April 23, 2018

‘A community effort’: Hundreds give back for National Volunteer Week

Not even a mid-April snow shower could keep hundreds of volunteers from showing up throughout Southeastern Michigan for this year’s National Volunteer Week — Detroit United, where corporate partners, affinity group members and community members worked on a variety of projects across Metro Detroit.

This year, 402 people volunteered for a total of 925 hours. That’s an impact of $22,317 in donated labor.

The majority of volunteers came from 15 of our corporate partners, who joined forces to make a collective impact in the community.

Detroit United also coincided with the one-year anniversary of our online volunteer portal launch. The portal was created to help volunteers find meaningful ways to give back. More than 200 people register to learn about new opportunities each month. And more than 12,000 hours of service have been recorded from portal users.

volunteer packing boxes of food

Volunteers at Focus: HOPE packed more than 1,700 boxes of food during National Volunteer Week.

volunteers cleaning up outdoors

Once the spring weather returned, volunteers helped clean up a Southwest Detroit neighborhood with Urban Neighborhood Initiatives.

Giving back for literacy

At Southwest Detroit Community School, a charter elementary tucked away in a tiny Detroit neighborhood, volunteers organized books and reading materials in preparation for the school’s Literacy Night, an event dedicated to teaching families how to promote reading within their homes.

“When we have volunteers come in, it gives our kids a chance to see different people and create different kinds of relationships,” says Frank Donner, principal of Southwest Detroit Community School. “Exposure alone is important — every new person who comes here is a new opportunity for a child. If a volunteer becomes a regular, they could become a child’s mentor. Then they open up their network, their community — it can create a whole new world for that student.”

Principal speaks to legislators at school

Volunteers at Southwest Detroit Community School used an app to scan and sort books.

United Way staff talk with legislators

Volunteers also packed literacy kits.

Making an impact during National Volunteer Week

Safiya Jackson, a community engagement specialist at local nonprofit Brilliant Detroit, recalled how volunteers impacted her childhood.

“I used to look up to those who came into my school and helped my community,” she said as she created reading packets for third- and fourth-grade students. “I remember the women who would come and read to us, and wanting to be one of them. Now it’s my hope that I’m able to be that person for a whole new generation of kids.”

After the literacy supplies were organized, Safiya was invited into a kindergarten classroom to read a book about dancing elephants to a group of eager students.

“Elephants can’t dance!” shouted one boy who sat cross-legged in his school uniform at the back of the reading circle.

“Well, this one can!” Safiya shouted back, followed by laughter from the class.

“It’s not that I volunteer to help people and their kids because they can’t do it on their own,” Safiya said before heading home for the day, “It’s just that a lot of people don’t have the time. I know that it’s a community effort. I truly believe that it takes a village to raise a child.”

Learn more about volunteering at UnitedWaySEM.org/volunteer.