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ROI means Return on Involvement for local company’s volunteer effort

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Winston Churchill once said, “You make a living by what you get and you make a life by what you give.” With that spirit in mind, employees from Farmington Hills-based Mercedes Benz Financial Services (MBFS) are partnering with 35 nonprofits in five countries for their first ever “Week of Caring” volunteer effort. In metro Detroit, community projects benefitting families in need, providing educational opportunities to underserved youth and beautifying communities are all a part of the effort.

Tearing off the roof at habitat for humanityFrom May 6-10, hundreds of MBFS employees are harnessing their collective power to make a difference in communities where they have operations. The company is an automotive finance company with more than one thousand employees in Canada, the Americas, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.

Volunteerism is encouraged at the company, which allows two paid days off a year for employees to help in their communities. One of those days is on a corporate project like the “Week of Caring” and the other can be of the employee’s choosing.

We caught up with a group of about 20 volunteers at a Habitat for Humanity project home in Madison Heights. The goal was to totally strip out the flooring, roof and generally overhaul the whole place. The formerly foreclosed property needed a whole lot of work.

Sierra Coley, an Americore volunteer working with Habitat, began the project day giving instructions and letting MBFS volunteers pick which job they wanted to get involved with. Everything from demolishing an old shed to fixing the roof to breaking up a concrete patio with a jack-hammer … It looked like fun. Some volunteers were nervous at first, but quickly got the hang of their chosen assignments. Once complete, the house will go to a disabled man who grew up in the city and is now able to return to the area with some required sweat equity in the project and a lot of help from Habitat.

Tearing up flooring at Habitat for HumanityThe demolition, rehaul and refurbishing is quite an undertaking, according to Habitat for Humanity construction liaison Eva Koleva. “This is a huge project that will take the whole week to complete. We are really grateful for the help from MBFS,” she said. The home is slated to be ready for new resident, Michael by early July.

Another volunteer Johan Swart, a transplant from South Africa and MBFS senior manager of information technology, worked high above the trees on the roof. ”This is my fourth year as a volunteer. At the end of the day, we are in a fortunate position, having jobs and resources ourselves,” he said. “Reaching out and getting involved helps make a difference in someone else’s life that may not otherwise get help.”

The Madison Heights house is just one of 13 projects taking place in metro Detroit. MBFS Manager of Community Relations Jennifer Korman says one of the biggest challenges in pulling something together this big is the pure logistics. “We coordinate projects in five countries, it takes a lot of coordination, but it’s worth it.”

“The goal is satisfied community partners and engaged employees,” she added. “Employees want to work for a company that gives back.”

Metro Detroit projects include:

Loading debris at Habitat for Humanity

Monday – Friday, May 6-10

Habitat for Humanity, 27729 Osmun Street, Madison Heights, House rehab, 20 employees each day.

Wednesday – Friday, May 8-10

Habitat for Humanity, 24 Taylor St., Pontiac, House rehab in 3 phases, 10 employees each day.

Thursday, May 9

Urban Neighborhood Initiatives, Weiss Park, 9215 Mandale, southwest Detroit. Clean up graffiti on walls and replace with murals by an artist from the College for Creative Studies, 20 employees.

Friday, May 10

Greening of Detroit, Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood near Grand River and Fenkell, east of the Southfield Expressway. Community Tree Planting with 50 employees.

Rebuilding Together, Common Ground, Sanctuary and A Step Forward teen and young adult homeless shelter, 1222 S. Washington Street, Royal Oak. 30 employee volunteers on two buildings.

For more information on Mercedes Benz Financial Services, visit the website.

Habitat for Humanity Madison Heights

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