Appliances don’t generally evoke an emotional response - yet that’s what happened when Clenetta Frazier, human resources consultant at Marathon Petroleum’s refinery in Detroit, Mich., informed the community liaison to the 1,550-student River Rouge School District that the refinery would donate three sets of washers and dryers to the elementary, middle and high schools in the district.
“I was emotional because the appliances represent a game-changer for the children,” explains Tarence Wheeler, who is also a parent in the district. “Many of the children come from backgrounds that are deficit in basic needs, including the means to wash their clothing. Some of the younger students still have accidents, and older ones don’t want to face the humiliation of wearing dirty clothes each day. The washers and dryers provide a means to discreetly wash clothing at school – alleviating an obstacle to education.”
It all began with a casual conversation between Wheeler and Frazier. “He wasn’t asking for help; just talking about something he was working on. I initially didn’t understand how significant a goal it was,” she said. “Then I remembered Mr. Wheeler’s driving mission – remove all obstacles to learning – and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.”
First Frazier thought of locating good, used appliances and sought out Detroit refinery’s Human Resources Manager Mark Ragon for advice. “He suggested we start looking for new ones at a good price,” says Frazier. She got in touch with a local appliance store, described the need and received a response about 10 minutes later. “We found a great deal for three sets of sturdy, high-quality appliances.”
Then Frazier made another call. “When I caught Mr. Wheeler and told him the refinery would be supplying the appliances, he said, ‘You don’t know what you’ve done,’” she explains. “That was more than enough thanks for me.”
But there was more. Frazier and Ragon were invited to visit each school on the refinery’s behalf. “There were banners thanking MPC for the donation, and we were treated to a lunch prepared by students in the culinary arts program,” Frazier says. “Many of the students ran up and thanked us as well. It was touching and heartwarming.”
“I am so thankful that MPC partnered with us to make this happen – and for Miss Frazier’s ability to realize the significance,” adds Wheeler, who is committed to going the extra mile for the students. “As adults, we must love, respect and give them everything they need to become successful,” he says. “MPC’s gift helps make that happen.”