Homecoming helps nonprofits give back to the community

Photos courtesy of the city of Dearborn

Many Dearborn nonprofit groups participate in Homecoming to raise money for the Dearborn community and beyond. Photos here show Dearborn Outer Drive Kiwanis Club and the plastic amphibians used in the Turbo Turtle Derby down the Rouge River, the Dearborn Exchange Club, the Dearborn Firefighters Burn Drive and the vegetables that support their renowned Free Corn on the Cob booth, and the cooks behind the Polish League of American Veterans Post 75.

More than 30 participate through fundraising, activities or information at the festival Aug 5-7 at Ford Field Park

DEARBORN – Even though Homecoming is in its 32nd year, many people may be surprised to learn that the event always has been a major fundraiser for Dearborn nonprofit groups.

That’s good to keep in mind. Because when you are buying pierogis, Italian sausages, hot dogs, dippin dots, lemonade, waffle fries or other treats, you are also supporting nonprofit causes that strengthen the community.

More than 30 nonprofit groups participate in Homecoming, with more than 20 involved directly in fundraising.

In fact, all the food and beverage booths outside of the carnival area are exclusively organized and staffed by nonprofit groups, and the money raised in the booths goes to the organizations.

Combined, these groups raise about $70,000 each year for causes that benefit the Dearborn community and beyond.

Among those are: supporting veterans in need, rescuing abandoned animals, providing scholarships, assisting people who are visually impaired, supporting youth sports programs, supplementing funds for high school activities, helping children injured by burns or giving a boost to unemployed families.

This year, the city has teamed up with the Dearborn Community Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of cultural arts and recreation, in an effort to emphasize Homecoming’s charitable aspects.

The Dearborn-based nonprofit groups involved in Homecoming are:

American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, Dearborn Area Board of Realtors, Dearborn Chamber of Commerce, Dearborn Chapter Order of DeMolay, and the Dearborn Commission on Disability Concerns.

Also, Dearborn Community Arts Council, Dearborn Education Foundation, the Dearborn Exchange Club, Dearborn Federation of Teachers and the Dearborn Firefighters Burn Drive.

Also, the Dearborn High Athletic Booster Club, Dearborn Lions Club, Dearborn Outer Drive Kiwanis Club, Dearborn Youth Football Association, Divine Child Men’s Club, Edsel Ford High School Booster Club and the Fordson Varsity Alumni Club.

Also, Father O’Kelley Knights of Columbus, Fort Dearborn American Legion Post 364, Friends for the Dearborn Animal Shelter, Italian American Fraternal Club of Dearborn, the Lebanese American Heritage Club and the Michigan-Dearborn Alumni Legacy Foundation.

Also, the Polish League of American Veterans Post 75, Stout Middle School PFSO, The Going Green Foundation, VFW Post 2107 Men’s Auxiliary and the Henry Ford Community College radio station WHFR.

Religious institutions Fairlane Alliance Church, Guardian Lutheran School, St. Clement Orthodox Church, The American Moslem Society and Warrendale Community Church also take part.

More details of some of the groups’ community activities:

The Fort Dearborn American Legion Post 364
This organization uses the money it collects at Homecoming to give back to veterans. Commander Robert Korenchuk said the post helps veterans in need, providing care and support for them and their families.

They do things around the community like set up Sesame Street toys and take them to military units for when the troops have their children visiting, and support Legion Baseball.

School groups
There are several school groups, such as the Fordson Varsity Alumni Club, that give back to their alma maters or support education and school involvement. The Fordson Varsity Alumni Club is a non-profit organization made up of Fordson High School varsity athletes.

City Councilman Robert A. Abraham, a leader in the group, said that its two main goals are supporting FHS student athletes by providing scholarships to Henry Ford Community College and supporting FHS athletic programs.

The money the organization collects at Homecoming goes toward reaching their goal of increasing their $50,000 endowed scholarship fund to $100,000 by the end of 2012.

It also helps provide team equipment, accessories, and other amenities not provided by school funding, such as the football scoreboard or a pitching machine for the baseball team.

Edsel Ford’s Booster Club does similar things for Edsel Ford’s sports teams, providing the teams with “anything they need and also to maintain other aspects of the school,” according to Vice President Jerry Stubbe.

The organization has used funds in the past to buy special equipment for math classes and plant flowers and trees outside of the school, which the district cannot provide.

The Divine Child Men’s Club sponsors both sporting and non-sporting events all around the DC school community, said DC event chairman James Eddy.

The organization supplies uniforms, services, and extra people to help out at school events when necessary.

Youth groups
The Dearborn Chapter Order of DeMolay is a Masonic-run youth organization. Similar to Boy Scouts, it teaches young men not “how to tie knots,” according to advisor Elbert Taylor, but leadership and organizational skills.

Members run their own organizations with the help of adult supervisors, and earn merits for taking part in activities that prepare them to run businesses.

Green initiatives
A new organization excited to take part in Homecoming for the first time this year is The Going Green Foundation.

CEO Maureen McIlrath said the goal of the foundation is to raise awareness and support sustainability for Dearborn. Among its projects: a 2.5-acre sustainable organic farm in Crowley Park, which will help provide awareness on healthy food choices and bring the community together.

It is also taking part in an agri-science program at Fordson High School, which will create an outdoor classroom and give students with information on jobs in the field.

Burn Drive
Burn Drive Chairman Steve Worden said that the money raised at Homecoming helps the organization care for local families in need, whether they have recently become unemployed and cannot pay their heat bill, are dealing with chronic illnesses, or lost all of their clothes in a house fire.

It also goes to supporting the organization’s endowment funds at Oakwood Hospital and the Penrickton Center for the Blind.

Exchange Club
The Dearborn Exchange Club provides assistance to groups all over town.

Treasurer Gary Wolas said there were “over a hundred things” he could list that the organization takes part in.

Among those: recognizing Dearborn’s outstanding police officers; providing two Dearborn students with $2,500 scholarships every year; supporting the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council; contributing to Child’s Hope; and assisting the Dearborn Animal Shelter, Scouts, the Dearborn Symphony, and baseball and Little League programs.

Friends for the Dearborn Animal Shelter
Even Dearborn’s furry friends benefit from Homecoming funds, as the Friends for the Dearborn Animal Shelter use money it collect at events to help provide housing and medical care for animals, said Andrea Kuentz, the Friends’ former community outreach director.

For more information on Homecoming, go to www.cityofdearborn.org.