A Detroit Agency Combines Social Services and Sustainability

Posted by Mary Ellen Geist on

This story originally appeared on Great Lakes Now, and was written by Great Lakes Bureau Chief, Mary Ellen Geist.

It turns out creating products from recycled materials can not only help save the earth, it can help non-profits make money to help house the homeless and feed the hungry.

Photo courtesy of Mary Ellen Geist

Ed Hingelberg, Director of Marketing, courtesy of Mary Ellen Geist

Ed Hingelberg is with Detroit’s Cass Community Social Services, which has 11 facilities and dozens of programs throughout Detroit that have everything from feeding and housing programs, programs for vets and homeless people, referral programs, emergency housing for women and children, and much more. The agency makes the money to do its work by selling  products created by materials people throw away.


Cass Community Social Services is being represented at Sustainable Brands 2017 at Detroit’s Cobo Center because Hingelberg says,

Photo courtesy of casscommunity.org

Mud Mats, courtesy of casscommunity.org

“About 8 years ago, we started recycling by picking up illegally dumped tires in Detroit. There was an unlimited amount. We would pick them up, and we got a special set of machinery that could cut the sidewalls out of the tires, and we used that to turn them into wonderful mud mats, and the treads are then turned into sandals that are called Detroit Treads – complete with the Old English “D” on the bottom of them.”

Hingelberg says, “The other project we’re involved in is document destruction.  It’s one of my favorites, because we make money by picking up paper. We’re in lawyer’s and doctor’s offices, we have bins in there, we do bins and purges.” The agency’s document destruction program hires developmentally disabled adults.

The mats and the sandals are hot items and often sell out. The products clean up Detroit, raise money for social services, and create jobs.

Detroit’s Cass Community Social Services is a shining example of the way sustainability can pay off and give big returns in dozens of ways.



One Detroit - Four million people. One story.

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