The day is touted by organizers as a “grand finale” of year-round service. The Detroit Project is a student-run community service organization which has been working with the Brightmoor community of Detroit since it was founded in 1999.
“Exposure to urban blight and awareness of surrounding issues are both crucial components to taking an active role in community service,” LSA senior Lindsay Laneville, the Detroit Project’s external director, said. “That is one of the reasons we aim high in our numbers to recruit volunteers.”
Through the help of local schools and more than 15 non-profit organizations, the Detroit Project focuses on forming relationships with community residents and uniting the University and surrounding communities around the common cause of strengthening the city.
The day of service began around 10:30 a.m. with opening remarks from Motor City Blight Busters President John George. This year had additional significance for the city because Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is kicking off the first annual “Motor City Makeover” – a 10 week citywide cleanup initiative – this month.
Although they encountered a few problems, Laneville said all of Detroit Project Day’s aims were accomplished.
“We definitely met every goal, each and every goal,” she said. “We filled every dumpster to the brim.”
One of the challenges was that two demolition sites were cancelled. But the planning committee claimed success despite the problem by consolidating certain sites and doing more cleanup.
While rain and snow was present at past Detroit Project days, pleasant weather conditions set the stage for additional improvements from past years.
A larger awareness throughout Detroit helped to increase community attendance and involvement. Laneville said the community was very enthusiastic with people coming out of their houses to help out with the day’s efforts. She estimated that there were between 1,500 and 2,000 volunteers.
In addition to a large turnout from University volunteers, the day was also successful in mobilizing volunteers from other universities’ various community service groups. About 50-75 students from Oakland University, Wayne State University, University of Detroit and Western Michigan University came to help out.
Members of the fraternity Pi Psi, representing various chapters around Michigan, volunteered for the project, working with Grandmont-Rosedale and cleaning up parks.
Faculty, staff and University alumni were also in attendance at this year’s event. Laneville said there were several other community members who had stumbled upon the project’s website and showed up to volunteer.
Future goals for next year’s Detroit Project Day include raising awareness throughout the state, especially in Southeastern Michigan, as well as more recruitment and involvement of faculty and staff. Organizers said they aim to spread their efforts by moving into the southwest area of Detroit in addition to the northwest area.
At the end of the day, exhausted volunteers returned to Ann Arbor proud of their achievements.
“Barriers were coming down left and right,” Laneville said. “People were speaking to each other without reservations, working towards a common goal.”
LSA sophomore Jeannette Dupure, who worked on the Public Relations team, echoed Lanevillie’s excitement about the day’s events.
“It took a lot of planning but it was definitely worth the effort,” Dupure said.