In 2012, Kettering University highlighted ‘Community Vitality’ as one of its four key pillars of success. Through an initiative called ‘Service Saturdays,’ began in 2013, Kettering students have been among the most enthusiastic embracers of the concept of making a better Flint.
The Community Vitality pillar states that, “The City of Flint and the surrounding area are important attributes of the Kettering experience. It is imperative that we actively engage in the economic renewal of our city and region by fueling innovation and entrepreneurship in our graduates and by collaborating with our partners in the region.”
The Service Saturdays concept was started in 2013, led by Myra Lumpkin, coordinator for Greek life and community service, and Jack Stock, director of external relations. The founding principle of the initiative was to simply promote civic engagement among Kettering students, faculty and staff.
Service Saturdays have recently been averaging nearly 100 volunteers.
“The dedication of the students has been huge,” Lumpkin said. “The idea is to encourage students that wherever you live, you can take a leadership role in your community and help make it a better place.”
After a cleanup that Stock had organized the previous fall, Lumpkin wanted to make it a recurring event. Service Saturdays began in January of 2013. Volunteers spend one Saturday per month working on community service projects, particularly in the University Avenue Corridor area. In the winter, students and volunteers worked with organizations like the Eastern Michigan Food Bank and Carriage Town Ministries. In the spring, summer and fall, activities have included cleanups, small maintenance projects, painting and other outdoor projects.
Participation has steadily increased -- Service Saturday events in April and May of this year had grown to approximately 100 volunteers. The initiative has also opened up new opportunities for community partnerships as Kettering has worked with organizations like the Food Bank, Carriage Town, the Mott Park and Glendale Hills neighborhood associations, the University Avenue Corridor Coalition and the Flint River Watershed Coalition, among others. Recent cleanup projects are also expanding past Kettering, toward Ballenger Highway and Flushing Road.
Organizations in the area around campus are able to request help with projects, and organizers of Service Saturday deploy volunteers to different locations throughout the University Avenue Corridor to contribute. The Salem Housing Community Development Corporation has assisted by lending tools for volunteers to use. A Kettering graduate, Roger Lachele ’75, also contributed $10,000 to fund the Service Saturdays initiative after witnessing some of the work students were doing to clean up the area earlier this year.
“It really helps create a positive domino effect in the University Corridor,” Stock said. “People who live in the area consistently see volunteers out there, cleaning up and engaging in the community, and it makes more and more people want to get involved. That’s helped these events grow -- it just spreads through word of mouth and people witnessing our volunteers out there consistently helping in the community and then wanting to get involved themselves.”
Service Saturdays have also become a part of freshman orientation, as new students arriving on campus in July will be encouraged to participate in the July 12 event.
“The fun thing to watch has been how these service projects have given students more exposure to Flint and its history,” Lumpkin said. “They get to walk around in the community and learn about Flint, and their engineering backgrounds and creativity takes over. For example, I’ve heard students brainstorming about some of the possibilities for what Atwood Stadium could add to the campus once the facility updates are completed. I’ve also heard students talking about ways they can help make the Mott Park Golf Course into a usable facility again. It’s great to watch Kettering students getting excited about ways they can contribute in Flint.”
Dates for remaining Service Saturdays in 2014 are available on Kettering’s Community Service website. Anyone interested in volunteering on those days can simply check in at the 8:30 a.m. registration in front of the Campus Center on the dates listed. Work typically lasts from 9 a.m. to noon.
In the future, Lumpkin hopes participation in Service Saturdays continues to increase. It’s also possible that a second Saturday each month could be added to the schedule.
“We’d just love to see people continue to get involved,” she said. “Students, student organizations, faculty, staff, alumni … anyone interested in helping in the community is welcome to come and participate.”