Interns learn first-hand about Ford employees' commitment to community service
DEARBORN, Mich. — The COVID-19 pandemic has halted many in-person Ford Volunteer Corps projects, and that almost included the community service scheduled for dozens of Ford summer interns in southeast Michigan. Quickly pivoting, the Ford Volunteer Corps brainstormed a plan of virtual activities to give Ford interns a memorable learning experience while also benefitting Detroit-area nonprofits and the people and communities they serve.
"We created the Ford Volunteer Corps Summer Service Challenge to give these enthusiastic and talented young people opportunities to give back, while gaining an in-depth understanding of Ford Fund's role in building stronger communities," said Danielle Wilson, coordinator, Ford Volunteer Corps, Ford Motor Company Fund.
Each year Ford Motor Company's summer intern program provides hundreds of college students with valuable opportunities. These future engineers, business managers, designers and others can build their resumes, network and show what they can do in a professional work environment. In a typical year, these energetic young men and women would also get a hands-on view of how Ford employees give back by stocking shelves in food banks, landscaping around shelters or painting schools through community service projects with the Ford Volunteer Corps.
However, this is no typical year. With health and safety as top priorities, the Ford Volunteer Corps created a Summer Service Challenge—a series of four activities, each focused on a specific task with a different Ford Fund nonprofit partner.
Ford interns helped the City of Detroit by volunteering as phone bank operators for the 2020 census. By ensuring every Detroit resident and household completes the census the city can receive proper funding for public programs.
"I jumped out of my comfort zone to cold approach the person that has not done the census," said Abraham Huang, Ford summer intern volunteer, Manufacturing. "My courage has grown."
Ford Motor Company and the Rouge River have a long and storied past. Working with the nonprofit organization, Friends of the Rouge, the summer interns learned about the history between the two companies and what they can do now and, in the future, to help ensure a sustainable connection between businesses and our natural resources.
"I learned a great deal about the Rouge watershed, and it was interesting to see how the community's relationship with its natural resources has evolved," said Kelsey Farr, Ford summer intern volunteer, Product Development. "I also learned more about how businesses can solve social problems, like helping the environment."
Ford intern volunteers assembled neighbor kits that included hand sanitizer, hygiene products and other essential items. They learned how United Way for Southeastern Michigan mobilizes partners in the community to make sure people have access to food and the basic resources they need.
"I am so happy Ford decided to do these volunteer challenges, they have been a highlight of my internship," said Paige Nightingale, Ford summer intern volunteer, Product Development. "I had a lot of people reach out with donations and it was really awesome. It is inspiring how social media can unite us and pull people together for a great cause."
Economic empowerment through workforce development is how Focus:HOPE is continuing the fight against economic inequality in our communities. The summer interns learned about the March for Hope—an annual community celebration of unity—and the programs Focus: HOPE employs to help meet the challenges of racism and injustice.
"This topic must be talked about," said Fredeurika Toussaint, Ford summer intern volunteer, Human Resources. "If we do not begin to dismantle systemic barriers to equitable wages and financial literacy, and economic development for all, we fail to create a world where happiness and true equity exist."
Ford intern volunteers who completed all four projects are being awarded gift cards from GlobalGiving, Ford's longtime disaster relief and global grant-making partner. The students can donate the gift cards to the nonprofit partner of their choice.
There is also an optional fifth project for those willing to take the next step—Make a Plan. Ford interns are encouraged to work together to develop a proposal for the Ford College Community Challenge, a collegiate grant competition for student-led projects that address urgent local needs.
"Community service is a bedrock value at Ford Motor Company and an essential part of who we are as Ford employees and citizens," said Todd Nissen, director, Ford Volunteer Corps. "These young men and women are learning lessons about life that will stick with them regardless of where their careers take them in the future."
Managed by the Ford Motor Company Fund—the company's philanthropic arm—the Ford Volunteer Corps enlists thousands of volunteers from around the globe to give back through community service. This year, Ford Fund continues working with Ford employees, Ford dealers and nonprofits to provide critical assistance to people coping with COVID-19 related issues. Ford Fund has adjusted volunteer projects, awarded new grants and deployed resources to aid essential workers and meet urgent community needs during the continuing pandemic. To learn more about Ford Fund's response to COVID-19, visit fordfund.org/covid19.
To learn more about the Ford Volunteer Corps, visit fordfund.org/volunteer.