Are Family” with her gleaming smile and all of her vibrant energy. We were floored when Ellen told us a Cocoon 9 home valued at $100,000 would be gifted to the village. They’re so cool! Check out the different models here! http://cocoon9.com/

Following that awesome day and experience we caught a red eye back to Detroit, arriving just in time to make a quick stop home. Then, we rushed to the Local 4 WDIV studio to watch the segment with anchor/reporter Karen Drew. Mama Shu could not believe her eyes, seeing the whole experience unfold in front of her on TV.

Check out Local 4’s coverage:

Wednesday night, our friends and supporters gathered at WHPR TV33 for a watch party. We got to see the segment again in a room filled with people we love. That was a moving experience all over again. Then – as if the day wasn’t overwhelming enough, we began to read some of the heartfelt messages thousands of people have been leaving for us on social media. We are soaking in the love from each and every one of you. Here are a few comments that stood out.

Mama Shu might not be an urban planner as she said, but she sure has her own great plans for making this world a better place for so many people because of her big, open  heart and soul! What an Amazing woman who turned her own grief and loss into so much positive to give, inspire and share with so many others! Love this!

What an amazing woman. I bet she didn’t tell us half of the struggles she has gone through to get HP up and running. Hopefully now with Ellen shining her light on this, others will come forward too. Well done Mama Shu and Ellen, too.

This really touched my heart. So many times people talk about the world needing change and wait for someone else to take action. She knew what she had to do and did it. The children she is helping and encouraging are going to be amazing leaders and vital members of the community. She has taught them no task is too big, as long as you have passion and drive anything can be done.

We are overwhelmed, blessed, grateful, and more determined than ever to see our project though! You can help us by stepping up to volunteer or donate. Thank you! We appreciate you! There is much more work to be done!

We look forward to working with the Ellen crew on the next steps to install the Cocoon 9 house! We’ll keep you posted! From all of us at Avalon Village and in Highland Park/Detroit – THANK YOU to Ellen and her team for taking the time to learn more about our story and our passionate, ongoing effort to transform blight to beauty. We are family – and we’re just getting started!

Comments for this article (3)

  • Dwight Porter Sr. says:

    Congratulations Mama Shu on Job you are doing in the Highland Park Neighborhood. Thank You Ellen DeGeneres for your Wonderful Gift, not only to Mama Shu, but to the Highland Park Community.

  • Tenhia Rowry says:

    Congratulations to Mama Shu of Highland Park. When you mentioned the old gas station on the corner and what you are doing with it my eyes lit up. I remember when my daddy use to live in HP and told me lots of stories during his time there. I miss going through HP cause I don’t get that way too much but I’m going be going to see it. Ellen D. thank you for all you do and Mama Shu you have just inspired me to step out on faith to do some things I have wanted to do. Congratulations again and God bless you. ?

  • Danielle says:

    Just heard of your amazing story today. Please keep up the good work!

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