Retired Ann Arbor couple pays off Detroit grandmother’s credit card debt

DETROIT – A retired couple from Ann Arbor has helped to pay off a Detroit grandmother’s credit card debt after seeing her featured on Local 4′s series of reports on chronic absenteeism in Detroit Public Schools.

Jim and Cindy Pierson said they were at home when they saw the story on Johnetta Burnett, a grandmother who took custody of her five grandchildren after her daughter passed away.

“This came up and I was partially reading a book, and something caught my attention with a grandmother and five grandchildren,” said Jim.

In October 2022, Local 4 did a series of stories on chronic absenteeism in Detroit Public Schools. During this series, they highlighted the district’s Family Resource Distribution Center, which supplied families with resources to DPSCD families, where they met Burnett.

Burnett was retired, on a fixed income, and struggled to get her grandchildren to school.

“I get emotional because I miss my daughter, and when you get support, it makes it easier. And when you have nobody, it’s hard,” said Burnett.

Burnett told Local 4 about how the district’s resource center for DPSCD families helped her with the needs of her five grandchildren.

“I ain’t got nobody else like no family member to help me, but since they came, it’s like family,” said Burnett. “They supported me with the kids’ uniforms, and I didn’t have it. I feel very blessed because when they came to me, they didn’t have nothing.”

When Local 4 viewers heard her story, Metro Detroiters sent in emails and phone calls to help Burnett, including the Piersons.

“She was paying hundreds of dollars a month in fees and interest. And that can’t happen anymore,” said Jim. “So that’s taken care of. And we have two more to process today and she’ll be free of credit card debt.”

Cindy said Burnett came on tv not to ask for herself but to praise the resource center, and because of her humbleness, they helped her.

“Do you know how hard it was to get information out of her about what she needed? I asked her three times ‘what do you need,’” said Jim. “She said she doesn’t have a coat. It took me three times to get it out of her that she needs a coat.”

Cindy said the next step is to get her a larger house.

“She needs space. If anyone knows of any homes that are available, she needs at least a three bedroom, two bath,” said Jim Pierson. “Preferably a four-bedroom, two bath in a safe neighborhood.”

Jim said Burnett is currently staying in an unsafe neighborhood which is not a place to raise her grandchildren.

They have also potentially found a place for her but it needs a lot of work and is not an immediate solution for Burnett and her family.

Anyone wishing to help Ms. Burnett should reach out to Laci Bosquez at the DSPCD Office of Family and Community Engagement by emailing her at

Others interested in supporting families challenged with loss and newfound responsibilities with children and other life issues can call 313-873-7490.

About the Authors:

You can watch Kimberly Gill weekdays anchoring Local 4 News at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and streaming live at 10 p.m. on Local 4+. She's an award-winning journalist who finally called Detroit home in 2014. Kim has won Regional Emmy Awards, and was part of the team that won the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast in 2022.