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Day of service lends ‘Hands4Detroit’

By Phreddy Wischusen
The Michigan Citizen

United Methodist District Supervisor Rev. Melanie Carey had a vision of metro Detroit being less divided by imaginary lines. So, she began planning a service event she hoped would spill over into the everyday lives of both the volunteers and those they served.

What began as a simple food drive grew into much more when approximately 1,200 volunteers spent time at 20 different sites across the city distributing food donations and cleaning up local parks during 2012’s first annual Hands4Detroit day of service.  Volunteers collected 26,000 pounds of food for Gleaners Food Bank, organizers said.

“We are striving to create an experience that is not about ‘haves’ coming and serving the ‘have nots,’” says Hands4Detroit’s Planning Committee Administrator Ang Hart. “We try to focus on relationship building. We want … communities to become a place where people are coming together for the greater good.”

That goal was accomplished last year when a church group from Pontiac spent the day of service building a soccer field in Southwest Detroit.  Collectively disappointed they were unable to complete the project in a single day, volunteers pledged to finish the job. Returning regularly over the year the volunteers not only finished the project, they formed lasting relationships in the neighborhood. Now residents from Pontiac and Southwest are, “working together to make sure there is a functioning soccer field for the kids,” says Hart.

Seventy-seven area United Methodist churches have come together to organize the second annual event, which will take place Oct. 5. People who wish to volunteer can register in advance online or at any of the 40 volunteer sites the day of the event. Lunch will be provided for all volunteers, including vegetarian and gluten-free options. Projects are listed with age-ranges to include children; kids as young as 6-years-old will be able to participate.

The event is not limited to United Methodists.

“We are sponsoring the event, and certainly there will be lots of United Methodists, but we are excited to get to know lots of people from all backgrounds,” Hart told the Michigan Citizen. “Already this year, a class reunion, a high school’s National Honor Society and the Indian Student’s Association at Wayne State University have registered to volunteer.

This year’s day of service features many different kinds of projects in Detroit and Pontiac, including: boarding up abandoned structures; preparing  community gardens for winter; transforming a vacant lot into a football field on east Seven Mile Road; cleaning up city parks; sorting food and clothing donations; and improving the Clinton River bike/pedestrian trail in Pontiac.

Hands4Detroit hopes as many as 3,000 volunteer willcollect 50,000 pounds of food this year.

In addition to the day’s tangible accomplishments, Hart also hopes, “everyone will get a glimpse of what God can do in our hearts when we put ourselves out there for others.”

For more info visit www.hands4detroit.org.

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