Clean up efforts provide encouragement, reaffirm mission
More than 600 volunteers joined forces last Saturday to board up 185 vacant homes near Cody High School in Detroit as part of national Make a Difference Day. The Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance, a resident-led coalition that's at the heart of our Good Neighborhoods work, was there, alongside volunteers from Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom.
Sara Plachta Elliott, an evaluation fellow at the Foundation, attended the clean up Saturday with her dad and shared her thoughts with fellow Skillman Foundation staff. I thought her note was worth sharing. She wrote:
I attended the 150 vacant houses event in Cody Rouge on Saturday with my dad, and found the event both incredibly encouraging and thought-provoking. Mitch Albom, Kenyetta Campbell (executive director of the Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance), Roy Roberts (emergency financial manager for DPS) and Mayor Bing addressed more than 600 volunteers from the city, suburbs and area universities, emphasizing that Detroit's children must be central to efforts to improve the city, which was encouraging.
I was also encouraged because an 11th grade junior ROTC cadet who attends one of the small high schools within Cody was in my work group. I didn't tell her about my Skillman connection, but she told me she'd been going to Don Bosco Hall since 2008, is involved in Developing Kids with Kimberly Newberry and the youth council with Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance. She had clear college plans and had already been on a few college visits to Grand Valley, Saginaw Valley and Howard.
As we drove back to the high school on a break, she said she couldn't believe how many vacant houses there were in the neighborhood since she never came down the street we worked on. Our group worked on Greenview several blocks from the high school and at least half of the houses on the block were vacant. As we worked, it was hard for me to see little girls playing outside across the street from the four houses we worked on (and the many more already boarded up).
The day reaffirmed for me how important it is to bring even more caring adults into the lives of neighborhood children and youth in order to ensure they get to school and stay in school -- whether it's a mayor who focuses public safety and city services on creating safer routes to school, city residents who patrol the neighborhoods and work to prevent crime, or suburbanites who volunteer their free time to board up houses or mentor a child.
We also watched to see how the day unfolded in social media, where volunteers and stakeholders sent updates and photos throughout the day. Read our Storify to see what people had to share throughout the day.
Did you take part in this event, either in Cody Rouge or previously when 100 Houses was first held in Osborn? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. We'd love to hear from you.
-- Krista Jahnke is communications officer at The Skillman Foundation. Contact her at email@example.com.