The mission of the University of Detroit Mercy was on full display in the Fitzgerald Neighborhood last week as new freshmen, along with other members of the Detroit Mercy community including alumni, cleared out alleys, vacant lots and made other improvements to the community.
The biggest project undertaken over the two days was the cleaning of two alleys on each side of Turner Street between Puritan Avenue and McNichols Road.
The alleys were full of overgrown trees and weeds, and portions were filled with garbage or other debris that had been dumped over the years.
“We were cleaning the alley, pushing all the dirt and raking all the leaves to make it a cleaner community for the neighborhood,” Detroit Mercy freshman Camryn Delmarle said. “It was a really good experience. I’ve done service before, but I’ve never actually been in the community. It was really nice to be able to do that.”
The amount of work required in the alleys looked overwhelming at first, but the students were excited to see the progress they made.
“When I looked at it I was like, ‘I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how this is ever going to look clean,’ ” Detroit Mercy student Ally Skinner said. “It’s cool to see it looking clean. There was green everywhere and now it’s almost all gone. It’s super cool to see what we’re doing is making a difference.”
Residents were also out supporting the effort and were excited to see the improvements in the alleys.
“This is beautiful,” longtime resident Edna Hicks said. “I try to do my part in keeping the neighborhood looking good. I sit on my porch an awful lot and it was such an eye sore. But now I can sit on my porch and relax with company; it’s going to be really nice. The neighborhood is coming back.”
“Everyone appreciates it and they would like to see more of it done,” resident Chris Lord said.
Students used shovels, brooms, rakes, loppers, saws and pitch forks to clear the alleys, while members of the Detroit Mercy Facilities Department used larger equipment like bobcats, chainsaws, a wood chipper and trimmers to assist the effort.
“We pushed all the brush, garbage and trash into the middle,” freshman Lexey Tobel said. “We had a bobcat that was coming back and forth helping us pick it up. We met some neighbors. It was kind of cool to meet the people of Detroit, just to know we’re helping and making a difference.”
Many of the incoming freshmen came to Detroit Mercy because of its commitment to serving the community and were able to make an impact before they even started classes.
“A lot of them are here because of the mission focus,” said Detroit Mercy alumna and Nursing Professor Lori Glenn. “I think this is a unique University for that reason. A lot of them are here because they want to do this kind of work.”
Skinner, who was one of the orientation leaders, enjoyed getting the chance to introduce the freshmen to what Detroit Mercy is all about.
“I think this shows the freshmen Detroit Mercy is more than just somewhere for people to go to school and to get a degree; it also helps people,” Skinner said. “It teaches them it’s not all just about getting a degree, it’s also about helping your community and people around you that might not have the resources to do what needs to be done in the community.”
Some of the students had never done work in Detroit before and enjoyed the experience so much they were looking to do it again soon.
“I’m definitely looking to joining different clubs who volunteer around Detroit, especially because we met some of the neighbors around here,” Tobel said. “We just knew we were making a difference, people were thanking us and so thankful we were out here cleaning up Detroit, so I thought that was really cool.”