Detroit Mercy students, community enhance Fitzgerald neighborhood, Detroit-area gardens

August 27, 2019
Detroit Mercy freshmen provide service work during PTV.

University of Detroit Mercy freshmen kicked off their college careers by performing a day of service work throughout Detroit on Aug. 21-22.

Students split in two groups and worked in the Fitzgerald neighborhood, just west of the University’s McNichols Campus, and assisted several Detroit-area neighborhood gardens and farms.

The annual tradition is part of Prologues, Transitions and Viewpoints (PTV), Detroit Mercy’s orientation program. The service portion of PTV introduces incoming Detroit Mercy students to service learning and reinforces the mission of the University.

Community members and Detroit Mercy faculty, staff and alumni worked in partnership during PTV to clean up the neighborhood and help with special community projects.

Over 350 Detroit Mercy students and over 70 volunteers — alumni, staff and faculty — joined forces during PTV.

“We want to give students a great education, but also help them consider how they will use the great education they are receiving,” said Tim Hipskind, S.J., director of service-learning for Detroit Mercy’s Institute for Leadership & Service. “We see there is much more to life than making a lot of money. Our education — and all that we gain from it — must serve a higher purpose, which is the common good, the good of the communities in which we live and work, especially communities that lack resources offered to other communities.”

A Detroit Mercy freshman works in a garden during PTV.Detroit Mercy students and volunteers worked in the Fitzgerald neighborhood and at Gesu Catholic School in northwest Detroit on Aug. 21. They aided several neighborhood gardens and farms in Detroit on Aug. 22 through the University’s Campus Kitchen, a program that provides students with opportunities to promote equity and sustainability in the food system.

In the Fitzgerald neighborhood, students and volunteers cleared lots, yards and parks, removed trash and aided Brilliant Detroit and Maggie Lee’s Community Center with various projects. Since 2017, the Fitzgerald neighborhood has experienced a number of revitalization efforts through the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project, a $4-million initiative led by the city of Detroit to restore the neighborhood.

Detroit Mercy alumnus Donald Middleton ’02 flew from Los Angeles to volunteer because of his love for Detroit and the importance he places on giving back to the community.

Middleton and a group of Detroit Mercy students provided yard work for a house in the Fitzgerald neighborhood.

“I feel Detroit is in good hands with the leadership that’s coming behind me and the energy from these young people,” Middleton said. “I told them before we came out here, ‘There’s nothing greater than serving, because it makes you appreciate what you have and where you are in life. There’s always someone who can use a hand.’ ”

The Campus Kitchen portion of the service work allowed students and volunteers to provide maintenance for Detroit-area gardens, farms and parks. They also distributed fliers throughout Martin Park District Association and helped stock the HIVE student pantry, located in Reno Hall on Detroit Mercy’s McNichols Campus.

Freshman Julie Burgess was one of several students who assisted JB’s Urban Farm with gardening projects.

“As a student coming into the University, it means a lot to me to be able to help the community,” she said. “It is part of God’s natural world. It’s our responsibility to take action as students and come together with all of our different strengths, talents and faiths to help the city grow.”

Detroit Mercy Orientation Leader Ben Westphal described the service work as a “transformative experience” for incoming students.

“I think it really proves to them how Detroit, along with our surrounding areas, are growing and revitalizing with the contributions we make to the community,” Westphal said. “The work that the students, faculty and staff are doing during PTV and throughout the entire year is what will help us build a strong relationship with our community, while helping the area rise up.”

Several businesses, nonprofit organizations and Detroit Mercy alumni helped make this service event possible through collaborations, equipment and volunteers. 

To learn more about Detroit Mercy’s Institute for Leadership and Service, please visit

Learn more about Detroit Mercy’s Titan Equity Nourish Network (TENN), formerly Campus Kitchen.

Visit our University Facebook page for a photo gallery from PTV 2019.

— By Ricky Lindsay. Follow Detroit Mercy on FacebookLinkedInTwitter and Instagram. Have a story idea? Let us know by submitting your idea.

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    Service Work Locations

    Wednesday, Aug. 21

    • San Juan Block: 16233 and 16262 San Juan Drive, Detroit, MI 48221
    • Prairie Street: Cleaning along Prairie Street, after meeting at the corner of Prairie Street and Florence Street
    • Maggie Lee’s Community Center: 7700 Puritan Ave., Detroit, MI 48238
    • Urban Neighborhood Initiatives (UNI) Detroit: 8300 Longworth St., Detroit, MI 48209
    • Gesu Catholic School: 17139 Oak Drive, Detroit, MI 48221
    • Brilliant Detroit: 16919 Prairie St., Detroit, MI 48221

    Thursday, Aug. 22

    • JB’s Urban Farm: 97 Geneva Ave., Highland Park, MI 48203
    • Keep Growing Detroit (KGD) Farm: 1850 Erskine St., Detroit, MI 48207
    • Auntie Na’s House: 12028 Yellowstone St., Detroit, MI 48204
    • D-Town Farm: 14027 Outer Drive, Detroit, MI 48239
    • Oakland Avenue Urban Farm: 9227 Goodwin St., Detroit, MI 48211
    • Midtown Composting: 8902 Vinton Ave., Detroit, MI 48213
    • Martin Park District Association: 16650 Inverness St., Detroit MI 48221
    • The HIVE student pantry: 041 Reno Hall, University of Detroit Mercy
    • Marygrove Garden: Marygrove College
    • Palmer Park: 1130 Merrill Plaisance St., Detroit, MI 48203