If you have ever called Life Remodeled, you’ve spoken with Melissa Meadows, or heard her recorded offer to leave a message. By title, she is the mission’s full-time administrative assistant. But her role far exceeds supporting staff, climbing on semi-trailers to count lawn mowers and ordering 12,000 T-Shirts for Project Week volunteers.
Were it not for a special encounter more than two years ago, Melissa, a former cheerleader at the University of Kansas, might still be earning money giving cheerleading and gymnastics lessons at the Sports Club in Novi.
“I would say that without my interaction with Brittany (Agee), I wouldn’t be working at Life Remodeled,” she said of the position she accepted a year ago.
Attending Oak Pointe Church, Melissa acted on pastor Bob Shirock’s urging of his congregation to invest in Cody High School by mentoring students following Life Remodeled’s 2014 Cody Rouge project.
Brittany was a Cody senior when she met Melissa, a divorced mother with joint custody of her three children – 15-year-old Emma, 12-year-old Ty, and 10-year-old Tessa. Melissa wasn’t sure she would have the time or resources to make a difference, “but I wanted to give it a try.”
In Brittany, Melissa found a young person starved for a committed adult in her life. Brittany’s mother abandoned her when she was 2, her father was murdered when she was 9, and her grandmother was killed by a stray bullet when she was 12. Despite all this, Brittany wanted to go to college and was accepted at Alabama State. All she needed was a way to get there.
“I told her, ‘If that’s the only thing stopping you, I could get you there.’” So Melissa drove 14 hours with Brittany to Montgomery, Alabama, staying with her through move-in and orientation.
“She really just needed someone to love her,” Melissa said, “and when you love someone, you will do anything for them.”
That attitude extends to Melissa’s leadership of Life Remodeled’s Home Repair Team, matching homeowners in Detroit neighborhoods with contractors who volunteer to make one critical repair such as a new roof, furnace, windows, or electrical or plumbing work.
“We had a family three weeks ago that had plumbing work done, and for the first time in 3 ½ years, they have running water. Before that, they were not able to use sinks, take showers or anything,” Melissa said.
Home repairs are an important part of Life Remodeled – less dramatic than the results of the annual Six Day Project, during which more than 10,000 volunteers attack blight across 300 blocks closest to schools in the target neighborhood – but impactful for the relationships that often result.
Melissa and her team began the Home Repair process in Central Detroit last October, circulating and processing applications that would lead to matching 50 homeowners with contractors, many of whom find a good fit for their specialty at an annual contractor’s breakfast. Qualifying homeowners must occupy the home, have regular income and be current on taxes or be paying on a plan. Once a homeowner is qualified, a professional inspection and interview follow.
“I love getting to know the homeowners. That’s the most important part to me,” Melissa said. “We’re not trying to save the day, just go in and walk beside them. I’ve heard several of the residents say, ‘It is the first time someone has talked to me and asked what they could do to help.’”