Day of service expands in Lansing

Apr 11, 2011

This week’s guest for “What’s Working” is Julie Powers, the Director of the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council. Ms. Powers has been involved in the planning and organizing of a day of community service in Lansing, set to happen this year on May 14th. The event is entitled, “Adopt-Your-Place.”

Volunteers will be led by event organizers in such tasks as water testing and clean-up along the Grand River, planting and mulching public gardens throughout the area, clearing trails, repairing eyesores, and generally giving some TLC to local sites in need.

In the past, this annual spring event has been called “Adopt-A-River,” and it focused solely on cleaning up the areas along the Grand River. As the event grew in popularity, volunteers were eventually being turned away due to surprisingly high turnouts. This year, organizers decided it was time to expand the scope of the day of service, and Adopt-Your-Place was born.

Powers says this day of service has benefits beyond simply beautifying and cleaning up Lansing.

“One of the best parts about this is that it brings folks from around the community, not only into Downtown Lansing, but into the other communities that are participating, like Williamston and DeWitt and Charlotte and St. Johns. It brings folks who maybe live in a suburb, or live in a more rural area, downtown, so they can see what the benefits are of a more urban, or village life.”

On top of congregating citizens in local downtowns for a day, Powers says Adopt-Your-Place connects all sorts of people around the shared value of community health and improvement.

“They get a chance to see there are other folks who are like-minded, who want to volunteer, care about their community. It’s a great opportunity, too for multi-generations to get together. We have everything from senior groups, through the AARP of Michigan, to local Girl and Boy Scout troops volunteering.”

While Adopt-Your-Place is a single day of community service, Powers says there are plenty of other chances for residents to volunteer.

“We just picked one day to focus. There are lots of volunteer opportunities that extend before and after this. For example, Mid-MEAC (Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council), where I work, we have lots of volunteer opportunities throughout the year. We do stream monitoring, where we monitor the rivers and streams in the Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham communities. So we have more volunteer opportunities throughout the summer and into the fall.”

Having a lot of focus on a single day of service works the best to get a high number of volunteers, says Powers.

“We picked one day so that we can have everybody together, and then we can tell them about the wonderful opportunities for volunteerism that are there.”

While many may be skeptical about their own community’s willingness to volunteer in clean-up efforts, Powers says the most important piece of getting people involved is spreading the word.

“Other communities can do what we’re doing simply by asking folks to get involved. This is really where it all started… We took the great idea of Adopt-A-River and started talking about how we could make it bigger and better. And then a couple of us went and talked to a few more people, and a few more people, and the next thing we knew, we had a couple dozen folks who were really interested in doing this.”

If anybody has an idea about how to improve their community, Powers says they should step up, ask around, and see what happens.

“All it takes is one or two people with a great idea, and a lot of good spirit. And so what we’ve been doing is we’ve been using our networks, whether it be social media, local media, our friends, our families, our colleagues, talking about this great idea that we had, and, all of a sudden, here we are: Adopt-Your-Place on May 14th.”

You can find out more about the Adopt-Your-Place event here: http://www.greaterlansinglife.com/AdoptYourPlace.aspx

Eliot Johnson - Michigan Radio Newsroom