It has been 10 years since Patty Janes pitched her idea, Michigan Cares for Tourism, to state industry and education leaders who could help make it happen.
Modeled after the national nonprofit Tourism Cares, her concept proposed that volunteers representing the state’s hospitality industry would donate their time by providing labor to help improve Michigan’s historic, cultural, and natural attractions. With donated resources including bus transportation and obtaining a $5,000 grant to jumpstart the project, it was off to the races.
“We had seed money and did our first event,” says Janes, a professor of hospitality and tourism management at Grand Valley State University in Allendale.
That first gathering was held in 2012 at the Waterloo State Recreation Area in Chelsea, and Michigan Cares for Tourism returned to Waterloo Sept. 11 this year as a reunion to mark the initiative’s 10th anniversary. They followed the reunion with a workday at Cambridge Junction Historic State Park in Brooklyn on Sept. 12, where about 100 volunteers turned out to help expand a trail system, build an entertainment stage, rebuild a scoreboard for vintage baseball, reconstruct fencing, paint, and work on landscaping.
In the interim years, approximately 3,500 volunteers represent- ing convention and visitors bureaus, hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, and related industries have provided volunteer labor worth $1 million; volunteers worked on 42 similar projects throughout the state. Four have been in the Upper Peninsula, where 2023 will take the group to work on projects in the Porcupine Mountains.
“It’s really amazing to think that almost 4,000 tourism industry professionals have given their time, talents, and resources over the past 10 years to make an impact on 42 different attractions,” Janes says. “The industry is already known for incredibly hard work and oftentimes, long hours. But so many continue to give not only in their own communities, but [also] for the [tourism] industry around the state.”