I Was Wrong

4.3 min readBy Published On: September 25th, 2020Categories: Uncategorized
Hello Team!

As the Founder & CEO of Life Remodeled, I’m here to tell you, I was wrong.

Since our organization’s launch in 2010, our scope and impact have grown far more than we’d initially dreamed. In 2014, we first began mobilizing 10,000 volunteers annually to beautify four square miles of Detroit in only six days. There were two major reasons we decided to organize so many volunteers in six days, and those same two reasons are what drive us to continue this incredibly important project every single summer.

Reason #1: Detroit once housed more than 1.8 million residents. However, now with only 650,000 residents, we have A LOT of vacant land—thousands of acres of overgrown brush and weeds making a community not only visually depressing, but also potentially more dangerous. Blight is a real issue in Detroit, increasing criminal activity, and 10,000 volunteers can make a real impact on this issue when we work together.

Reason #2: I’m convinced the main reason urban poverty continues to exist in America is because we haven’t yet learned how to play well with one another across race and socioeconomic differences. I’ve also found that if you invite two people who are polar opposites on issues of race, religion or politics to sit down at a table, look each other in the eye and work it out… 9 times out of 10 that won’t be a very productive conversation. However, if you invite those same two people to work shoulder-to-shoulder on a project they both agree on, something magical happens. They begin to respect and value one another.

All that said, given the division and polarization we’re facing in our country, we need Six Day Projects now more than ever.

Back in 2014 when we first organized 10,000 volunteers to beautify the Cody Rouge neighborhood, I was convinced the most important indicator of success would be what the properties would look like one year later. When we drove around those same blocks in 2015, we were delighted to see many properties looking just as good as the day we finished the 2014 Six Day Project, but we were disappointed that many were already overgrown again.

I was operating under the false assumption that somehow residents would maintain these vacant properties all by themselves once our Six Day Project had come to completion. The crazy truth is, a large number of Detroiters actually do. I personally know many Detroit residents, including senior citizens, who regularly cut the vacant lawns next to them. The more I think about that, the more amazed I am by the resilience of Detroiters. Honestly, there are days when I don’t want to mow my own grass. I don’t even have a very big yard, but you’d have a very hard time convincing me to mow the vacant houses on my right and left!

Here’s the bottom line, I was wrong to expect 650,000 people to maintain land designed for 1.8 million people… all by themselves. I’m proud of the city services Mayor Duggan and his team are providing. The City of Detroit’s blight removal program is literally second to none. That said, it’s just not possible for vacant properties to be maintained weekly at this time in our city’s history, and we need the help of volunteers like you.

As you know, Life Remodeled used to invest only one year per neighborhood, but starting in 2017, we upgraded our strategy. We’re spending five years in the neighborhood surrounding Durfee and Central High School. Every summer we are removing blight on vacant properties and beautifying the same four square miles, but each summer we go deeper and deeper. Our next Six Day Project is August 3 – 8, 2020, and this will be our fourth year invested here. Every year more and more Detroit residents are not only engaging in the project, but leading it. By the time we shift our focus to another Detroit community, we will have modeled and handed-off an effective and efficient system of volunteer management that will continue to exist for many years in this wonderful community.

Soon we intend to expand our reach and open another opportunity hub like the Durfee Innovation Society in another Detroit community while still remaining a part of this current community as a result of our 50 year lease of the DIS. In the meantime, we need our 10,000 volunteers to keep coming back to the Durfee/Central community, and we need all hands on deck October 5-10, 2020.

Thank you for supporting Life Remodeled as we grow and evolve along the way. We are stronger and more effective than ever before, and that’s largely because of YOU! 2020 is our 10th year anniversary, so get ready for our best year yet… which of course is true every year!

Thank you again, and may God bless each and every one of us as we continue to remodel not only the lives of others, but just as important, our own.