Mawby Day of Service shines a light on AmeriCorps and its impact on communities

Four AmeriCorps members use shovels to clear away debris from the yard of an abandoned home in Flint, Michigan.
Thirty AmeriCorps NCCC members — young adults, age 18-24, who travel in teams across the country to complete projects that meet crucial community needs — joined 130 Flint-area AmeriCorps members for a day of service at the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village and the neighborhood surrounding the community center. Photo: Kari Pardoe

AmeriCorps was out in full force on May 17 at the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village, a community center on the north side of Flint, Michigan. A crew of 130 Corps members helped residents give the area a good spring cleaning, filling 100 bags with yard waste, collecting 5,000 pounds of brush and removing 155 yards of debris — including a piano and a bathtub — while sprucing up the area immediately surrounding the community center and an adjacent park. They also spread 28 yards of mulch — covering more than 3,000 square feet of gardens and park land.

“It’s Flint’s fifth year hosting the Russ Mawby Signature Service Project,” said Jenny McArdle, director of Community Impact for the United Way of Genesee County, which partnered with the Michigan Community Service Commission to conduct the event.

Young woman using a saw to cut through a thinck downed tree branch
AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps NCCC members cleared branches, brush, other yard waste and trash in the area surrounding Flint’s Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village.
Photo: Kari Pardoe

“Every year, the day of service is a visual reminder of what AmeriCorps can accomplish. The community gets to see the power of the ‘A,’” said McArdle of the event.

Ken Marks was one of about 30 AmeriCorps members who worked inside the Broome Center, putting together 869 packets of books for Flint newborns, making 202 toys for local pet shelters and painting 150 decorative elements for neighborhood groups to use when boarding up abandoned houses.

“We do what we can to help,” said Marks, an AmeriCorps member placed with the American Red Cross of East Central Bay-Michigan in Flint.

A middle aged man sits in a chair in front of a stack of children's books which he is helping to package up for distribution to children.
Not letting a torn rotator cuff discourage him, Ken Marks joined his fellow AmeriCorps members in Flint and four other Michigan cities as part of the Russ Mawby Signature Service Project.
Photo: Kari Pardoe

Each year, hundreds of AmeriCorps members gather in five Michigan cities for the day of service. Designed to demonstrate the collective power of AmeriCorps across the state, the project also honors the legacy of Dr. Russell Mawby, who was instrumental in forming the Michigan Community Service Commission. Mawby, who died in 2017, was former president and CEO of Michigan’s W.K. Kellogg Foundation and a well-known advocate for youth, volunteer service and AmeriCorps.

A young woman sits at a desk and works on braiding together pieces of material to make animal shelter toys.
An AmeriCorps member serving at Flint’s Durant-Tuuri-Mott Elementary School through the Michigan Educations Corps – Reading Corps spent part of her service day making dog and cat toys for local animal shelters.
Photo: Kari Pardoe

Thanks to the efforts of the United Way’s National Service Accelerator and a matching fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint — both supported by the Mott Foundation — there are almost 200 AmeriCorps members currently serving throughout Flint. At the day of service, members representing the Flint Community School CorpsFlint Urban Safety CorpsFlint Recovery Corps, Boys and Girls Club VISTA Program, City of Flint Master Plan Implementation VISTA Program, FoodCorps and other AmeriCorps programs had the chance to meet and work with Flint’s three visiting National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) teams.

“When the NCCC teams come to town, we really try to embrace them and make them part of the community,” said McArdle of the 30 members who are serving with Genesee County Habitat for Humanity, Crim Fitness Foundation and the City of Flint’s Police Department and Blight Elimination Division to increase the safety and attractiveness of neighborhoods and expand programming for Flint’s school-age kids.

“We’ve been here two weeks, and we’re so happy,” said Casey Cady, an NCCC member from New York City. “We were so excited to learn we were heading for Flint.”

To learn more about serving in Flint through AmeriCorps, contact the United Way of Genesee County.