Day of Service:Volunteers making a world of difference

By David Fleet
For some, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a mid winter three day weekend. Yet, for others it’s an opportunity to give back in service to give back to the community.
“We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles rather than by the quality of our service and the relationship to mankind,” wrote King.
On Jan. 16, nearly 50 volunteers of all ages from St. Anne Church, Ortonville, St. Daniel Catholic Church, Clarkston and Our Lady of Lakes Parishes, Waterford, rekindled that service to their neighbors.
“The goal when planning Martin Luther King Day of Service was to bring volunteers of all ages together and inform them about various charities,” said Kim Zernec, St. Anne, Ortonville group leader.
“We wanted to let them know that they could continue to support these charities way beyond Martin Luther King Day and give them the tools to make items as well as serve at these locations. Service is a life-long goal for all of us.”
The group of local volunteers completed 71 homeless bags including:

Drinks, snacks and Emergency Response Kits, prepared plastic bags to make homeless mats and collected 12 large boxes of items to distribute to homeless shelters in Pontiac and Flint. The group made 30 dog toys and 42 cat toys to distribute to animal shelters in Pontiac and Oxford. The collection included paper products for the Ortonville Community Emergency Fund, 75 Valentine cards and candy bags for three adult foster care homes in Ortonville, Drew House in Clarkston and The Pines of Goodrich Assisted Living. Finally, the group completed 21 preemie blankets for the neonatal intensive care unit at local hospitals and provided toys to the Whaley Children’s Center in Flint.
“I would call that a successful day of volunteerism,” said Zernec. “Thank you to all who worked, donated and delivered items for us. You are a blessing.”
The results of their efforts were noticed.
Brian Wright, is the director of development at the Hope Hospitality and Warming Center, 249 Baldwin Ave., Pontiac. The center is a low-barrier emergency shelter, one of the urban facilities that received the donations from the Day of Service.
“We are a low-barrier shelter, who take people as they are—in real time,” said Wright. “The goal is to resolve their homelessness, with health care, mental health care, securing vital documents for employment along with assistance in making applications for permit housing. Many individuals arrive without any of the basics needed to move on..There are just so many obstacles when you are homeless.”
“People are looking for a way to cope,” he said. “We provide a plan to resolve the homelessness, but try to resolve it permanently. Not just a quick place—our length of stay is about 45 days.”
“It makes such a big difference when the homeless know there is an army of people helping,” he said. “The acts of kindness along with donations provide a level of support that transcends the basic needs of the homeless. When you see a very caring community, reflected in the efforts of these volunteers from our area churches, it makes a world of difference.”

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