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Labor and Economic Opportunity

Michiganders make huge impact on MLK Day

MLK Day youth volunteers

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges to volunteering and brought about new community needs. The Michigan Community Service Commission (MCSC) helped organizations across the state find ways to engage volunteers to help Michiganders for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.   

In total, the Michigan Community Service Commission supported 56 volunteer projects across Michigan, which engaged more than 3,000 volunteers for a total of over 10,000 volunteer hours to benefit 37,500 Michiganders.  

“We are inspired by the ways Michiganders lifted each other up in service,” said Michigan Community Service Commission Executive Director Ginna Holmes. “Despite the challenges, it was one of our largest MLK efforts and we are proud of the impact that volunteers made.” 

MCSC awarded more than $20,000 in grants to organizations ranging from $100 to $1,000 to help communities recover from the impact of COVID-19. Funding was also provided by partners AmeriCorps the Agency and Youth Service America through the Allstate Foundation. 

These projects included creating child-size masks, thanking healthcare workers in creative ways, addressing COVID-19 related needs like food distribution, education, and tools to prevent the spread, and addressing the needs of mental health and the homeless.  Volunteers created nearly 6,000 masks and thanked nearly 2,000 healthcare workers with special gifts. 

At Wayne State University, the AmeriCorps Urban Safety Program (AMUS) hosted a Virtual Community Meeting for Detroit residents over Zoom, discussing the topic of “Building Healthy Futures.” Professionals from the medical and public health fields discussed the factors impacting the health of Detroit residents, COVID-19, and home health issues such as lead, mold, and asthma triggers. 

Since 2011, AMUS has hosted a staple MLK Day event that focuses on boarding up vacant homes and clearing blighted properties to improve public safety throughout Detroit. In 2020, the event drew in nearly 500 volunteers. Due to health restrictions in 2021, a group of 50 volunteers served  in Patton Park and distributed indoor health quality kits to community residents.  

Further north along the Huron coast, the Boys and Girls Club of Alpena engaged 35 youth volunteers to bake cookies, write thank you cards, and create art pieces for healthcare workers at five local sites.    

“We want to recognize the people in our community that risk their health for the health of our community,” Catherin Knoch, Youth Volunteer Director for the Boys and Girls Club of Alpena said. “The youth also want to boost their morale and let healthcare worker know that even the youth can see the hard work that each person is doing within our community.”  

Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined The Heart of West Michigan United Way virtual service session of making tie blankets for local nonprofits supporting the homeless.  Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist volunteered with Meals on Wheels America in Detroit. 

Highlights of the MCSC MLK Day 2021 Projects: 


  • Nearly 6,000 masks were handmade  
  • The Ford Motor Company donated nearly 7,000 masks in Benton Harbor 

Healthcare Heroes Recognition 

  • Nine projects recognized nearly 2,000 healthcare workers
  • Methods included art, baked goods, delivered meals, and other creative items 

Youth and Community Care 

  • Five projects supported youth services for children living in homeless shelters, and emotional and mental health in response to the pandemic 
  • Larger food banks were able to partner with smaller nonprofits to increase distribution