Ypsilanti Proud, formerly Ypsilanti P.R.I.D.E., was founded by the 1995 graduating class of “Leadership Ypsilanti”, an experiential learning program sponsored by the former Ypsilanti Area Chamber of Commerce. The event is now part of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti (A2Y) Regional Chamber. The project began as a result of the class looking at various ways to be leaders in the community and from analyzing a list of the strengths and weaknesses of the greater Ypsilanti area. Upon their analysis, there was a collective agreement among the class that the overall image of the community needed to be addressed.
The first two co-chairs, Rick DeVries and Tony Dearing, felt they needed to concentrate initially on area wide clean-up efforts identifying blighted areas and soliciting volunteers. T-shirts were given to volunteers to promote the event and galvanize the positive impact the P.R.I.D.E. volunteers were making on the appearance and image of the Ypsilanti area.
Funds were raised from local businesses and the P.R.I.D.E. Committee flourished and added other aesthetics to the area including planting flowers. The committee worked with local churches, youth groups, downtown and depot town associations, families, the city, townships and other designated entities. The event won the Distinguished Citizen Award, from Keep Michigan Beautiful Inc. in 1996.
In 2007, the Ypsilanti Area Jaycee’s were invited to take a leadership role with the event, and in 2008, the planning committee was approached by the Water Conservation & Advisory Committee of Ypsilanti Township with a request to formally merge their ‘Ford Lake Cleanup’ with P.R.I.D.E. The merger of these two popular events added more than twenty cleanup sites and sparked the creation of a formal website. In 2009 an online volunteer registration database was created that allowed the 600-1200 volunteers the opportunity to choose from over 60 cleanup sites, choose flowers for those sites, and order t-shirts for their groups. The added automation has allowed the event to add scalability to the ever-growing list of enhancements for this activity.