“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
To honor Martin Luther King Jr. and the day bearing his name, Whirlpool Corporation employees set out to volunteer at seven different nonprofit and other organizations on Tuesday, Jan. 22 as part of the second annual MLK Jr. Day of Service.
One of the volunteer events involved putting together bean soup making kits for local area soup kitchens at Lake Michigan College. Scott Splese, who represents not only Whirlpool Corporation, but also the Whirlpool Veterans Association, was one of the event organizers, as well as a participant.
“We wanted to partner up with Lake Michigan College, and we thought doing the soup kitchen project was a good way for us to do that,” he said. “We did it last year and it was a success, so we decided to do it again.”
“We purposely picked one soup kitchen to donate to up in the north part of the county, and another one in Coloma,” said Andrea Zick of Lake Michigan College, who helped organize the volunteer event. “There’s a soup kitchen down in Benton Harbor we work with as well. It just depends on where there’s a need.”
The event was set up to be a “drop in” opportunity where students could come and volunteer alongside Whirlpool employees putting together the kits between classes.
Another volunteer site was the 6 Degrees Retail Store in Benton Harbor, where second-hand goods are donated and sold to those in need. Store Manager Frank Markowski reflected on how important it is to have volunteer help from companies like Whirlpool, who had a team from the Young Professionals employee resource group (E.R.G) organizing kitchen utensils and other items in the shop, as well as clearing out a room that has free coats to distribute to the needy.
“This would normally take our busy staff about two weeks to accomplish, but these volunteers will take care of the job in a couple of hours,” said Markowski. “I think it’s fabulous. I know Whirlpool regularly reaches out to nonprofits like ours, because I’ve picked up washers, dryers, and refrigerators from them for our clients who were previously homeless and just moved into their new places.”
The PRIDE E.R.G. chose the OutCenter in Benton Harbor’s Arts District as their volunteer location, where they put together Gladiator cabinets to help get the center more organized and painted some of the walls a fresh, new color. OutCenter’s mission to provide LGBT people and their families with support and advocacy aligns perfectly with the goals of PRIDE, who is teaming up with other Whirlpool E.R.G’s on some of its projects.
“We’re a corporate sponsor for them and we do a lot of fundraisers throughout the year, but this is kind of a unique one because we get to bring a lot of new faces through the door, expose them to the organization and their vision and mission,” said Whirlpool employee and PRIDE coordinator Gregory Fulmer.
A few miles away, Activity Leader and Volunteer Coordinator Ronda Holmes of Pine Ridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center hosted a group of Whirlpool employees who played bingo with seniors.
“Whirlpool volunteers with us two or three times a year,” said Holmes, But this is the first time we’ve been part of the MLK Jr. Day of Service. Volunteers are extremely important to us. It gives us additional people that can focus on the residents who don’t have to focus on the care and the paperwork and all of those pieces. They can just be here to visit and socialize.”
Other volunteer sites during the Day of Service included the Logan Autism Center, Readiness Center, and Boys & Girls Club Teen Center, all in Benton Harbor. Due to weather, the events for tutoring and mentoring with students at the Readiness Center and BGCA were cancelled, but will be put back on the schedule in the weeks to come.