When my mom and step-father, Marilyn and Larry, told me they had bought a building in the NE corner of Detroit to start their new non-profit, LifeBUILDERS, I thought “What a nice way for them to stay busy during their retirement.”
When they bought the apartment building and told of their plans of fixing up all the units and taking an interest in the lives of their tenants, I thought “that’s a new approach for Detroit landlords.”
When they bought their first house in the neighborhood, I thought “there goes any help for Max and Sam for college.”
When they packed up their Grosse Pointe home and moved to the neighborhood, I thought they were nuts.
Every time I go home and see what has happened and continues to happen over in their little slice of Detroit I am in awe.
There’s no Stadia, no M1 rail, no Dan Gilbert, no huge condo or hotels or apartment projects. There’s no Slow’s BBQ, no Whole Food, no Starbuck’s, no Shinola. There’s no turn of the century mansions, no river, no Albert Kahn, no historically significant architecture.
But somehow, minus all of what has been “driving” Detroit’s comeback, there something far more impressive. There is a neighborhood that is stabilizing. Vacant houses have been occupied. Blighted and dangerous properties have been removed – rehabbed when possible or torn down and made into gardens or other community space. Properties formerly occupied by squatters and drug dealers are now occupied by families.
Children go to programs after school to play, to be tutored, and to learn about God and to see love in action. A dance troupe of neighborhood girls practices and performs under the instruction of experts. Neighborhood residents shop at the resale store, talk with each other over coffee, and share meals.
Now instead of “interesting” or “nuts” I swell with pride over what my folks – and the army of people who donate their time, heart, and resources - have accomplished. It is amazing and Marilyn and Larry I am so proud of what you have accomplished and the heart for love – for God’s Love – which has led you every step of the way.
I’d encourage anybody who is interested in seeing more, or potentially looking for a place for some end of the year giving to contact them – take a tour, see what’s going on, see the people in the neighborhood and feel the special sense of communitas that is forming in the neighborhood off of Kelly and south of 8 Mile.