Blue Cross Volunteers Help Beautify Community with ARISE Detroit

Blue Cross Volunteers Help Beautify Community with ARISE Detroit

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

While the saying may be dated, the message is as true today as it was then. One can’t help but assume this quote is essentially the foundation of ARISE Detroit, a broad-based coalition of community groups that promotes volunteerism for programs and activities struggling with community issues such as neighborhood blight, unemployment and illiteracy, just to name a few.

As part of these efforts, an annual “Neighborhoods Day” was created in 2006 with the goal of uniting the entire community — non-profit organizations, churches, schools, the business community and the media — in an unprecedented call-to-action. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s own Ron Wood, vice president of Business Performance, serves as treasurer on ARISE Detroit’s Board of Trustees and a true advocate of the organization’s community efforts.

“On a personal level, as a native Detroiter born and raised, there’s nothing more dear to my heart than to support the city in any way that I can,” said Wood. “Being a board member for ARISE Detroit, as well as an ambassador for Neighborhoods Day, fits right into my passion of lifting up this great city, and aligns with Blue Cross’ mission to invest in the communities it serves.”

Among a large number of company-affiliated participants, this year marked the third that Blue Cross has supported ARISE Detroit through its Neighborhoods Day initiative. Earlier this month, more than 200 employee volunteers from Blue Cross’ Operations, Information Technology, Human Resources, Business Performance, and Business Efficiency and Continuous Improvement teams gave their time to support beautification efforts – gardening, removing litter, etc – on 18 projects throughout the city, 15 of which were Detroit Public Schools (DPD). Leading Blue Cross’ effort was Dell Dexter, director of Culture & Business Performance at BCBSM, who grew up attending public schools in the city.

“My elementary school was one of the schools we supported, so it gave me a greater sense of appreciation and pride to give back to DPD after all it’s given to me over the years. It’s very rewarding,” said Dexter. “These efforts go a long way in giving the kids a sense of pride that they’re returning back to school.”

In addition to planting flowers and de-weeding, teams helped with other tasks at schools as necessary. For example, the team assigned to Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle School assisted in setting up a new science lab and helped organize desks, books, and move furniture for the new school year. The group also planned to donate approximately 400 books to the 15 schools through DPS’ Little Free Libraries program, which offers free books to drop off/pick up in front of varying schools across Detroit. These schools include:

  • Bow Elementary-Middle School
  • Coleman A. Young Elementary School
  • Schulze Academy of Technology and Arts
  • Bethune Elementary-Middle School
  • Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle School
  • Paul Rberson Malcolm X Academy at HallyMagnet
  • Nolan Elementary-Middle School
  • Hutchinson at Howe Elementary-Middle School
  • Golightly Education Center
  • Carstens Academy of Aquatic Science at Remus Robinson
  • Duke Ellington Conservatory for Music and Arts at Beckham Academy
  • Fisher Magnet Lower Academy
  • Brewer Academy
  • Carlton Academy-Middle School
  • Pulaski Elementary-Middle School

While the planning process required a bit of budget management, Auburn Oaks Nursery in Rochester Hills ultimately came to the rescue, providing all of the plants used at the schools at a generous discount, alongside ACE True Value, which donated materials as well. Meanwhile, Blue Cross’ Community Responsibility team provided t-shirts, tablecloths, and transported plants to the volunteer sites.

The community response to this year’s Neighborhoods Day was significant. More than 200 projects across the city took place simultaneously to address community-specific needs such as clean-up of abandoned lots, small home repairs or lawn work for seniors, community beautification and more.

“We worked side by side with parents and faculty of the schools, and residences of the neighborhoods even came up and lent a hand,” said Dexter. “Passerbys stopped to thank us and some asked how they could be involved next year. There was so much support both internally and externally, and the smiles from school representatives and the employees made it all worth it.”

If you’d like to get involved in next year’s efforts, visit http://www.arisedetroit.org/volunteer/.

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