GM awards grants and swabs paint in Cody Rouge
With the deep hum of an industrial carpet cleaner down the hallway and a paint-spattered volunteer on a scissor lift nearby, Mark Reuss of GM announced $225,000 in grants Thursday for nonprofits dealing with education, young adult employment and neighborhood improvement.
The announcement came during a roundtable at Cody High School and was a relatively sedate part of a week that’s featuring 2,500 volunteers from General Motors Co. swabbing paint and swinging hammers in a variety of projects throughout the westside Cody Rouge neighborhood of Detroit.
“This is a big deal for our company,” said Reuss, the head of global product development. “People say there’s a rebirth of Detroit going on. But unless we really turn around education — the quality, the attendance, the facilities — I think it’s a very fragile environment here in Detroit.”
The grants included $100,000 to City Year Detroit to assist 3rd-through-9th-graders considered likely to drop out; $100,000 to the Jobs for Michigan Graduates program of the Detroit Employment Solutions Corp. designed to build skills in education, employability and citizenship, and $25,000 to the Prevention Network’s Community Connections small grant program, which focuses on innovative, youth-centered projects.
“People say it’s really tough to get a grant through Skillman,” said Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation. “I say, ‘You haven’t met Community Connections.’”
Skillman and GM have partnered with the Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance in what the three refer to as the Cody Rouge Project. Along with DTE Energy and Quicken Loans, the organizations announced plans several months ago to devote millions of dollars across multiple years to a relatively stable district with a population of more than 36,000, including 12,000 minors.
What’s unique about the collaboration, Allen said, is the level of input and direction from the community.
Typically, she said, gains in the city are framed as downtown versus neighborhoods. “I think this particular model in the Cody neighborhood defies that narrative,” she said, adding that it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
GM’s volunteer corps is scheduled to work through Friday on tasks ranging from painting murals at schools to creating a walking path through a 40-acre butterfly sanctuary and prairie at Rouge Park.
Reuss, admittedly jet-lagged after flying to and from Italy to conduct 12 hours of business, was on his way to help rehab the home of a military veteran.
An engineer by training, he said the Cody Rouge Project “creates a flywheel around ‘Yes, we can,’ instead of ‘No, we can’t.’ ”