Volunteer spotlight: Troy teen helps others through DIY Kit project

Published on September 30, 2020 in ,

When Michael Kotsovos sets his mind to something, it gets done – even during a global pandemic.

While his typical targets include winning tennis matches and completing homework assignments, the 17-year-old junior at Bishop Foley Catholic High School recently set his sights on a different goal: Helping others.

Michael, who lives in Troy, and his mother, Dana Kotsovos, created 16 custom DIY Kits that were distributed to Hospitality House Food Pantry in Commerce and Care House of Oakland County.

United Way for Southeastern Michigan began offering the DIY Kits as a safe way for volunteers to help the 44 percent of Southeastern Michigan families who were already struggling to meet their basic needs before the pandemic and now need additional support.

We surveyed dozens of our partner organizations to identify the areas of immediate need and developed a Senior Care Kit, a Supporting Our Neighbors Kit, a Children and Family Enrichment Kit and an Infant Care Kit based on their responses.

Michael Kotsovos assembles one of 16 custom DIY kits he and his mother donated to help families in need.

The gift of games

Family game night has always been a way of bonding for the Kotsovos family. When Michiganders were asked to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, games helped them cope and brought the family even closer.

Michael hopes the same is true for the families that received the Children and Family Enrichment Kits they created, which included games, puzzles, math and reading workbooks, crayons and more.

“Kids get bored,” Michael said. “I also liked that we could include activities to help support kids who were now homeschooling because of COVID.”

Encouraged by his mother, Michael also created Infant Care Kits filled with diapers, formula, shampoo, soap and more.

“I can only imagine how hard it is for moms with small children right now,” Dana said. “There’s so much pressure and stress because of the pandemic and we wanted to help alleviate a bit of that.”

Michael poses for a photo with the completed kits as he drops them off.

Giving back, staying safe

Dana added that her family did a lot of research before deciding what volunteer activity to take on. She appreciated that they could build the DIY kits remotely and drop them off to the organizations while maintaining social distance.

“We know a lot of families are struggling and we wanted to help but we also wanted to stay safe,” she said.

Michael took the lead in soliciting donations from family and friends to purchase items for the kits. Once they heard about it, many were eager to give, he said.

“It turned out to be a lot of fun,” Michael said. His two older sisters also got involved, making kit-building a family affair.

The DIY Kits were the family’s first experience with United Way and now they’re looking forward to future opportunities.

“It really is an honor to do work with such a great and charitable organization like United Way. We hope others will get involved,” Dana said.

If you’re interested in building your own DIY Kits for families in need, click here.