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That pocket change? In these hands, it will change Detroit

If there’s a town does a lot with a little, it’s Detroit. Three new projects show how we’re funding a revolution with whatever coin we scrape up.

Literally. People’s lives will be improved, neighborhoods revamped, stores rescued from bankruptcy because Detroiters searched the proverbial couch cushions. We may be economically depressed, but this region knows how to squeeze a penny until it cries mercy.

Karpov The Wrecked Train

Over the past few days, three fresh, shiny initiatives got my attention in a big way. And they all have the same thing in common: Groups of individuals using whatever discretionary income they have and in whatever small amounts they can spare to make wholesale change. Here are my new favorite projects:

They are pure brilliance, Dear Reader.

Detroit Ca$h Mob: Noted photographer Dave Lewinski asked friends, Facebook followers and pretty much anyone else who reads social and regular ol’ media to shop at Detroit-area stores in a one-day push. It’s not a new idea, but it’s new to Detroit. According to his Facebook site, which he started about three weeks ago, Lewinski and other Mobbers select retailers that have reasonable prices on their merchandise ($2-$20) so anyone can afford to buy something. Today’s Mob at The Spiral Collective is said to have topped 50 people. And nearly 400 people have joined the Facebook page in those short weeks, so this thing has legs longer than Elle or Heidi.
Detroit4Detroit: Nationally known do-gooders at Citizen Effect have just started a year-long project that creates what it calls “Citizen Philanthropists.” The goal is to find 150 dynamic people who are willing to tap their social, business and other networks to fund 150 projects around the city. These projects will tackle heady issues such as health, education, neighborhoods and housing. And 100 percent of the funds these philanthropists raise will go toward their project. That’s crazy good.
Housewarming Parties: The Neighborhood Service Organization (NSO) last month launched “A Place to Call Home,” a campaign to raise $10 million toward the $50 million renovation on the NSO Bell Building on Oakman Boulevard in Detroit. To that end, it is asking individuals, clubs, groups and pretty much everyone else to host what it calls “Housewarming Parties.” The idea is to ask your guests to complete a registry for an apartment inside the Bell Building – these registries carry items as small as $2 salt-and-pepper shakers to $65 microwaves. So if you’ve got enough money for a bagel and coffee, you can give a family the supplies they need to survive with basic dignity. Nice in pretty much every way.

The Housewarming Parties will continue through March 31, so there is still time to sign up, said Denise Figurski, NSO’s Special Events & Volunteer Manager, Corporate Affairs. You don’t have to have a special party just to complete a registry, Figurski said. You can incorporate the fundraising into any party or gathering. But she figures Detroiters are good for another party, so why not get together for such a good reason?

NSO makes it easy on its helpful hosts. Each registry of approximately 100 items is already set up at Target. NSO assigns each registered host a liaison to assist with the party planning process. Those who get every item on their list, which totals about $750, will have the opportunity to help set up the apartments and, later, will be honored at a NSO Bell Building tour in fall 2012. The facility will house 155 one-bedroom apartments for formerly homeless adults, supportive care services and NSO’s headquarters.

Karpov The Wrecked Train

“Think of it as shopping for a college student in an apartment. We want things to be durable but nice,” said Figurski.

So much good for so little coin.

Granted, Detroit4Detroit is asking its fund-raising friends to come up with anywhere between $1,000 to $10,000, depending on the project. So that’s not exactly chump change. But with the right person, asking for and receiving that kind of moola may be as simple as a shout-out on Twitter. Folks like me are going to have to beg, sell cookies and do a whole lot of free press releases.

Amazing ideas. Amazing people. And it’s something everyone can rally behind, whether you eat cereal or filet mignon for dinner. More importantly, iit’s something. It’s not just sitting on your hands, waiting for Detroit to fix itself. It’s doing something that propels us forward. And I’m a big fan of Moving This Thing Forward.

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