Volunteer Opportunities

Detroit Charities to Help During the Coronavirus Crisis

October2018DetroitRiverWalk2 (3)Watching Detroit become one of the cities hit hardest by the coronavirus is a terrible thing. As if many of its citizens weren’t struggling enough in day-to-day life, now they have to contend with a deadly virus ripping through their neighborhoods. To call what they’re going through right now unfair is a vicious understatement.

It feels silly in the face of such suffering to feel like I can help – which is exactly why I’m writing this post: as a reminder to myself and to anyone who reads it that we can help, that our small actions can add up to make a difference. One kind act, one relatively small donation can snowball into a massive positive effect!

In the spirit of that can-do optimism, here are some Detroit-based (and Detroit adjacent) charities that could really use our help during this time. If you’re able to give any amount financially or to volunteer your services to any of them that are still accepting volunteers, I’m sure they would very much appreciate it!

COTS: This has long been one of my favorite local organizations to support. COTS offers temporary shelter and a plethora of other resources to those in need – from assistance obtaining housing and employment to financial education and access to job training. www.cotsdetroit.org

Detroit Area Agency on Aging: The elderly are an especially vulnerable population at this time. Detroit Area Agency on Aging is helping them by delivering meals to senior citizens who are unable to leave their homes or prepare meals on their own via its Meals on Wheels program. www.detroitseniorsolution.org

Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries: Another longtime favorite of mine, this charity provides food, shelter, and a variety of supportive programs, such as treatment for substance abuse and assistance upon exiting correctional facilities. www.drmm.org

Forgotten Harvest: Procuring food that would otherwise go to waste and distributing it to those in need is Forgotten Harvest’s mission. Now more than ever, they need financial help to deliver that food. www.forgottenharvest.org

Turning Point: The Macomb County-based advocate for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence is facing the virus head-on, continuing to offer beds at its shelter and services such as it 24/7 crisis line and Forensic Nurse Examiner Program. While it’s not based in Detroit or Wayne County, I felt compelled to feature it here because I have personal experience working with the women who run it and wanted to give a shout-out to their bravery, resilience, and do-gooder-ness. www.turningpointmacomb.org

United Way for Southeastern Michigan: The mainstay Metro-Detroit charity has established its COVID-19 Community Response Fund to help local aid organizations who are assisting the community in the midst of the pandemic. www.unitedwaysem.org

131. Forgotten Harvest – July 11, 2015 – Oak Park, MI


Photo courtesy of Yvonne

Photo courtesy of Yvonne

Photo courtesy of Yvonne

Guys, I have been horrible at maintaining the blog this past month! In part, I blame summer and all of this gorgeous, lovely phenomenal weather we’ve been having the past two weeks (Finally! I’m loving it!). And getting a new day job and all of the hustle and bustle that comes with that (22 miles closer to home – yay!). Excuses, excuses – but I’ve holed myself up in a coffee shop on this lovely Sunday afternoon (after a phenomenal brunch at Toast in Ferndale – a post will be coming on that soon!) to try to catch up. I really do hate being behind on stuff – and I’ve done some cool stuff this month that I want to share!

I really wanted to go into my experience volunteering at Forgotten Harvest three weeks ago, not only because working in its beautiful Oak Park facility was new to me, but because it is an incredibly impressive charitable organization that does lifesaving work. Living in the Metro-Detroit area my whole life, I’ve been aware of Forgotten Harvest’s presence and the fact that it provides food for those in need, but I had no idea of the magnitude of its scope (it delivers food to 280 area organizations that help the hungry, according to its website) or the fact that it rescues so much food from going into landfills (48.8 million pounds last year alone!). It does this by means such as procuring food from local groceries chains – Kroger being one – that has been deemed unsellable but that is still perfectly good. The Saturday I was there for the morning volunteer session, our job was to pack yellow squash and then zucchini into plastic Kroger bags – in bunches of 1-3, depending on size. The bags would then be distributed in packages that would go to local families. We had to examine the vegetables to make sure there were no soft spots/other signs of them going bad and discard the ones that were, but most of them were perfectly good. Some were a little nicked up, and a few looked a bit unconventional (I came across at least one pair of yellow squash that were joined together lengthwise but perfectly fine to use), but overall they were totally fine. It was a reminder of how stringent American-consumer expectations are when it comes to produce (It has to look perfect! It has to be as big as your face!) – often, in this era of pesticides, GMOs, and factory farming, to our detriment. But that’s a whole other topic; I won’t get on my soapbox about that here!

Long story short, in just a few hours, me and the other volunteers (I think there were about 20 of us total -12 from the Meet-Up group I volunteered through and then some other volunteers with other affiliations) packed about 9,500 pounds of zucchini and yellow squash! We definitely couldn’t have done it without the help of the full-time Forgotten Harvest workers, who were there to count and weigh the bags we packed and to bring in additional pallets of vegetables as we burned through them. They were an amazing crew! Apparently they were short-staffed the day I was there, but the ones there operated like frickin’ bosses. I can’t say enough about how hard they worked, or about how clean and professionally maintained the warehouse was. If you are looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity in the area, you should definitely check this place out! The Meet-Up group I volunteered through, Good Karma, has a standing monthly volunteer opportunity scheduled with Forgotten Harvest; they take groups over there every second Saturday for 8:45 a.m. to 12 p.m. shifts. The pictures above were taken by group member Yvonne. Thanks, Yvonne!

21800 Greenfield Rd.

Oak Park, MI 48237