Editor Note: During the North American International Auto Show, Detroit Unspun/The HUB will bring you stories of what the auto industry is doing to help improve Detroit’s neighborhoods.
When a group of people work toward a collective goal, the impact can be immediate, impressive and downright inspiring. That is how the beehive of activity known as the volunteers of luxury automotive company Mercedes-Benz has worked within the Detroit community.
Through its Financial Services arm, Mercedes-Benz has put more than 500 volunteers into Detroit’s neighborhoods and funded significant donations that will serve to change how area non-profit organizations serve the city’s population.
It’s more than just a few volunteer days or financial contributions, organizers say. It’s about how Mercedes-Benz defines itself as a company, how it chooses to do business within metro Detroit, and the way it continuously reinvests itself in the community.
For example, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services has sponsored six vehicles for Forgotten Harvest in its mission to rescue fresh food to feed the hungry. In December, the company contributed to the delivery of a new Freightliner refrigerated truck to the non-profit group’s Oak Park headquarters. A grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) awarded to Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision (SDEV) also helped underwrite the cost of the truck.
One of 2015’s biggest efforts was the group’s third annual Week of Caring, organized to connect Mercedes-Benz Financial Services employees with the charitable works and organizations surrounding the company’s Farmington Hills headquarters.
“The Week of Caring is one of my favorite weeks of the year, because it is gratifying to see the impact our team members have when they roll up their sleeves and give back to worthy organizations doing great work,” Peter Zieringer, president and CEO, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, says. “In just five days, my fellow colleagues will clock more than 3,000 hours of service benefitting 11 different community partners.”
Mercedes-Benz Financial Services is focused on building long-term partnerships with organizations committed to creating positive social change in four focus areas including education, community enhancement, arts and culture, and diversity and inclusion.
Project examples varied widely. Volunteers at Alternatives for Girls in Detroit put on a resume workshop, put together health kits and painted and organized. They gardened with the Greening of Detroit. They worked the hammer with Habitat for Humanity in Macomb and Oakland counties. They hung out with students at Beyond Basics in Southfield and put together packaged meals for families in need at Kids against Hunger in Oak Park.
It was impressive to see how thoughtful volunteers were about the work they did, says Jordan Twardy, executive director for the Eight Mile Boulevard Association (8MBA).
For example, volunteers worked with the 8 Mile Boulevard Association to paint a mural at Detroit Vintage Coffee, a local coffee house that’s a unique neighborhood gathering spot. But painting just one wall wasn’t enough, Twardy says. Mercedes-Benz volunteers were so charged up that they tackled the rest of the shopping complex, adding a fresh coat of paint to Detroit Vintage Coffee’s willing neighbors.
“Detroit Vintage is one of more than 1,700 properties on Eight Mile. With the support of Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, we will be able to help them better stand out on our busy corridor, so they remain a favorite destination and neighborhood hangout for years to come,” Twardy says.
– Photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Financial Services. The top picture shows volunteers harvesting kale at the Forgotten Harvest Farm. Food benefits the hungry in metro Detroit.