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To fight poverty, Comcast to deploy army of volunteers Saturday in Detroit, across Michigan

Detroit Free Press - 4/19/2018

April 19--Comcast is deploying a small army of employees and other volunteers throughout Michigan and other states on Saturday in an annual effort to help fight poverty with the cable provider particularly focused on Detroit.

"I'm not sure it's that small of an army," David Cohen, Comcast's senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer, told the Free Press on Wednesday, adding that more than 100,000 people nationwide are expected to participate in the event. "One of the big headlines for us -- signifying this element of giving back to our communities -- is someone will be our 1 millionth Comcast volunteer."

In Detroit, Cohen is expected to join Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and about 125 employees and other volunteers to clean up the neighborhood at 7 Mile and Van Dyke, near the S.A.Y. Detroit Center by picking up debris, fixing fences, planting flowers and painting buildings.

S.A.Y. Detroit is a nonprofit organization founded by Free Press columnist Mitch Albom.

The Comcast event started 17 years ago, and it has grown from 6,000 participants in Philadelphia, where Comcast is based, to a year-round effort for employee volunteerism just about everywhere the cable company offers service. By the company's count, 1 million people have volunteered to help. A total of 29 projects have been organized on Saturday just in Michigan.

Cohen, who previously served as chief of staff to then-Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, was in Detroit in August to give away laptops to senior citizens. He said Detroit, like Philadelphia, is an important city to Comcast, and Duggan even reminds him of Rendell.

Michael Johnson, who has been volunteering as a Comcast employee in Southfield for a few hours every month for about a decade, said he appreciates that the company supports his efforts to help people -- especially children -- in the community.

"It's my duty just to give back as a member of society," said Johnson, 52, who is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters. "I feel like growing up as a young black kid here, I'm compelled to do my part and help another young kid along."

In addition to volunteering, Comcast also plans to hand out some big grants to nonprofit organizations.

"Companies can, and should, have a commitment to the communities they serve," Cohen said. "That's just as important as the commitment to the financial bottom line. If you are out in the community and people see you in the community and see this is a company that has a heart and soul, then that's what good corporate citizenship is all about."

It also, he acknowledged, helps sell more cable service.

"Detroit is a great story. It's a great urban success story," Cohen said. "The body blows from cutback to the auto industry significantly impacted Detroit in a negative way. Rather than whine about it, Detroit has set about to reinvent itself."

Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or fwitsil@freepress.com.

If you go

Several volunteer projects are planned throughout Michigan on Saturday and can be found onlilne.

When: 8:30 a.m. to noon, 19320 Van Dyke, Detroit

Website for other sites: www.comcastinthecommunity.com

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(c)2018 the Detroit Free Press

Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 
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