Celebrating the work accomplished and looking forward to more in 2018!

Volunteer groups from across southeast Michigan partnered with us to restore homes and revitalize the community.

Volunteer groups from across southeast Michigan partnered with us to restore homes and revitalize the community.

Thanks to your prayers and continuing support 2017 was a monumental year for LifeBUILDERS. 

A record number of 8 newly renovated houses were provided to new tenants, vacant areas filled with blight were cleaned up and maintained, and construction began on a state of the art Head Start facility right here in Regent Park. In addition, LifeBUILDERS summer camp reached 85 students and continues to be a model camp for Regent Park children, encompassing educational and fun activities. 15 teens from our community were trained as counselors for our 2017 camp.

More highlights:

· Our Annual Gala in October at the historic Gem Theatre in Detroit was sold out.  More financial support was received at the Gala than any single event in our history. We thank God for the generosity of so many.

· We received the largest number of grant commitments in our history allowing us to restore homes, remove blight and create new outdoor community spaces for our community and even hire key personnel

·  LifeBUILDERS was welcomed into the Ford Resource & Engagement Center at Fisher Magnet Middle School (right in our community) to bring our Liturgical Dance program to more youth in our community.

·  Our Thanksgiving program was the most impactful in our history. Hundreds of families met their neighbors, were able to pray with LifeBUILDERS team-members, and received a full Thanksgiving dinner to prepare at home.  

6 children now have scholarships to Parkway Christian with the goal to add more in 2018!

6 children now have scholarships to Parkway Christian with the goal to add more in 2018!

·  75 families were provided the opportunity to shop at our Christmas Store for new gifts that were donated by so many amazing LifeBUILDERS supporters. The Christmas Store is a unique opportunity for supporters to donate items and residents to purchase those items knowing that proceeds from their purchase are also giving back to the LifeBUILDERS mission.

· Three more children in our community received scholarships to Parkway Christian School. That makes a total of 6 Regent Park students now receiving scholarships to Parkway Christian School!

Here’s what’s ahead in 2018

·  Expansion of a main community park that will be available for use to all residents. This park adjoins the Early Childhood Education (ECE) facility under construction right in the center of our community.  We are calling this THE CAMPUS. 

·  Added programs and events for community residents to allow them to meet one another, hear God’s Word and continue to have hope restored in Regent Park. Our summer Tent Meetings at the park, senior exercise program (Holy Yoga) and youth initiatives are just a few of the activities that we plan to continue and grow in 2018.

·  Added scholarships to Parkway Christian School increasing our investment in the lives of Regent Park youth. These scholarships offer an excellent Christian education, developing our next faithful leaders.

· Community revitalization projects working with volunteer groups to renovate outdoor spaces, vacant lots and remodel homes.

·  Expanded Summer Camp Program to now offer Cooking Camp, Sports Camp, Computer Camp & More!  Summer college internships and neighborhood youth again being trained as camp counselors.

There is so much happening here at LifeBUILDERS, it’s hard to just name a few items! We encourage you to come out and see for yourself, take a tour and see all that is happening! If you have friends or co-workers interested in a place to give back and truly see God’s work being done in a NE Detroit neighborhood, please have them reach out to us at info@LifeBUILDERSDetroit.com or by calling 313-401-5433. Spring and Summer housing renovation and community clean-up volunteer opportunities are plentiful. Be sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter for more updates!

Many thanks, again, for your faithful partnership with us here at LifeBUILDERS. 

Larry, Marilyn & LifeBUILDERS Team

Former Elementary School to Become Early Childhood Education Facility in Regent Park

As Detroit continues to reemerge, investing more into its communities and early childhood education programming, LifeBUILDERS Detroit announces Regent Park as the location of the newest United Children and Family Head Start Program.

United Children and Family Head Start (UCFHS) currently has five facilities and three child care partnerships servicing Northeast Detroit and is dedicated to providing families of diverse cultural, and ethnic backgrounds to overcome education and economic deprivation. UCFHS was founded in 1979 by the late Dr. Charles Morton of Metropolitan Baptist Church and works through federal funding to offer services to seven Northeast Detroit zip codes.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with LifeBUILDERS and their work in Regent Park for our new facility,” said Roxanne Campbell, Metropolitan Children and Youth Inc. - United Children and Family Head Start Executive Director. “Through the community programs currently being offered and the community center planned for Regent Park through LifeBUILDERS we are able to create a unique one stop area for families to gather.”

