Hundreds of volunteers descend on Belle Isle to help spruce it up

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Every day dozens of people visit Belle Isle. It's now a state run park and always has been a beloved jewel in the heart of downtown Detroit.

Today, more than 350 volunteers from across Michigan descended upon the island to help spruce it up.

It's the second time the 'Michigan Cares for Tourism' group has got together on the Isle. As fate would have it, this year the group size more than doubled. Last year, organizers tell Action News only about a hundred or so people banded together.

This year though, it was a different story to a different tune and they came by a different way. This year, they showed up by the bus loads.

Patty Janes is a professor of Hospitality studies at Grand Valley State University Detroit campus and says she recalls last year. It was a far smaller crowd.

"I get very emotional when I see people making a difference in their community out of their heart, it doesn't get any better than that for me," Janes said. Emotional because the enthusiasm of the volunteers is infectious. The overcast skies and chance for rain not hindering their moods. They have work to do.

The volunteers met at the aquarium. Serenaded by a live band they ate breakfast then it was off to begin work.

They scraped paint away from the wood trusses holding up the roof on shelter 9 of the park. Some could be seen hauling off wheelbarrows full of dirt.

The volunteers came from as far north as Traverse City, to as far west as Grand Haven and then there are those from right here in Motown. All of them are from the tourism and hospitality industry.

Gail Zemmol grew up coming to Belle Isle so the opportunity to give back and help clean up the park she's seen go down-hill for so long.

"I have a lot of really fond memories of when I was at Belle Isle," Zemmol told our reporter. "As a kid, I rode an elephant at the zoo here a long time ago but it's just good to give back."

She is quick to point out that while the work here is being done in Detroit, she'd do this anywhere. The goal of the group 'Michigan Cares for Tourism' aims to give back by volunteering to clean up historic sites and parks across the state.

"This is Michigan and Michigan needs tourism in order to survive," Zemmol said. "People understand that, so here we are giving back to the state of Michigan and it just happens to be in Detroit."

For Janes though, seeing the buses carrying the volunteers moves her to tears.

"If you think of every human being took even just a little bit of time every week to make a difference somehow in their local community or their bigger community or their work communities that isn't required of them that they could do we could be unstoppable to be perfectly honest," Janes said.

The volunteers wrapped up their day of hard work with free tickets to the Tigers game at Comerica Park.

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