Stay Apart, Stand United: Michiganders get creative to help their neighbors

Published on April 21, 2020 in

Will McDowell and his friends raised more than $13,000 for United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund. All they had to give up in return was their hair. 

Will said he was looking for a way to give back during the coronavirus pandemic, and his co-workers at Detroit Labs pledged to donate money to charity if he promised to shave his head live on a video conference. 

“A co-worker suggested United Way for Southeastern Michigan, and another found that there was a matching grant from the DTE Energy Foundation going through April 13,” Will said. “I became extremely enthusiastic when I saw the involvement United Way has in several organizations I care a lot about, such as Alternatives for Girls and the Downtown Youth Boxing Gym.” 

He recruited his roommate, Ankur Patel, and their friend Florian Matena to join him. Then, the trio set a goal of raising $10,000. And with that, the #ClippinforCOVID challenge was born. 

By April 14, all three had brand new haircuts. In total with a matching grant from the DTE Foundation, they raised more than $23,000. These funds help thousands of Metro Detroiters access food, shelter, education resources and child care. 


Ankur Patel shaves his head on camera for a story by Channel 4 on the #ClippinforCOVID challenge.

Everyone does their part

Just as the actions of individuals matter greatly in flattening the curve of the new coronavirus in Southeastern Michigan, they also play a major part in helping our community recover. 

Last month, United Way started the COVID-19 Community Response Fund in partnership with more than 20 corporate, nonprofit and foundation partners. As of mid-April, the fund had raised more than $10 million to support nearly 300 local nonprofit organizations and child care facilities so they can continue their important work of helping families during this crisis.

Along with corporate and foundation support, hundreds of individuals have contributed to the fund. Individual donors and families have given close to half a million dollars 

“Everyone is doing their part to support their neighbors, and it’s incredible,” said United Way Chief Development and Marketing Officer Chris Perry. “Just by giving what we’d normally spend on our daily cup of coffee or a dinner at our favorite restaurant, we’re all able to make a difference. 

Beth Navas and her husband William with their daughters Addison, Erin and Leah. Beth is running a marathon around her block to raise funds for United Way’s COVID-19 fund. Photo: CL Photography

Flattening the curve marathon

Clippin’ for COVID is just one of the unique ways Michiganders are giving back to their neighbors in need during the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting shutdowns of businesses and schools. 

Fourteen-year-old Summer Matkin of Southgate raised more than $3,200 through a YouTube livestream. Local musician Frank Mayeran hosted a series of living room concerts with online tips supporting local charities, including United WayAnd more than a dozen people have used their birthdays to raise funds for COVID relief via Facebook.  

Livonia resident Beth Navas decided to run a marathon to support United Way’s COVID-19 fund. The catch: She’s running it around her block — 46 laps to equal 26.2 miles. 

Beth is an avid runner and mother to three girls. She said her family has been supportive of her effort.

“There was a man in England who ran over 1,400 laps around his 20-foot backyard to complete a marathon to raise money for COVID. His story inspired me,” she said. “I wanted to do something small to help. I thought something like this could at least help someone out there receive the aid they need.  

A small amount of pain for myself is nothing compared to those fighting, or those who have lost loved ones. 

Beth will be livestreaming her marathon on April 25 beginning at 7:55 a.m. She’s asking her supporters to pledge at least $1 for every lap she completes. Visit her Flattening the Curve Marathon” Facebook page to learn more. 

Photographer Kelly Stork is taking photos of families on their front porch to raise funds for United Way’s COVID-19 fund.

The Front Steps Project

Business owners are also using their skills and services for good.  

Artist Shana Preuett sold a series of art prints to raise money. And in northern Michigan, Laurentide Winery pledged 10 percent of online sales to go to the COVID fund. 

In Detroit, restaurants partnered with the city of Detroit to launch Feed the Front Lines. The initiative provides free food to essential workers. The project is partially funded through United Way’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund. 

Meanwhile, South Lyon photographer Kelly Stork decided to use her passion to make a difference and has raised more than $2,500. 

Kelly launched the Front Steps Project to raise funds for COVID-19 relief efforts. The project is based off a similar idea from a Boston photographer. Kelly takes photos of families in front of their homes in exchange for donations to United Way’s COVID-19 fund.  

“As a photographer, I typically spend hours every week capturing the joy of families, the love of brining a new baby into the world, and the treasured milestones of our little ones. Those moments are still happening in homes right now, but I can’t be there to capture them,” Kelly said. “I am taking a few hours each day to scurry around town and snap super-fast images of families on their door steps in Southeastern Michigan.” 

Click here to request a “front steps” photo and make your donation through Kelly’s website. 

Photo: Kelly Stork Photography

Stay Apart, Stand United

While we may not be able to go out and volunteer or support our loved ones face to face, we can still do our part to be good neighbors.  

From dropping off groceries to your elderly neighbors to buying lunch for health care workers or virtually tutoring kids in your neighborhood, tell us how you or someone you know is making a difference while staying safe. Share your story and a photo or video on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn using the hashtag #StayApartStandUnited and tag @UnitedWaySEM to be featured on our social media or blog.