LGBTQ youth at the Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park will have the opportunity to grow food in an urban community setting and learn more about sustainable gardening as a result of a new partnership between the agency and Mercedes-Benz Financial Services.
Over the course of two days, around 60 volunteers transformed the grounds around Ruth’s House and REC during the automotive finance company’s fifth-annual Week of Caring.
The team members spent six hour days June 22-23 to build and install a tool shed, picnic tables, benches and raised flower beds. They painted and sorted, cleaned and organized donation items for Ruth’s Closet. They also built and planted a food garden to help raise awareness for REC young people and provide education about the benefits of growing their own fruits and vegetables.
Week of Caring is a week-long community service campaign that MBFS has organized as part of its corporate commitment to making a difference in the communities where its team members live and work.
This was one of 12 community enhancement projects selected by MBFS this year.
“We have had a particular focus in the last couple of years on enhancing the diversity and inclusion segment of our community relations efforts. It’s always been one of our four focus areas, but we’ve really been working to expand that so it’s reflected better in our partnerships,” said Rachel Van Rossum, community relations and corporate events specialist with MBFS, noting they proudly participated in the Motor City Pride parade for the first time, among other LGBTQ-related activities this month.
Rossum said she met with Mark Erwin-McCormick, director of development and advancement at REC, to learn more about what the agency does and to discuss their needs.
“I had goosebumps the whole meeting,” she said. “They have a really good grasp on how to do what they do. They really get what the need is and how to fulfill that need in the community. They clearly have it together and are very competent in the services and programs they’re putting together, which are getting national recognition and are being adopted by other agencies.”
Rossum said REC’s project proposal fit within the parameters of the program and “we loved it and we were thrilled to include them.”
MBFS employees are given two paid volunteer days during the year, according to Rossum. One to be used during the Week of Caring and one individual day to volunteer with any non-profit of the employee’s choice.
“We are truly grateful to have the support of Mercedes-Benz Financial Services. This is one of the largest corporate volunteer projects the Center has ever taken on, and the level of enthusiasm, passion, and commitment the volunteers showed throughout was incredible,” said Erwin-McCormick.
REC is a youth social service agency whose core purpose is building positive futures with LGBTQ young people experiencing barriers to housing, health and wellness.
As LGBTQ youth continue to be disproportionately affected by homelessness, and overly represented in the child welfare system, REC remains dedicated to ensuring these youth/young adults receive the services and protections available to all citizens.
Ruth’s House accommodates up to nine youth in the foster care system at any given time by providing services in a home-like setting that meets the individual needs of the youth while they are in care.
Other Week of Caring projects involved helping Macomb County Habitat for Humanity, the Detroit Animal Welfare Group and Forgotten Harvest.