Giving Back, People

Actor’s Passionate ‘Mittens for Detroit’ Grows into Regional Effort

Erin Cummings is a bit of a warm-weather girl. The actress, who plays Dr. Abbey Ward on “Detroit 1-8-7,” lived in Los Angeles for the past 10 years and Texas for more than 10 years before that. To say she is not used to this brutal Michigan weather is an understatement.

“Every time I walk outside, I think about how cold it is. I’m glad I have a pair of gloves on – and I’m only walking from my apartment to my car,” Cummings said.

The bitter, biting cold typical for her adopted state is one reason she launched “Mittens for Detroit” last month. The campaign’s purpose is to collect and distribute new gloves and mittens to Detroit-based children and adults. Groups including Covenant House Michigan are helping Cummings in her mission, and there are drop boxes across Metro Detroit to collect people’s donations. Dozens of businesses of all kinds are participating; the Web site has a box locator that shows just how easy it is to find a place to give.

“The response has been more than overwhelming. It has been what I hoped for,” said Cummings as she drove into work on the ABC television show this week. “This has proved to me exactly what I already felt about the people of Detroit: There is such a strong sense of pride, camaraderie and hope for a better future for this city.”

Cummings works every day in and around Detroit since the highly anticipated television show began. The whole cast lives here, and the show has employed more than 300 people in the film industry. Cummings is happy for the work, and she is enjoying the local attention her role has granted her…she even refers to the people at the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office her friends (talk about a chilly reception).

Mittens for Detroit is her brainchild. She feels the cold just like the rest of us. And she understands how the freezing temperatures can diminish a child’s sense of security and warmth in more ways than one. Cummings has braved the frigid weather – and a racy interview with WRIF’s “Drew and Mike in the Morning” – to get the word out about her organization.

People have gone out of their way to help, Cummings said. The launch began with a huge donation of more than 300 mittens, including a huge basket of 50 pairs from native Lisa Kupelian, who brought a basket of Mittens to the recent WXYZ BackChannel Tweetup. A bunch of firefighters who heard her on “Drew and Mike” agreed to back her up with donations. And a Troy middle school collected $500 for the cause – which was matched by Auburn Hills-based Broner Hat and Glove Company.

The cause is more than 500 mittens strong now – and the donation campaign will continue through the winter months, Cummings said. Granted, she expects more donations around the holidays. But, as we all well know, homelessness, poverty and cold weather around here doesn’t end on Dec. 31. And Cummings is hoping her campaign (and her contract…please, ABC?) will be going strong into 2011.

So although she’s not used to the cold, she has embraced it. “I’ve used it as a great opportunity … to go shopping and learn the art of layering. It makes every day an adventure. It’s kind of fun, knowing everyday errands could lead to a car crash.”

You gotta love a girl with a big heart and a sense of humor.

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