This article originally appeared in The Detroit Jewish News on July 13, 2022.
Repair the World Detroit and The Well both nominated Lindsay Ottersen, 38, of Detroit as Volunteer of the Week for her active dedication to giving back throughout the community. “Lindsay came to a Detroit Community Fridge cooking event this past winter having not heard of the community aid project before and now routinely drops off food for the fridges out of the kindness of her heart,” said Rachel Wasserman, a senior fellow with Repair the World Detroit. Ottersen says she has had a passion to volunteer since she was a teen and continues to give back when she can. Ottersen, a Michigan native, briefly moved to Texas and then returned to Gross Pointe. She now calls Detroit her home.
“When I moved into the city, I thought it was super important to try to engage in the community and make an effort to volunteer with a few different organizations,” she said. Covenant House, which offers support services to young people in need, is one of the organizations. Ottersen had been on the board of the nonprofit for the last three years and recently stepped down to focus on exams for her career. “These are young adults, between the ages of 18 to 24, who are kind of in limbo as far as trying to get on their feet after being released into the community from foster care or whatever they were in,” she said.
One of the organizations biggest fundraisers is Sleep Out, where once a year in the middle of winter they sleep out in solidarity to raise funds for the organization. “Every year, we get between $30,000 and $50,000. Over the years, I think I’ve personally raised a little over $8,000,” she said. Aside from working a full time job as an insurance agent, Ottersen says the inspiration of giving back comes from the ideologies of Judaism to repair the world.
“I think it’s important that we look beyond ourselves,” she said. “While it’s important to take care of ourselves and our families, it’s also important to take care of the strangers that are in our community, that are kind of the unknown family. They’re part of us, and we all depend on each other even if we don’t necessarily see or feel it in the day to day.”
When Ottersen moved to Detroit over four years ago, she saw a need she could fill with Little Free Libraries, a nonprofit that promotes neighborhood book exchanges. “I was working as a substitute teacher at the time and was chatting with my library and the teachers who I was working with. They gave me thousands of books to help stock up the little free libraries throughout my neighborhood. I have continued to keep them stocked every month to keep it running for the kids,” Ottersen said.
Since the pandemic hit, Ottersen says she’s shifted her attention and changed the little free libraries into pantries because she was worried about the food scarcity and that’s when she learned about the Detroit Community Fridge. “I started making sandwiches for them and they asked me to make 60 sandwiches and bring them over for lunch. And I try to load up every time I go grocery shopping for myself and get a couple extra cereals or whatever I can afford that week to give to the Detroit Community Fridge.”
Ottersen feels it’s important to set aside time, money or items like books or food whatever you can give to help fill the needs of the community. “You can commit an entire year, or every weekend a year, or just a few hours one time in one year; but the end result is that the world is better off because of what you did. Your light and love and positivity lasts much longer than those hours, those weekends, that year.”