One year. One city. Endless opportunities.

Wearing Detroit on My Sleeve

What if…everyone who lived in Metro Detroit volunteered a few hours a month?

What if…each family committed to donating a bag of groceries every week to a food bank?

What if…a blog about one of the most challenged cities in the world encouraged people do something for Detroit?

The New Year has me thinking. I am going to step up to change myself and my city. Like many people, I am good at making resolutions. I'm a master at To Do lists. I have a list of promises to myself (and others) a mile long.

One of my favorite ones goes like this…Once my kids get into elementary school, I'll start exercising, volunteering my time, doing more good for someone other than myself.

So, I'll use the blog like a “Resolution Buddy.” I vow to find a Detroit-based organization to volunteer at in the New Year. Right now, I'm thinking the Salvation Army or that new Reading Corps for Detroit Public Schools, sponsored in part by The Detroit Free Press. I've submitted my name already (I'm volunteer 2,402.) It's easy to complain about education in Detroit; it's another thing to do something about it.

I think of it as putting my money, time and effort where my mouth is. After I criticized the Ice House Detroit project in a blog post, there was a comment from a reader that stuck with me. It was something about my “continuous pessimism” about the city. Surprisingly, I always thought I was an optimist on this site, but maybe not.

Over the past three months, I've spent more time in the city than I have in the four previous years. I have donated more money to Detroit-based groups – even $5 for those Ice House guys. I have made a point of eating at Detroit restaurants like my beloved Mi Pueblo. I proudly wear my “Make Nice Things about Detroit” T-shirt I picked up at the Detroit Urban Craft Fair.

It feels good to care about this great city – and show it.

I also resolve to spend more money in the city – Slows Bar B Q, you're next. And I plan to buy those Old English “D” cuff links from City Bird, even if I have no one to give them to – they're just beautiful. I also plan on taking my kids bowling at The Garden Bowl at the Majestic Theater, just so they can say they've handled the six-pound balls at America's oldest active bowling center.

This past week, I chatted with Lindsay Chalmers, Goodwill Industries of Metro Detroit's vice president of Business Development. He noted that he spent more than 35 years in private or for-profit businesses before joining Goodwill, where he has been for the past five years. I asked him if this was on purpose, and he said it indeed was. The job, while profitable for him and his family, also gave him a chance to give back and use his business experience to benefit the organization, which is in the midst of a massive restructuring given these economically trying times.

We could all do the same – give back a little. Anyone want to join me?

  • Print
  • Comment
Comments (5)
Post a Comment »
  • 1

    Great post, Karen. I appreciate your ambitious spirit and hope more Metro Detroiters do more to help the awesome people and sore spots of the region.

    @kayleehawkins [twitter]

  • 2

    [...] Tags: article, giving back, smile, volunteering I came across the article “Wearing Detroit on My Sleeve” [...]

  • 3

    Karen, I really enjoyed your post. More specifically, I appreciated your dedication to spending more money in Detroit. As a resident of Detroit, I rely on these businesses for almost 75% of my shopping. For the new year, i am working towards dedicating a larger percentage of my family's shopping dollars to Detroit businesses.

    As a Detroit professional, I'd like to bring your attention to one of our Hamilton Anderson sponsored initiatives entitled "Challenging Detroit : {Re}generating Urbanism." This lecture series is dedicated to creating a broader creative discourse through open and collaborative dialogue within Detroit's business community. The program includes lectures and discussions throughout the year that will consider important contemporary design issues associated with the Detroit urban environment. Our next lecturer is Phil Cooley (one of the owner's of Slows) and will be held on Feb 16th. The public is encouraged to attend these free events. Please visit for further details on current and past events. Thank you.


  • 4

    Karen, I admire your spirit and your willingness to step forward with this kind of commitment. I live in Oakland County, and Detroit is my city, too. We need a strong core to support a vibrant metropolitan area.

    Thanks for spreading the Detroit love, and keep up the good work. Let me know if I can help get the word out - I publish a women's issues e-zine, My contact information is there.

  • 5

    I love this... and love that you're recruiting everyone else in the city to join you in this resolution. Detroit's problems may seem enormous, but as the saying goes "many hands make light work because it is little for everyone."

    For all of those signing up, I'd encourage you to consider not only volunteering for direct service but also board service. These are challenging times for nonprofits in our state, and we need great minds to help the organizations find creative ways to meet the community's needs.

    On a closing note, I'm thrilled you're considering volunteering with the Salvation Army. With demand increasing as much as 60% in service areas, they certainly need all hands on deck!

Add Your Comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.
The Detroit Blog Daily E-mail

Get e-mail updates from TIME's The Detroit Blog in your inbox and never miss a day.

More News from Our Partners

Quotes of the Day »

NICHOLAS FISHER, expert at Stony Brook University in New York who took part in a study which found that bluefin tuna contaminated with radiation believed to be from Fukushima Daiichi were present off the coast of California just five months after the nuclear meltdown.