[This article by Jeri Packer was originally published in The Voice on June 18, 2011. Click here to visit the source.]
State legislators build relationships at River Day clean-up
Some state planners are encouraging legislators to put a little sweat equity into their districts.
The Community Economic Development Association of Michigan [along with Habitat for Humanity of Michigan and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority] is leading this initiative to pair state politicians with summer projects because of the benefits is provides, officials say.
“The goal is that the hosting organization will get to know the legislator and we are hoping to provide an opportunity for the legislators to get to know about their needs too,” said Katie Fritz of the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan.
Another benefit is that it always profits the community, be it a new Habitat for Humanity house or a free-flowing river. The latter is the project Rep. Andrea LaFontaine volunteered for during the St. Clair County River Day. Working with Ira Township Recreation Director Lynn Zyrowski, LaFontaine and the other volunteers worked toward a common goal during the river cleanup project on June 11. LaFontaine has promised to actively volunteer from 10-12 hours.
Rep. Phil Pavlov has participated in the program for several years and hasn’t picked his project yet for 2011. He remembers one year, though, when he joined a crew remodeling a home in Port Huron.
“We were doing a renovation and my job was demolition, so we put on our masks and safety glasses and started in a bathroom,” he said.
The program is endorsed by the Living in Michigan Coalition, a group of more than 20 statewide housing and community development organizations, and led by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Habitat for Humanity of Michigan, and the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan.
It was inspired by the success of the Michigan Legislative Build, a similar event which CEDAM and Habitat for Humanity of Michigan led in 2008. During that event, 112 of Michigan’s 148 state legislators participated in 59 hands-on projects.
Pavlov said the Legislators Building Communities program also promotes awareness of ways to serve in the community.
“It creates some positive energy so people feel good about what they’ve accomplished,” he said. “When we can break away from our normal routines and help out our communities, it’s always a good thing.”
Legislators Building Communities ends with a closing celebration in September, when state officials can report on their experiences working in their districts.
Contact Jeri Packer at (586) 716-8100, ext. 302 or firstname.lastname@example.org.