Detroit, like many cities, has its share of friends and foes. There are plenty of companies that deserve to hang their collective heads in shame for polluting, dumping and plain-old ignoring the city’s natural resources and long-standing architectural gems.
But then there are the heroes. The companies, business owners and employees who are trying to do what is right. They’re trying to contribute to Detroit both as corporate citizens and just people who want to see their city thrive. These are the shining examples of how you enhance Detroit’s revival rather than hinder it.
One such business is DTE Energy. Sure, it has a headquarters in the city, so there is an investment already there. (The company also is in the midst of putting in a massive park across the street from its stately grounds; I think you can tell it’s going to be impressive just from the size and amount of construction vehicles out there already.)
In August, the whole company – some 1,400 strong – put on their red T-shirts and got to work in another way. This was DTE Energy’s first “Month of Caring,” a way to cover the city with its volunteer efforts in a new and vibrant way. One of the stops I checked out was a new mural on the Milwaukee Junction substation, a project proposed by community partner Summer in the City.
The artwork being done that day was massive – it required ladders, people with long arms and many, many buckets of paint to get it done. What was a form cement-block wall is now a bright, Detroit-centric transportation mural, one that neighbors can enjoy and people across the region can admire when they come in for events at nearby art galleries or museums.
“These murals embrace the communities they’re in – they serve both sides, both the residents and the buildings themselves,” said Isaac Piepszowski, 22, co-director of this summer’s activities for the non-profit organization.
Since 2010, the company has sponsored enterprise-wide volunteer initiatives, including “DTE Cares Day,” and “DTE Cares Fridays.” This year, DTE has expanded its initiative to an entire month to more positively impact the community through volunteering, fundraising and collection drives.
There were more than 100 different volunteer events scheduled across Michigan throughout the month. From Grand Rapids to Monroe to Pontiac and areas in between, the DTE Care Force assembled groups ranging from five and up to 200 employees, to team up and give back to the causes they care about – in their own way.
Employees donated their time to community service activities, including: o neighborhood clean-up and beautification; food packing and serving; recycling and environmental support; home building, restoration and furnishing services; and services to support children – through back to school support, educational services and classroom transformations.
“Our team was really excited at the opportunity to participate in the event and work with the various organizations,” said Kevin Tomaszewski, manager of Logistics. “It took the hard work of many different groups both within DTE and outside of DTE. We really appreciate everyone coming together to do something good for the city.”
Some 25 nonprofit organizations supported throughout Michigan – including Gleaners Community Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Summer in the City, Arise Detroit, Children’s Center of Wayne County, Life Remodeled, Humble Design, Crossroads for Youth, Belle Isle Conservancy and more.
“Volunteerism matters. It strengthens the connections to our communities. Most importantly, it helps our communities and nonprofit partners make a meaningful difference in people’s lives,” said Mark Stiers, president and COO, DTE Gas. “DTE is encouraging our employees to volunteer because as a good corporate citizen, we recognize it is our responsibility to give back to the communities where we live and serve.”
If a 501(c)3 nonprofit is looking for volunteers, and would like to connect with DTE Energy and its Care Force, it can email the company at email@example.com.
– Photos by Paul Engstrom