Miller Johnson continues tradition of serving others on M.L. King Day

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LEGAL NEWS PHOTOS BY CYNTHIA PRICE

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

There is a national, and local, trend to celebrate Martin Luther King Day by performing service projects that help the communities everyone shares.

From municipal governments to boy scout troops, organizing such service projects has become part of how people honor Dr. King’s memory.

There is even a national clearinghouse for projects, the Corporation for National and Community Service, part of the United We Serve set of projects encouraged by President Obama.
But Miller Johnson is no stranger to such a day, since 2012 marks the third year attorneys and staff have participated in or created their own service opportunities, and turned out en masse.

For the firm whose founders encouraged pro bono and volunteerism to such a degree that the State Bar’s pro bono award is named after one of them (John W. Cummiskey), such an activity is not out of the ordinary.

According to the firm’s web site, “The Day of Service empowers

individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, and creates solutions to social problems to move closer to Dr. King's vision of a beloved community.”

This year, 132 volunteers came out for a variety of opportunities: hands-on work, mostly outdoors, at Blandford Nature Center; packing and stocking food, and other projects, for the free pantry at United Church Outreach Ministry; working, under team lead Ken Hofman, with residents at St. Ann’s Home; and, under Marcus Campbell, enlivening resident’s lives at Beacon Hill at Eastgate with a bingo and ice cream party.

At Blandford a total of 22 Miller Johnson people showed up for morning and afternoon sessions, organized by the staff at Blandford. In the early afternoon, a crew of amazingly handy folks (attorney Dustin Jackson even brought his own chain saw) cleaned and refurbished an avian center that had been used as a catch-all for several years. Their next stop was at Blandford’s Milo House, part of the teaching farm located there.

Said Annoesjka Steinman, Executive Director of Blandford Nature Center, “We have all kinds of volunteer needs out here, so we’re very grateful [Miller Johnson] chose to come here. This year we’re going to be offering programs every Saturday, so the need will continue to be great.”

For more information, visit http://blandfordnaturecenter.org. It is possible to sign up to receive two different electronic newsletters, one promoting events and projects and one listing volunteer opportunities.

United Church Outreach Ministry, or UCOM, is located on Chicago Drive, and centers on a very busy food pantry that allowed clients to receive food for over one half million meals in 2010. The ministry serves over 50,000 people each year.

A number of volunteer positions were available. Miller Johnson’s 26 volunteers built a platform, refurbished an office, repacked incoming food and carried boxes. Several women from Miller Johnson were given the opportunity to stock items in a freezer, with the door closed. “We went outside to warm up,” commented one attorney.

A group also restocked shelves in the pantry itself, which is closed Mondays. When the group finished, the pantry was filled floor to ceiling with food, including hundreds of bags and boxes of different kinds of pasta. UCOM staff told them that it was very likely the food would be gone within a couple days.

Another of UCOM’s projects, Homework House, has stemmed from its work on Schools of Hope. That project requires a lot of volunteer assistance year-round.

UCOM’s Executive Director Bruce Roller observed, “We’re incredibly grateful for Miller Johnson’s team coming out and working on projects where we need them. We couldn’t get by without such groups.”

UCOM also has an electronic newsletter, for which interested parties can sign up at www.ucomgr.org.

Over the years Miller Johnson has also served such community organizations as the American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids, Arbor Circle, Catholic Charities West Michigan, Degage Ministries, the Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding, Habitat for Humanity, Kent County Humane Society, Kid's Food Basket, Paws with a Cause, Pine Rest, St. John's Home, the YWCA of West Central Michigan and, in Kalamazoo,  the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo Humane Society, and Peace House.

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