11 ways to volunteer in Detroit, whether you’re ...

11 ways to volunteer in Detroit, whether you’re venturing out or staying at home

Give the gift of your time to help Detroiters in need.

volunteers high five. here are places to volunteer this december in detroit

The house where Sonia Brown grew up on Detroit’s west side always had room for neighbors. She remembers how, when she was a child, her grandparents cooked community meals and welcomed kids over after school. When she inherited the home, one that had sheltered five generations of her family, she knew it had love left to give. Auntie Na’s House, a nod to what Brown’s friends and neighbors affectionately call her, was created as a go-to spot for youth and a safe haven for individuals and families in need.

Courtesy Auntie Na’s Village

Over the past decade, the neighborhood house has expanded into a small village of homes and community centers that feed, shelter and affirm all who come. Amid the pandemic, the nonprofit increased its capacity to feed more than 350 families citywide. Delivering food through Auntie Na’s Village is one way you can volunteer this season to help Detroiters in need. 

With a community in crisis, we’re all looking for safe ways to help our neighbors this season. With that in mind, Detour has put together a variety of opportunities to volunteer in a way that works best for you, whether from your car, your home or safely in-person. Though many nonprofits offer gloves and masks for volunteers, we recommend you always bring your own to ensure your safety.

And if you want to help, but have a busy December? Remember that charities get an influx of volunteers during the holidays and would love for you to give your time in January and beyond!

Get on the road and deliver much-needed food

Auntie Na’s Village 

Deliver food boxes to families anytime from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday with Auntie Na’s Pandemic Food Delivery Program. “The more [help] we get, the more we’re able to give,” said Brown (Auntie Na). Register online and text Stephanie Salazar at 313-974-1030 upon arrival for no-contact pick-up. 

Eden Gives

The organization works to create sustainable and secure food communities. Their weekly food distribution program partners with Trader Joe’s to bring fresh food boxes to hundreds of Detroit families each week. Contact Nourish Food Relief Program manager Shonda Davis at 313-465-3439 to volunteer.

The program is especially looking to fill three opportunities on Thursdays and Fridays in Harper Woods:

  • Early morning grocery pick up from Trader Joe’s (West Bloomfield) and drop-off in Harper Woods
  • Mid-day food separation and bag packing (indoors and socially distanced)
  • Afternoon drop off to families near distribution site

Focus: Hope 

For over 50 years, this Detroit anchor has sought to overcome racism and poverty by providing education, training and support with an emphasis on underrepresented minorities. Their Food Justice Program provides food boxes each month to 42,000 low-income seniors who are 60 years old or older and reside in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb or Washtenaw counties.

Sign up to prepare food boxes for seniors Tuesday through Thursday, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. or 1-4 p.m.

Serve the community (safely) in-person

The NOAH Project

The downtown community center welcomes people living on the streets, and has for over 40 years, providing meals, one-on-one social services, physical health counseling, pop-up medical care, empowerment-based programming and emergency needs. Their Bag Lunch Program feeds 150-200 individuals a nutritional meal four days a week. 

Email baglunch@noahprojectdetroit.org to volunteer to serve lunch from 9:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The nonprofit is also looking for people to sponsor hot lunches, $350-$375 — send an email to the same address. During COVID-19, only two volunteers work at a time in order to maintain safe distancing. 

COTS Detroit 

For over 35 years, this organization has provided emergency shelter for vulnerable individuals and families while helping them secure stable housing and move toward self-sufficiency. Annually, more than 2,000 homeless and at-risk men, women and children receive the emergency care and support they need here. 

Become a holiday elf by helping to pack gift boxes full of toys and household goods for families on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. — sign up here. They hope to deliver boxes to families by Dec. 20 so sign up soon! Multiple times available in two-hour increments.

Alternative for Girls

A safety net for young women in southwest Detroit, the nonprofit provides shelter, outreach, mentoring and healthy programming to help homeless and high-risk girls grow strong and healthy, avoiding violence, teen pregnancy and exploitation.

AFG is partnering with Forgotten Harvest during the winter months to distribute food to the southwest Detroit community twice a month. Sign up to work at a station on Dec. 17, helping to load cars with nutritional boxes. Opportunities are available for 8:30-10:15 a.m. and 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Volunteers are welcome to sign up for both. Email Ashley Fairbanks at afairbanks@alternativesforgirls.org with any questions, or to volunteer in January and beyond. 

Host a donation drive in your own circle

Covenant Community Care

This southwest Detroit health center’s Homeless Outreach Program serves people living on the city’s streets daily, providing non judgemental medical care, basic needs and continual outreach to people right where they’re at.

The street team needs warm items for men and women: winter coats, weatherproof gloves and boots, thermal socks, hooded sweatshirts, men’s underwear, sleeping bags, handwarmers, insulated blankets and small tents. Contact Jeff Hunt at jhunt@covenantcommunitycare.org to donate new or very gently used items. 

Freedom House Detroit

This nonprofit is a welcoming beacon to persecution survivors across the world seeking asylum in the U.S. and Canada. Over 100 people a year are offered emergency shelter and food here, as well as legal aid, medical care, counseling, language tutoring, housing support, job training and more. 

Freedom House needs Afrocentric hair and skin care products, kids’ outdoor wear and sweaters sizes 2-12, blank notebooks and folders for students, and adult and children’s literature written in French. Gift cards to CVS, Meijer and ExxonMobile also help provide needed prescriptions, emergency items and transportation to a continuum of care. All donations must be new during COVID-19. Contact Mercedes Perganda at info@freedomhousedestroit.org to give. 

Volunteer to help out from home

Soar Detroit

Since 2005, this nonprofit has helped Detroit children read at or above grade level. Students increase an average of two grade levels after just one year in Soar’s literacy program. Amid the shift to virtual programming, you can use your lunch hour to give the support families need today more than ever. Sign up through December to become a reading mentor and spend one hour a week helping a child learn to read. Brief volunteer training and semester commitment through May 2021 required.

Brilliant Detroit

Inside residential houses in high-need neighborhoods, this “kid success” organization offers families with small children the support they need to be healthy, stable and school ready. Brighten a child’s bedtime hour by recording yourself sharing a story and uploading it for them to read along with you. Dig out your own childhood favorites and do all the voices! Find out how here.

Arts & Scraps

One man’s trash is another org’s treasure. This east side Detroit nonprofit collects recycled materials and uses them to inspire people to “think, create and learn.” A community creation space and low-cost public store, Arts & Scraps provides educational programming, supports creatives at all economic levels and bolsters the environment by reusing tons of stuff each year!

While in-person volunteering is suspended, you can help process (cut, sort or separate) Arts & Scraps’ ongoing donations from the comfort of your own home. Pick up a box of materials, bring them home and get them ready for future projects! Requires pick-up and drop off. Email Jeff Houghton at warehouse@artsandscraps.org to make an appointment.