Recognizing their years of work in community service, assisting the poor and its nationally-recognized efforts in raising awareness against bullying, hate crimes and bias, the Interfaith Leadership Council will bestow its Interfaith Award to the Plymouth-Canton Interfaith Community Outreach Group (ICO) at its Oct. 24th Annual Awards Dinner.
ICO began when Dr. Mahmood Hai, of the Muslim Community West (MCWS), asked Father Richard Perfetto of Resurrection Catholic Church, what they could do to bring their faiths together in service two days after September 11, 2001.
Early projects included clothing and food drives and over the years have evolved with monthly service projects including clothing drives, food drives, game nights with local shelters, bell ringing, community dinners, youth movie nights, and spoken word contests.
In 2011, the group was again moved to service at the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Members of the group approached township officials, police, faith leaders and the community and asked for a commitment to begin working in service together as a community. Moving forward as a community to heal was important to many and this event helped to begin a strong bond between the many cultures and faiths living in Canton and Plymouth.
In the face of the many tragedies which have befallen families and communities throughout the country, ICO was there to lead local walks in support. ICO has also been a presence of comfort and aid as they helped the diverse families of Plymouth and Canton endure life’s hardships.
These efforts received a public recognition from State Representative Kristy Pagan (D-Canton) as well as the state of Michigan.
Through their tenacity in collaborating with Plymouth-Canton Schools over six years and a changeover of three superintendents, ICO succeeded in getting the school district to offer IFLC’s Religious Diversity Journeys (RDJ) to our own schools, as we had spent years teaching over 18 other school districts of our various cultures.
To bring this to fruition, ICO collected almost 1000 signatures as well as providing testimonials of the bullying of some of our minority cultures that was occuring in Plymouth-Canton Community Schools. This fall, PCCS finally relented and is offering RDJ to our first classes!
As a township, the CANTON RESPONSE TO HATE CRIMES COALITION has received national recognition for its “Not In Our Town” community program, in which the ICO has played an integral role.
With chapters and activities across the nation, “Not In Our Town” is a national award-winning coalition of local law enforcement, leaders, and representatives of community and faith-based organizations, who are committed to raising awareness of hate crimes, bias incidents, and bullying.
The CRHCC offers support to victims of hate/bias/bullying and helps to restore a sense of community when these incidents occur.
In 2017, ICO created an interfaith quilt to demonstrate its bonds and samenes while celebrating diversity. Many quilting sessions over food, laughter, and tears were spent to show how much stronger we are together rather than apart. The quilt found its permanent home at the Canton Public LIbrary, where it is an example to others of what our community represents. The librarians say that the kids love it and often play under it while staring at the symbols of faith and love.
ICO team members have also started governing the Canton and Plymouth community and giving voice to all cultures and faiths. Team members have been elected and appointed to township boards and committees over the past 2 years, with an additional team member running this year for school board.
ICO works with the police to assist with traumatic events that may occur in some of the households of newer immigrant residents. Other team members assist immigrants with clothing, furniture and much needed services. ICO and faith houses also train the local government, police, fire and teachers how to interact with the many cultures they interface with in their daily work in Canton and Plymouth. One of the next initiatives being discussed is to work with leaders in our faith houses, the school district, local police and fire, courts and community foundation on discussions and help for people suffering from mental illness.
The importance of ICO members forming friendships and relationships as well as representing and serving, will strengthen the Plymouth-Canton community far into the future.