How many points of light do you think we have in Detroit? It’s many, many more and 1,000. We’ll get to show many of them off next week when the Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service comes to town.
From June 27-29 thousands of people representing non-profits, government, business, and civic leaders will gather at Cobo Center for the conference. They’ll draw on each other to learn, share, get inspired and strengthen volunteering both at home and across the globe.
Best of all we get to showcase some of our points of light and a few of the people who help them shine brightly. Detroit has thousands of people who are changing their communities and continually show the determination and unfailing spirit of the city, its resilience and community leadership.
“The world is watching (Detroit),” says Mark Davidoff, Michigan managing partner at Deloitte, which is involved in the conference. “We have evolved into the greatest urban experiment seen in decades.”
Along with individuals moving the needle in neighborhoods and communities, corporations, foundations and government have come together and “taken the public, private and government collaboration to new levels not seen in Michigan in many, many years,” he says.
For their part, many corporations are playing a huge role in Detroit’s revitalization, contributing dollars and leadership. That is all terrific, but it is the power of the relationships many their employees have built as they volunteer in the neighborhoods that also helps move the needle. More can be done, in Detroit and elsewhere.
With that in mind, Deloitte is co-sponsoring the conference’s Business Track Luncheon, titled “What’s Next? Unleashing the Next Generation of Changemakers” with Target and JPMorgan Chase. It will share the latest research, insights and storytelling tools businesses can use to harness the volunteer power of their employees and make them change leaders.
Davidoff says Deloitte has its own 1,000 points of light – the 1,000 people who work for the company here. Deloitte has done numerous projects to help transform the city and help its residents. It is one of several Detroit companies supporting Operation Hope, a non-profit organization providing financial literacy empowerment and economic education to youth and adults.
To look further for new ideas Davidoff led a delegation of business leaders to Israel last year to look at that nation’s incubator system and see what other collaborative efforts might evolve.
One of those is the United Rescue Development Project, where volunteers are taught to be first responders in emergencies and are given the tools to help.
“We are looking to see if it has application in Detroit,” Davidoff says. “We could train people in neighborhoods to be heroes.”
An app would connect the volunteers to 911 so they could informed of an emergency at their location, quickly respond and begin first aid until medical help arrives. That could a huge difference in Detroit where response time is often still too long.
Whether it is business, government, foundation or community work, all the points of light in Detroit are starting to come together. Several of them will be highlighted at the conference during walking and bus tours. They are:
- Southwest/Corktown: The Greening of Detroit, Ponyride and BUILD Institute
- Downtown: Campus Martius Park, Guardian Building, The Spirit of Detroit, Greektown, The New Paradise Valley District, and The Grand Circus Park
- Northwest: Featuring Good Cakes and Bakes, Artesian Farms and Live6
- & Beyond: Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, The Greening of Detroit, Eastern Market and The Heidelberg Project
Those at the conference also will hear from Detroiters who are making a difference including:
- Phillip Cooley, co-owner of Slows Bar BQ & Ponyride, who works on projects ranging from helping others open small businesses, to designing and building public spaces
- Rabbi Dorit Edut, president, Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network, who brought together a diverse group of clergy and civic leaders to find ways to help revitalize the city of Detroit with a focus on its youth
- William F. Jones Jr., CEO, Focus: HOPE, which has opened career opportunities to more than 12,000 graduates in machining, engineering and information technolog
- Asia Newson, co-founder and CEO of Super Business Girl and Detroit’s youngest entrepreneur, who at five years old selling candles with her father and has trained more than 100 youth entrepreneurs so they can earn extra income for their families
- Veronika Scott, founder and CEO of The Empowerment Plan, which makes coats for the homeless and employs homeless women to make them
They’ll also hear from the heads of two foundations.
Tonya Allen, president & CEO, Skillman Foundation. She is the architect of the 10-year, $100 million Good Neighborhoods program and developer of a $200-million, citywide education reform organization called Excellent Schools Detroit.
Jackie W. Parker, director, global philanthropy and corporate giving, General Motors and president, General Motors Foundation. During the conference GM is asking attendees to help fill 5,000 backpacks with school supplies and a healthy snack. The backpacks will be distributed throughout greater Detroit to children, grades K-12, during United Way for Southeastern Michigan Meet Up and Eat Up events designed to provide children with access to free, nutritious meals throughout the summer.
These are just a smidgeon of thousands of points of light we have in Detroit and we add more every day.
“We are never done,” Davidoff says. “That’s the great thing about working together.”