Michiganders serve in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK Day volunteers

AmeriCorps member Laura Drotar felt extremely proud of what volunteers accomplished during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Allen Neighborhood Center service project she organized, and she hopes it inspires everyone to continue to serve the community.

Thousands of Michiganders volunteered in communities across the state for the National Day of Service. The Michigan Community Service Commission supported 24 volunteer projects that engaged nearly 2,000 volunteers in nearly 9,000 volunteer hours.

Allen Neighborhood Center project

Drotar’s Allen Neighborhood Center (ANC) MLK Day event included three service projects that coincided to promote the organization’s mission of providing health, safety, stability and economic well-being for Lansing area residents. Around 60 volunteers made signs for Edible Park, built raspberry trellises and constructed garden boxes.

“It’s important to give back to our community and to try and fight major issues like poverty,” Drotar said. “We must remember it takes a lot of work to make a better world. We are really happy to see all of the folks who came out to make Lansing’s Eastside a better place.”

Among the volunteers were Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who posted a video on social media encouraging Michiganders to volunteer on MLK Day.

“This is a great moment to educate our families, our friends, our children, about the wonderful legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and do some good here at home,” she said in the video.

Carly Kruzel, 22, of Lansing also volunteered at the ANC project.

“To me, volunteerism means that our time is really our own. It’s so important to spend our time building community and helping those around us,” she said.

ANC Executive Director Joan Nelson emphasized service is the heart of the organization.

“Volunteerism is the way we operate. We rely on volunteering for the success of every program,” she said.

Kids Coalition Against Hunger

Kids Coalition Against Hunger, a nonprofit that coordinates packaging events to feed starving children around the world and in local communities, helped organize two events as part of the MLK Day.

Nearly 100 Fowlerville Junior High School students served three hours to help assemble meals for the organization and more than 100 volunteers gathered at West Highland Baptist Church to serve 300 hours to assemble meals for 20,000 people.

Mike Scheib, youth director at St. John Lutheran Church in Fowlerville, has been leading youth service projects for more than a decade.

“It’s an opportunity for the kids to get outside themselves,” he said. “They get to be part of a solution to a bigger problem.” 

Here are some of the other highlights of the MLK Day volunteer projects in Michigan:

  • In Hastings, Barry County United Way and Volunteer Center assembled 75 childhood literacy packets consisting of books, games, alphabet learning materials crayons and more.
  • Genesee County Habitat for Humanity volunteers built 10 little libraries.
  • United Way of Saginaw County volunteers created 296 soup jars for local residents.
  • Volunteers with the AmeriCorps Urban Safety Program and Wayne State University boarded up 25 homes vacant homes.
  • In Flint, 30 volunteers with the Institute of RHYMES supplied 227 families with water.
  • Madonna University volunteers labeled 5,000 soaps for Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (S.O.A.P.)  that will be distributed to hotels and other events where sex trafficking could occur, and created fleece blankets for hospice patients
  • At Eastern Michigan University, more than 207 student and faculty volunteers served 621 hours with eight different organizations in the surrounding Ypsilanti area.
  • In Lansing, Tri-County Office of Aging volunteers cooked, packaged and delivered 22,000 hot lunches alongside Meals on Wheels, serving senior citizens

The Michigan Community Service Commission supported the volunteer projects with partners Youth Service America, Corporation for National and Community Service, Mott Foundation and the Michigan Nonprofit Association.