Finding connection through service amid the pandemic in a Pontiac neighborhoodThe Nonprofit Journal Project

I was walking down the street the other day. One of the perks of living 150 yards from the Micah 6 house is that I get to do a lot of catching up with my neighbors on my way to work. Janice hollers down from her balcony, “Hellooooo!”


Rick is always across the street working on his lawn, trimming his hedges or meticulously pulling dandelions. The house with all the kids -- Shania, Orlando, Grace, Hope and Desire-- they all come running out, especially if I am pushing my baby in the stroller. If it’s just me, not so much.


On this particular day, I was coming up on Michelle’s house on the corner. Michelle has two kids, Tony (4) and Christian (7) who are fixtures at everything we do. Christian is one of my favorite kids in the neighborhood. Last year, we were handing out box fans to people in our community when it started to get really hot. I had dropped one off with Michelle earlier, but that afternoon Christian stopped by the Micah 6 house.


“Coleman,” he asked. “I know you gave my mom a fan already, but I was wondering if my brother and I could have a fan for our room.” How could I say no? I handed him a box fan and sent him on his way.Neighborhood connections in Pontiac.


Twenty minutes later, Christian and Michell were standing on my doorstep, neither looking happy. “Coleman, I am bringing Christian over to apologize. You see after you gave him that fan, he walked down the street and sold it for $10.”


I was shocked at the show of entrepreneurship. But I went along with Michelle’s “disappointed” vibe.


I digress. On this day, as I was walking to Micah 6, I noticed two white ladies, in a nice car hanging out on the front lawn with Michelle, Christian, and Tony. I thought it was odd, but walked along my way.


Later, on my way home Michelle waved me down. She told me about the women, they were volunteers with the MyCovidResponse team who bring them food every week. These volunteers enjoy their kids, talk, spend time getting to know their family, and enjoy them very much. They are also incredible at jumping in and getting the new things that they need: cleaning supplies, school supplies, gas cards, and more.


These women have taken an interest and provided a level of care above and beyond what was asked of them. They’ve shown a level of kindness and authenticity to my neighbors that “helpers” often struggle to muster.


There is a lot of concern in this pandemic about isolation, that people will struggle because of a lack of connection and relationships. At least in my neighborhood, at least for Michelle and her kids, the opposite has been true. The virus has brought some amazing people into their lives. Sometimes we have to work hard to find silver linings in this season, but this is an obvious, though unexpected blessing.

Cole Yoakum is a member and founder of the nonprofit Micah 6 Community of Pontiac. See his other journal entries in our Nonprofit Journal Project, an initiative inviting nonprofit leaders across Metro Detroit to contribute their thoughts via journal entries on how COVID-19 is impacting the nonprofit sector--and how they are innovating. This series is made possible with the generous support of our partners, the Michigan Nonprofit Association and Co.ACT.
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