#LifeOnTheAvenue: Summer festivities, service projects bring the University Avenue community together

Kettering University, working with partners in the University Avenue Corridor Coalition (UACC), have big plans this summer to not only continue cleanups but also hold community events and activities.

#LifeOnTheAvenue is a series that will profile the people, organizations and places in the University Avenue Corridor that make the region unique, compelling and – most importantly – vital to Flint’s bright future. Follow along on social media using the #LifeOnTheAvenue hashtag.#LifeOnTheAvenue

Kettering University’s goal is not just to beautify homes and properties along the University Avenue Corridor. The hope is that service projects and local events will help connect a community and create a sense of cohesion.

It takes anchor institutions, students, residents, businesses of all sizes, organizations and community members all coming together to make the biggest impact. Kettering University, working with partners in the University Avenue Corridor Coalition (UACC), have big plans this summer to not only continue cleanups but also hold community events and activities.

“Throughout the University Avenue Corridor, we’re really trying to shed light on the areas that need the most support. We’ve begun working around the edges. Now we are going right to the heart of the matter to see what sort of difference we can make,” said Jack Stock, Director of External Relations for Kettering University. “It brings a sense of community. It empowers residents by becoming a part of a solution to make their lives better. It’s all about building community cohesion.”

Events and service projects are planned out this summer to help with that cohesion. Service Saturday and Porch Fest are two major events to keep an eye out for.

The summer events kicked off June 4 with “Beautify the Middle,” an event with a goal to improve physical conditions of homes and properties between Grand Traverse and Kettering University/The Flint River to Fifth Avenue.

A group of 15 Beta Theta Pi members worked on the Historic Sutherland House (located on Stone Street) that was damaged last year by an arson fire next door.

For the Beta Theta Pi members, it was a way to give back to the community they live in. And it wasn’t the first time. It was two Beta members, Anghad Mehrotra and Erik Griffiths, that started the Flint Brush Up project, which morphed into Service Saturdays.

“We thought we should keep our legacy alive and do good works through the city of Flint. We only have four and a half years at Kettering. It’s enough time to make an impact but it’s not much. We have to work as hard as possible to improve the city that’s accepted us,” said Matthew Meagher ‘18, public relations chairman for Beta Theta Pi.

To improve an area, a community, everyone must do their part, Meagher said. That includes students, faculty, staff and residents.

Students have had the opportunity to clean up streets and parks, pick up trash, paint and beautify homes and other structures, along with other projects.

“You have to take this chance of four years at a prestigious university and have the opportunity to use the resources and the people to make an effort to make change in the community and have fun while you’re at it,” Meagher said. “It’s my actions along with the assistance of my brothers and others that are making an impact. I love the community of Flint. I love the people of Flint. As much as the hard times come down, they are always willing to do the work to change the community and the city.”

What’s next

Kettering and the UACC have and will utilize many partnerships to make an impact in the community -- which includes Mott Park, Glendale Hills and Carriage Town neighborhoods.

They have partnered with the Crim Fitness Foundation, the Urban Safety Corps, Kettering Service Corps, Flint Community Schools, University of Michigan-Flint and community volunteers.

On July 9, Kettering University expects to have one of its largest Service Saturdays. From 9 a.m. to noon there will be at least six different work sites with projects including painting, lawn care and lighting improvements.

Volunteers from Kettering University, Glendale Hills Neighborhood Association, Mott Park Neighborhood Association, Mott Park Recreation Area and General Motors’ GM Cares program will be involved.

On August 27, Kettering and the UACC will be hosting the inaugural PorchFest in the Mott Park neighborhood. Between 2 and 6 p.m. there will be different concerts -- two at a time for 30 minutes each -- throughout the neighborhood.

Residents’ porches and front portions of their properties will be used for seating areas. Some residents will set up yard games, maker spaces or other activities. The hope is to also bring in food trucks, said Tom Wyatt, Byrne Grant Coordinator for Kettering.

Then from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. that night, there will be a bigger event with musical talent being showcased along the hillside by the Mott Park Recreation Area Club House.

“There’s really a festival of things coming up like this,” Wyatt said. “It’s all about connecting people, changing perceptions of that actual space. These events are opportunities to get people interested in bringing additional resources and more development to the area.”

Friday Nights at University Square will be back this summer with at least three events in July, August and September. University Square is located at the corner of University Avenue and Grand Traverse Street. The events include food trucks, lawn games and other entertainment.

A Stevenson Neighborhood Block Party is planned from 6 to 8 p.m. June 30 in the grassy lot across from Atwood Stadium on University Avenue. And Kettering is hosting two block parties and placemaking events at Sunset Village apartment complex on July 7 and 21.

The events will include lawn games, popcorn and food trucks, while also collecting important information to help improve neighborhoods.

It’s important that the community and its residents understand that it’s a team effort, Wyatt said.

“These events, activities and service work destroys the us and them line,” he said. “With any social group there’s a ceiling in terms of what they can do. University students, faculty and professionals bring various assets and skillsets. Together with the assets of the community it lifts that ceiling.”

Anyone interested in Service Saturday on July 9 should meet in the Great Court in Kettering’s Campus Center at 9 a.m. Bring work gloves if you have them along with sturdy foot gear.

If you live in the Mott Park neighborhood and want to participate as a host for music, games, art or other activities for Porch Fest, you can sign up online. For more information contact Wyatt at twyatt@kettering.edu.