Written by: Jessica Downing, Michigan Department of Human Services Youth Services AmeriCorps*VISTA
The Crawford and Otsego County MYOI (Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative) is a youth group that consists of youth from Crawford and Otsego County that have been in foster care after their 14th birthday, are between the ages of 14-21, and are YIT (Youth In Transition) eligible. The MYOI youth group is coordinated through the Crawford and Otsego Department of Human Services. The group meets monthly to discuss issues related to foster care and advocacy, and allows them to learn necessary life-skills to prepare them to transition successfully into adulthood and out of foster care. The group also plans projects that will engage the youth members by working within their community and giving back. The primary goal of the Crawford and Otsego County MYOI is to educate, engage, and prepare foster youth to make a successful transition into adulthood.
On April 16, 2011 the Crawford and Otsego County MYOI held the Free Laundry Day Project at Alpine Laundry and Dry Cleaning in Gaylord, Michigan. This project was in conjunction with the 2011 Global Youth Service Day (www.gysd.org). Prior to the event, the youth group was provided with information about the opportunity to obtain a Michigan GYSD mini-grant from the Michigan Community Service Commission and The LEAGUE Michigan to host a youth service project in their community. The youth group discussed community needs and decided to host a project in which they would cover the cost of laundry for individuals and families in need in Gaylord. The project goal of the Free Laundry Day was to help individuals and families obtain clean linens and clothing for their households and to attend school, work, and even job interviews.
The Crawford and Otsego County MYOI obtained donations of snacks, water, and other laundry care supplies for the event. The youth members that worked at the event also distributed and collected participant evaluations of the project so they could present the information to other organizations and community agencies to show the impact of the project, as well as allowing them to produce a final grant report. The youth members learned through this project that even the simplest things, such as having clean clothing each day, comes at a cost. They also learned that many individuals and families in Northern Michigan struggle to make ends meet, let alone cover the cost of obtaining clean clothing each week. This event allowed the youth group members to not only give back to the community through volunteer service, but also by connecting directly with fellow community members in need, learning about community needs and resources that are available, and about the essentials of doing laundry!