Leadership Oakland volunteers to sow seeds to help homeless

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published February 21, 2018

The 46 people in this year’s Leadership Oakland Cornerstone “class” come from all segments of the business world and at all points in their careers. 

Dave DeLind, a member of this year’s class, said he decided to be involved in Leadership Oakland after he was selected as one of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s  Elite 40 Under 40 last year. 

“It seemed like a great next step,” he said. “It allows professionals engaged and interested in bettering the community to build a network and find commonalities with motivated professionals interested in bettering the community.” 

According to a prepared statement, the Elite 40 Under 40 honorees “have achieved excellence in their field and contributed to the quality of life in their communities.”

According to Leadership Oakland’s website, the Cornerstone program has brought together more than 1,200 leaders from corporate, civic and nonprofit groups since 1990 to become key contributors in their communities and places of business. 

Each year, the nine-month program takes about 50 developing leaders and immerses them in the issues facing the region, including education, the justice system, health and human services, and race and ethnic diversity. 

The culmination of the program is a day of service. 

This year, the group will plant a garden to grow food at the Hope Recuperative Care Center in Pontiac, which provides voluntary, short-term emergency care for the homeless population recovering from illness or surgery. 

DeLind, a project manager for DTE Energy, said that the group was struck by the issues facing the homeless. He said the goal in planting the garden is to provide nutrition and a “good, ground-up ownership of a process to provide food and understand where food comes from.” 

He said they felt that planting a garden would net the most value from “a singular day of service.” 

“Next year, the garden will still exist,” he said. “It’s something where we can make an impact that continues through time.” 

The group plans to visit the site this week and scope out sizes and shapes to frame out the garden. 

Last year, Leadership Oakland Cornerstone students partnered with Monarch Wings — Hope Against Trafficking to rehabilitate a vacant home in Pontiac as a safe house for victims of human trafficking and their children. 

The safe house accommodates up to 16 women. 

Monarch Wings — Hope Against Trafficking is a nonprofit dedicated to helping female survivors of human trafficking rebuild their lives.

In 2016, the class built a greenhouse in Pontiac that sells produce to the community at affordable prices. 

Nancy Maurer, executive director for Leadership Oakland, explained that the class comes up with five options for the day of service and then chooses one. 

Maurer said the program begins with a three-day retreat in September. 

“Each group takes on its own group personality,” she said. “It’s exciting to see what the group is capable of, not just leadership, but as leaders overall. We take professionals from different organizations — of different ages, ethnicities and personality styles — and put them in a room together.

“We talk about ‘serving’ a lot. ‘Serving’ sometimes gets a fluffy connotation,” Maurer said. She added that Leadership Oakland helps the participants to be better leaders in their organizations, and to tap into their strengths and passions to move the region forward outside of their work environments.

“We tend to attract people who feel they want to do more,” she said. “It’s fascinating to watch what they go on to do.” 

Maurer said participants have started law firms for social justice and run for political office. 

“Now more than ever, developing strong leadership skills are needed,” she said. 

For more information about Leadership Oakland, visit leadershipoakland.com.