On a recent Friday, the full staff of Kalamazoo-based digital advertising agency Biggs|Gilmore left behind their desks and air-conditioned office for the day and converged upon Kalamazoo’s Eastside neighborhood wanting to dig in and make a difference.
How much of a difference can a group make in just one day? Quite a big one when that group is 120 strong.
In partnership with the Volunteer Center’s Kalamazoo Neighborhood Safety Initiative and Greater Kalamazoo United Way’s Day of Caring program, Biggs-Gilmore employees arrived in the Eastside neighborhood on Friday morning to get a bit of safety training and grab their supplies. They were then divided into groups with project leaders to conquer a large variety of projects. Teams in blue Volunteer Center “Day of Service” t-shirts and white United Way “Live United” t-shirts could be seen throughout the neighborhood working on:
- Clean-up and improvement at Sherwood Park
- Painting of a rundown store at the gateway of the neighborhood
- Massive weed and brush removal from the Eastside Neighborhood Association property
- Planting of flowers and beautification of neighborhood association’s signage
- Work on an elderly woman’s large overgrown garden that she could no longer care for since her husband’s death
- Safety repairs and clean-up of a vacant house, owned by the Kalamazoo County Land Bank
- Community garden upkeep and improvement
- Beautification and grounds maintenance of a neighborhood church
- Other projects
- Improved the safety and environment of the neighborhood by sprucing up the appearance of areas where children play, families gather or individuals travel, giving areas of decay much-needed revitalization.
- Giving a very necessary facelift to a rundown abandoned property to work toward stabilization of property values in the area, and possibly prepare the property for sale.
- Helping an actual Eastside resident on a personal level with a challenge that she could not have otherwise handled
- Building social capital between the Eastside Neighborhood Association and churches, organizations and businesses in the neighborhood, paving the way for future improvements
Matt Lechel of the Volunteer Center had this to say about the project, “Improving neighborhood safety is a complex and long-term project, but we have to start somewhere. House by house, street by street, and neighborhood by neighborhood we will improve the safety and viability of our neighborhoods through direct service. Mayor Bobby Hopewell has pledged Kalamazoo as a ‘City of Service’ and these projects exemplify that pledge and commitment.”
Melissa Henriquez, PR manager at Biggs|Gilmore and coordinator of the agency’s Day of Service commented, “Our staff had a great experience. It was a team-building exercise for many of us who don’t work together on a regular basis and it was a rewarding experience for us all. Sure, it was hot and we worked really hard — but we went home knowing we had made a tangible difference in our community, and that’s something to feel good about. We look forward to another agency-wide community service day next year.”