Each year, Alumni and Friends Service Day is an opportunity for Michigan Law alumni, friends, and family to serve their local communities. Through volunteer work, groups of Law School graduates across a number of cities assist local nonprofit organizations with their greatest needs.

This year, 83 alumni participated in projects across nine cities. Project sites included food banks, nature preserves, a farm, a school, a children’s museum, and an emergency shelter. 

“Service Day fosters this feeling of camaraderie in Ann Arbor, around the country, and even the world,” said Laura Gray, director of alumni and development events. “It reminds people that public service is always important and something that allows friends and family to come together.”

Meet the group leaders for three of this year’s Service Day locations


Two Michigan Law alumni volunteering in a kitchen.
Marlee Goska, ’21 (left), and Maria Smilde, ’21 (right), working hard in Clare House’s kitchen.

In Anchorage, Alaska, Sara Taylor, ’11, rallied volunteers at Clare House, an emergency shelter for mothers and children that operates 24 hours a day. Having hosted the alumni event at the same location last year, Taylor planned to return this year to assist in cleaning the shelter’s playground and yard. When the group arrived, their plans shifted to cleaning the shelter’s kitchen. The group of Michigan Law alums quickly got to work.

“One of the great things about Service Day is showing up together as our full selves, as neighbors with a range of talents and interests,” said Taylor. “There’s a chemistry among us all that creates space for transformation, even personal transformation.” 

Taylor said that the Service Day project emphasizes reciprocity and fellowship to strengthen the safety net in communities facing intersectional challenges. 

“Arguing over destructive gender norms is important and fun, and it’s possible because Clare House does the real work in the real world,” she said. “The more women start to occupy different spaces, the more violence is going to come out because of the threat to the social hierarchy. It’s imperative to maintain edifices against that power structure. To do that, we must create and uphold safe places for women.”

A group of Michigan Law alumni volunteering in a kitchen.
(Left to right) Huhnkie Lee, ’15, Chloe Roddy, ’20, Sara Taylor, ’11, Dario Borghesan, ’08, Maria Smilde, ’21, Marlee Goska, ’21, Elizabeth Gobeski, ’06.


A Michigan Law alumni volunteers to bag groceries.
Michigan Law alumni helping bag groceries at Freestore Food Bank’s Bea Taylor Market.

Rachel Barr, ’18, has never lived in a city with an established Service Day group. So this year, she decided to start one. She organized participants to volunteer at Freestore Foodbank’s Bea Taylor Market. 

“I work for the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio, so I’m familiar with poverty and low-income spaces,” said Barr. “I contacted different organizations when I was looking for a Service Day project, and the Freestore Food Bank had a well-structured and easy-to-organize group volunteer project.”

Barr stressed that people must know resources like the Bea Market exist. She lauds the food bank for being set up like a grocery store, where members of the community who are food insecure can shop as if they are in any regular grocery store. They are given a specific weight of food based on their household size and are in control of their choices. 

“The Bea Market is unlike a traditional food bank, where you’re given a box of stuff,” said Barr. “This feature of the food bank, in particular, gives people a lot of agency over what they’re getting.”

One of the alums who participated in Cincinnati’s Service Day event was Marty Dunn, ’84, who Barr learned is the chair of the Freestore Food Bank board of directors. 

“The Alumni and Friends Service Day was a great way to meet Michigan Law alums in Cincinnati that I didn’t know were here,” she said. “It was also nice to meet alums of different class years, ages, and experience levels.”

A group of Michigan Law Alumni at their volunteer site.
Rachel Barr, ’18 (left), and Marty Dunn, ’84 (right), with fellow Cincinnati-based Michigan Law alumni.

San Francisco Bay Area

Two Michigan Law alumni clearing a fallen tree.
Bob Garb, ’64, redistributing a pile of trees and branches.

Three San Francisco Bay Area Michigan alums gathered at the Terra Linda Preserve in San Rafael, one of Marin County’s parks. This year’s group leader, Bob Garb, ’64, chose this location in honor of his late friend and fellow Michigan Law alumnus, Richard Helzberg, ’65, who was a Service Day co-leader since 2009 and who held the event last year at the same venue.

“Last year’s Service Day was such a well-run event that I decided to do the same thing this year, in his memory,” said Garb. “Richard particularly liked nature projects; he was a big hiker and ran in many Dipsea Races. He also liked to do things that improved the area near where he lived, so that’s why we again picked this location.”

The Terra Linda Preserve’s mission is to protect and enrich Marin County’s parks and open spaces while providing recreational opportunities for all generations. The Michigan Law alums collaborated with 23 volunteers from the Marin County Bike Coalition to help realign the existing Memorial Trail to create the new Eagle Rock Trail, which will reduce erosion and make it accessible for all users, bikers, hikers, and even equestrians.

“By having Eagle Rock Trail, nearby San Rafael-based kids can take their bikes or hike to Terra Linda schools,” said Garb. “The trail improves the neighborhood.”

A group of Michigan Law alumni getting ready to start their volunteer work outside.
Jason Venner, ’97 (left), and Bob Garb, ’64 (right), with fellow Service Day volunteers.

Originally, the Bay Area event was to be held on May 4, 2024, on the same day as the other Alumni Service Days, and nine Bay Area Michigan Law alums were excited to participate. However, torrential rain occurred on that particular day, so a back-up date of June 8 was quickly selected. Unfortunately scheduling conflicts led to smaller-than-usual participation numbers.