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MCC staff, students carry on King’s legacy

January 25, 2013

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Jenn McCabe, staff manager of Macomb Community Colleges’ Student Life and Leadership at South Campus in Warren, holds up a finished blanket made from recycled plastic bags.

WARREN — From sorting food at the Salvation Army to preparing construction sites for Habitat for Humanity, Macomb Community College students and staff observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year by volunteering in various ways.

A few years ago, MCC began an annual tradition of performing charity acts, in honor of the late Civil Rights leader. Some volunteering is done right at school and some off campus.

On the morning of Jan. 21, two sets of volunteers worked on two different projects at the school’s South Campus Student Center in Warren. Down one hallway, a group of volunteers — with soft cloths and sterling-silver polish — cleaned and polished instruments for Charity Music, Inc.

Based in Clinton Township, Charity Music, Inc., loans instruments to at-risk, homeless and disadvantaged children. The MCC staff, some who brought along their own children, primarily spruced up clarinets and flutes. Charity Music provides all kinds of instruments.

“These will be given to children who aren’t able to buy them themselves,” said Diane Gonko, an administrative assistant at the college’s Center Campus Learning Center in Clinton Township. “They have all been donated from different people. Some had cards in memory of someone.”

The group shined and polished for nearly an hour to clean up about 32 instruments. After Nancy Zundel, MCC administrative assistant for the Dean of Libraries, received information on the volunteering opportunities, she signed on to assist Charity Music.

“It was just something different,” she said “Last year, I did the Salvation Army.”

“It’s fun,” Gonko said. “It’s just nice to know you’re doing this for the community.”

Charity Music, Inc. Community Relations Director Greg Cavanaugh visited the cleaning session. Any kind of instrument, regardless of age or condition, is accepted. Even non-working instruments are welcome. The nonprofit, which Roger Fachini started up in 1996, recently donated a batch of instruments to the Michigan School of the Arts in Pontiac.

“If there’s a child that cannot afford an instrument, we provide one at no charge,” Cavanaugh said. “We take in instruments and refurbish them. We also have sheet music for people.”

In another part of the Student Center, a large group of volunteers banded together to crochet blankets out of plastic grocery bags. Jenn McCabe, staff manager of MCC’s Student Life and Leadership, said the blankets will be donated to homeless people throughout metro Detroit. The blankets can be used three ways.

“You can put them on the ground in case the ground is wet or cold and use as a mattress,” McCabe said. The waterproofed blankets can be used to keep dry when raining and also can be used as a traditional blanket. 

“They’re very warm,” 20-year-old Mark Lovelace, of Macomb, said. “I tried them out.”

The blankets were 3 feet by 6 feet in size. About 700 plastic bags made one blanket. McCabe said about 25,000 to 30,000 plastic bags were donated.

The volunteers worked in an assembly-line fashion. The bags were initially cut into strips. Some volunteers looped the strips together to make long ropes to create what McCabe called “plarnballs.” Other volunteers then crocheted the plarnballs into blankets.

“I really enjoy it,” said 21-year-old Bethany Wilde, of Eastpointe. “I think it will really help keep people warm on a cold day.”

“I never would have thought of this idea,” 23-year-old Larisha Owens, of Detroit, said. “I think it’s very convenient.”

“They actually look pretty cool,” said 37-year-old Chuck Cammarata, of Roseville.

Two days prior to MLK Day, about 48 MCC students gathered in Center Line to perform deconstruction projects at two homes for the Macomb County Habitat for Humanity. Their work prepared the homes for finish carpentry, painting, trim and projects for subsequent groups to complete.

“Thank you Macomb Community College for remembering the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and celebrating his accomplishments,” Macomb County Habitat for Humanity Director of Financial Resources Ruselda Johnson stated in a press release.

“Macomb County Habitat for Humanity strives to make a sound contribution to our Macomb County communities, to revitalize our cities with safe, decent, affordable housing. Our families work hard at proving that they are worthy homeowner candidates who will thrive in their new homes,” the press release stated. “And the community, through your generosity, gives them reason to believe it is possible to have a modest share in the American Dream. Together, we are making a difference.”

For further information on Charity Music, Inc., visit

For further information on Macomb County Habitat for Humanity, visit

For more local news coverage, see the following newspaper:


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