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Joshua D. Kennedy, Founder and Executive Director of Volunteer Detroit

Aiming to get Detroiters involved in servicing their community, Volunteer Detroit hosts direct service opportunities open for all to lend a hand.

When Joshua Kennedy and a group of his friends first brought the national #HashtagLunchbag movement to Detroit in 2014, they thought it would just be a one-time thing. They all got together, rolled up their sleeves and made brown bag lunches, which they then handed out to the homeless across the city. That was three years ago, and the organization has since grown into what Kennedy calls "a hub" for volunteerism and community service. Volunteer Detroit gives everyday people the opportunity to engage in direct community services opportunities throughout the city.

"We had just planned on doing it once during Christmas, but with the response we ended up getting to a point where we could do it every month," Kennedy says.

Volunteer Detroit prides itself on being millennial driven and millennial powered, which is evident by the environment of its service events.

"With #HashtagLunchbag, we take the mundaneness out of community service. We have a DJ, people are up and dancing and moving, and they really enjoy the experience," Kennedy says.

To date, with the help of those throughout the community, Volunteer Detroit has distributed over 6,000 lunches to homeless Detroiters.

"We literally get people from all across the city and the metro area. At most, we’ve had almost 600 volunteers at one event," Kennedy says. "Our biggest event to date we actually did with Quicken Loans last December and we bagged about 1,500 lunches in that one event."

In addition to its #HashtagLunchbag initiative, Volunteer Detroit also holds community cleanups around the city through an initiative called Project C.L.E.A.N., which stands for Community Longevity & Engagement Across Neighborhoods.

"Project C.L.E.A.N. gets people who may not necessarily know what we do involved in their neighborhood," Kennedy says. "There have been instances where we’ll be boarding up and cutting the grass at an abandoned house, and the person who lives right next door will come out and thank us. They appreciate it because they really see that someone cares about the impact in their neighborhood."

Kennedy says their goal is to change the narrative of what it looks like to live and be involved in Detroit, especially with the influx of young people moving in.

"We really just want to get them invested in the city thorough cultivation," Kennedy says. "For me personally, I think that starts with service. The goal for us is to exhibit a spirit of community and love in the city – and to show that you don’t have to be in a big position to do it. It’s possible for the average person to just really share that joy and love for service."

Cleanup Season

Volunteer Detroit is an organization for the people and relies on volunteers for its important work. This fall, the crew is gearing up to clean up neighborhoods across the city. To learn more about how to get involved, visit volunteerdetroit.org.

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