Thursday, December 14, 2006

Leadership Ann Arbor: Month 2

Yesterday was our second day of our Leadership Ann Arbor class. As a part of this class, around 50 of us get together on the second Wednesday of each month to learn about some aspect of Ann Arbor and its surrounding areas. Last month we had "Economic Development" day. What a skull-buster! This month was "Community Service" day.

Unlike last month, where we all piled into a big bus and drove all over, this month we were broken up into cars. Pairs of cars were assigned five different charitable organizations (out of a group of eleven) to visit and learn about. Oh, and there were a few others who sent representatives to speak to us at lunch. Our group visited the American Cancer Society (where the women whooped the men in a quiz about cancer myths), the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, the Womens Center of Southeast Michigan, and Ronald McDonald House.

Unfortunately, all of the charities are hurting this year, what with the difficult economic times we've been having in Michigan. That wasn't too much of a surprise. Still, they somehow manage to achieve their goals. These people have a tremendous passion for what they do and they move mountains to take care of their constituents.

What impressed me, and made me pretty proud to be living in this town, was finding out just how generous the folks living in Ann Arbor can be. Heidi Grix, Director of Development fLonni Vitale of Habitat for Humanityor the Washtenaw County chapter of the American Red Cross told us that after hurricane Katrina, over 1400 people from our area showed up to volunteer their time and effort. Lonni Vitale of the local Habitat for Humanity (pictured) told us that they often have enough volunteers that they could put up twice as many houses as they currently do, if only they were able to raise enough money to pay for that much construction (and especially the land upon which it would take place).

So, if you are looking for a worthwhile venture to support, you shouldn't have to look far. I'm sure other locations are similar to Washtenaw and have hundreds, if not thousands of nonprofit and charitable organizations which could use your help.

Quick bit of trivia: The American Red Cross has a congressional mandate to provide two services. The first is disaster relief. What is the other? Hint: It isn't blood donation!

18 days.

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