Meet our team at Friends of the Children–Detroit.

Executive Team

Brittany Merritt

Brittany Merritt

Interim Executive Director, Chief Development Officer- Friends National

Brittany Merritt

Interim Executive Director, Chief Development Officer- Friends National

Brittany Merritt is a champion for children, and as Chief Development Officer for Friends of the Children, she brings all of her passion, experience, and leadership in mission-driven work to bear for the organization and those we serve. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, her commitment to improving and elevating the whole-life well-being of today’s youth is evidenced by the work she has done throughout her career, as well as her involvement in the community.

A recipient of the Michigan Chronicle Women of Excellence Award in 2017, Brittany joined Friends of the Children after serving as the Founding Midwest Executive Director for Springboard Collaborative, where she secured funding and fostered strong partnerships with stakeholders to support children’s literacy initiatives. Prior to this role, Brittany held leadership positions at the American Heart Association (AHA), among them Director of Youth Market Fundraising for the Greater Southeast and Midwest regions, and Regional Vice President, Michigan Youth Market – roles in which she and her teams consistently ranked within the AHA’s Midwest Top 5 for their millions of dollars raised. And as the first Black woman to hold the position of Vice President, Metro Executive Director for the greater Detroit area of the AHA, she and her team secured the single largest gift donation in Detroit’s history – a milestone in her long list of fundraising accomplishments.

Brittany is also an ambassador for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. During her tenure at the AHA, she served on the CEO Diversity Advisory Cabinet, representing 400 people in the organization’s Midwest Affiliate.

In 2021 Brittany served as a member of the Michigan Student Academic Recovery subcommittee under Governor Gretchen Whitmer. She brought her demonstrated experience to the committee’s important charge in recommending policies for reopening schools in Michigan due to the pandemic.

A graduate of Eastern Michigan University, Brittany, a Dean’s List student, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications Technology. She is the Vice President of Programs for the Michigan Renaissance chapter of the international non-profit organization The Links, Incorporated, and serves on the Health and Social Welfare Committees of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated.

Letitia Williams

Letitia Williams

Program Director

Letitia Williams

Program Director

With over 20 years in public safety, Letitia comes to Friends-Detroit with a demonstrated history of motivating teams and building positive working relationships across departments and throughout the community. After 15 years as the Chief of Police/Director of Public Safety for the University of Detroit Mercy, Letitia launched a coaching firm emphasizing personal development, strategic planning, and leadership. She holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix, and an MA in Ministry Studies from Grace College & Seminary, where she serves on their Board of Trustees. Letitia also serves on the CE National Urban Youth Advisory Board.

Alease Johnson

Alease Johnson

Operations Manager

Alease Johnson

Operations Manager

Before coming to Friends–Detroit, Alease acted as Director of Operations and Administration for the Detroit Historical Society for 12 years, where she honed her skills in operations, management, administration, and facility management. A graduate of Leadership Detroit, and a mayoral appointee to the Detroit Historic District Commission, Alease is an active and integral part of the Detroit community.

Alease has over years 20 years of experience managing nonprofit organizations. As chief operating officer for The Parade Company Alease was an administrator, manager, and event producer creating memories for the community and the nation, producing two of Detroit’s loved traditions, the annual fireworks display, and America’s Thanksgiving Parade.

Laura Blum

Laura Blum

Development Director

Laura Blum

Development Director

Joining the team in 2021 as Development Director, Laura serves as a supporter and an ally of the Executive Director while being focused on implementing the organization’s strategic fund development plan. As a resourceful development professional, committed project manager and enthusiastic relationship builder, Laura is passionate about helping mission-minded organizations and entrepreneurs grow their enterprises while living out their vision and values. Combining expertise in strategic consulting, operational excellence, and business development, Laura eagerly leverages her background to support nonprofit organizations as they build their capacity to achieve their missions. Prior to transitioning to the nonprofit industry, Laura worked in private equity as a Vice President, Acquisitions and Asset Management for ASB Real Estate Investments. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Economics from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. She is also a member of the Michigan Nonprofit Association, an avid reader and volunteer, and loves to spend time outside with her family.

Professional Mentors

Daniel Cuffie

Daniel Cuffie

Professional Mentor "Friend"

Daniel Cuffie

Professional Mentor "Friend"

Daniel Cuffie, second youngest in a family of 11, grew up on the east side of Detroit, Michigan. After high school, he went on to Point University where he gained much life experience and was involved in many different volunteer projects, including providing natural disaster relief to the area of Southern Georgia. While attending Point University, Mr. Cuffie held many job titles, and was even elected as the Student Government Association Vice President. He graduated from Point University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and has come back to help cultivate the youth of Detroit, creating a brighter future for the city and for the kids.

Autumn Palmer

Autumn Palmer

Professional Mentor "Friend"

Autumn Palmer

Professional Mentor "Friend"

Autumn is excited to be part of the Friends of the Children–Detroit team. She has worked with children almost her entire life both as a volunteer and as an employee. Autumn received her bachelors of science in Psychology/Behavior Analysis from Northern Michigan University and her Masters in Education from Harvard University. She has worked for summer camps and in the school system extensively, and hopes to use that experience to best serve her students in the program.

Lara Ahrens

Lara Ahrens

Professional Mentor "Friend"

Lara Ahrens

Professional Mentor "Friend"

Lara Ahrens is excited to be on this journey with Friends of the Children-Detroit. She studied at Calvin College and graduated with a major in Chinese Studies and a minor in Psychology, but working with youth is where her passion lies. She spent approximately three years working with students in the foster care system, and was a House Supervisor for a middle school foster home before moving to the Detroit area. She worked as a paraprofessional in a 4th grade classroom in Detroit leading up to coming onboard with Friends of the Children. She is looking forward to using her experience, knowledge and passion for improving the quality of life for children and families in Detroit at our organization.

Jordan Brown

Jordan Brown

Professional Mentor "Friend"

Jordan Brown

Professional Mentor "Friend"

I have had the opportunity to work in youth development and coaching since 2010 in many different positions. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Sport Management at Central Michigan University in 2018, and worked as the Athletic Director for Metro Detroit Youth Clubs from 2019-2021. I look forward to being a part of positive change in my mentees’ lives for years to come!

Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson

Caregiver Engagement Specialist

Michelle Anderson

Caregiver Engagement Specialist

Michelle is excited to be apart of the Friends of the Children Detroit team. She has over 10 years experience working with children and families. She has held various positions such as preschool teacher, family advocate and foster care worker. She holds a bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education and a Masters Degree in Family Studies. Michelle is a certified trauma informed educator and children’s author. Her motto is, “trauma will not win!”

Lakesha Williams

Lakesha Williams

Professional Mentor "Friend"

Lakesha Williams

Professional Mentor "Friend"

Lakesha holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with a minor in Human Resource Management from Baker College. She also received a Master’s in Elementary Education from Grand Canyon University. Lakesha has been a Title 1 Math interventionist and POHI (Physically and Otherwise Health Impaired) paraprofessional in Mount Clemens Schools. She taught 2nd grade for eight years and has also served two years in the Michigan Campaign to End Homelessness AmeriCorps Program.

A native Detroiter, Lakesha is a strong believer that children should learn to advocate for themselves, and know that they have someone who will consistently be in their corner, no matter what.