The Regent Park Head Start facility, located in what was formerly the Tracy McGregor Elementary School, is currently undergoing renovations made possible by IFF, the Kresge Foundation and LifeBUILDERS.

“IFF believes every child has the right to a quality education, regardless of income level. And that’s never more essential than from ages 0-5,” said Chris Uhl, Executive Director of the nonprofit IFF, which provided the project with financing, grants, real estate services, and guidance on best practice design for early childhood education facilities. “As Detroit rebounds, early education providers need access to capital and expertise to improve their facilities and offer high-quality care and education in the neighborhoods that need it most. We are thrilled to partner with LifeBUILDERS, UCF, and the Regent Park community to help get this facility off the ground.”

Larry Johnson, Executive Director of LifeBUILDERS Detroit added, “Detroit is re-telling its story and we are privileged to be a part of it here on the Northeast corner of the city. Residents are moving back and we are seeing a complete transformation of this community at many levels. This Head Start program is a tangible representation of our commitment to collaborate at all levels to bring about community transformation.  We believe that this addition to our work brings to light the unprecedented scope of our work.”

“Detroit neighborhoods and families need more high quality, accessible early childcare options in which children can learn and grow,” said Neesha Modi, program officer at The Kresge Foundation, which provided a grant to IFF’s Learning Spaces program. “Through grants and technical assistance, the Learning Spaces program helps childcare centers across the city access resources to create quality environments for our youngest Detroiters. We hope this center is a wonderful asset to the neighborhood for years to come.”

For more information about United Children and Family Head Start, visit http://www.ucfhs.org. To learn more about LifeBUILDERS’s transformational work to restore an entire community in Detroit known as Regent Park, visit www.lifebuildersdetroit.com


LifeBUILDERS Detroit Welcomes Wayne State Fellow, Alaina Jackson

LifeBUILDERS Detroit, recently announced being selected as a part of the Detroit Revitalization Fellows 2017-2019 program and welcomed Alaina Jackson, to its staff. Jackson serves as the Director of Housing. She brings years of expertise to the Regent Park community. Alaina is a a champion for economic development projects that are place- and asset-based. Her work at LifeBUILDERS will be focused on unravelling complicated urban problems to help develop strong homeowners in Detroit's northeast side.

Returning home to Detroit after spending 20 years away, Jackson is a graduate of Cass Technical High School. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in organizational communications and urban studies from Northwestern University as well as a Master in Planning degree and a Doctorate of Policy, Planning and Development from the University of Southern California. 

In her past roles, Jackson's passions took her to work abroad exploring urban centers and historically marginalized communities while living and working in Mexico, Germany, Costa Rica and Brazil. These experiences challenged her to be more inclusive and creative in her problem solving.  Jackson is an avid reader and enjoys spending her weekends with her husband and family. 

The Detroit Revitalization Fellows program, an initiative of the Office of Economic Development at Wayne State University. The Detroit Revitalization Fellows are talented mid-career leaders stimulating progress within Detroit's civic, community and economic development landscape. This select group of doers engages in a rigorous two-year leadership development program while serving full time at organizations working to further key programs and projects across Detroit and the region.

LifeBUILDERS, a faith based, nonprofit 501c3 organization, is committed to seeing the community of Regent Park, located on Detroit's northeast side, restored to the thriving community it once was. Founded in 2005 by Larry and Marilyn Johnson, LifeBUILDERS’ mission is to Empower Youth, ReClaim the Neighborhood, Build Communitas. Since that time, LifeBUILDERS has purchased and restored more than 45 homes and two apartment buildings.  Lifebuilders is equally well recognized for its youth and family programs.  A recently renovated park and a soon to be constructed Early Childhood Education facility are just a few of the many things that Lifebuilders is doing to bring life and hope to the residents of this Detroit neighorhood.   For more information, visit www.LifeBUILDERSDetroit.com.

Wayne State Fellow, Alaina Jackson

Wayne State Fellow, Alaina Jackson

LifeBUILDERS Amazing Grace - Our Volunteers

What an amazing message from one of LifeBUILDERS' volunteers, Sue Ulmer. These are true LifeBUILDERS restoring Detroit and a vital part of Detroit's revitalization.

On a record-breaking hot September morning, 23 members of First English Lutheran Church headed over to the Regent Park neighborhood of Detroit. With weeders and shovels in hand we went to work doing fall clean-up in the LifeBUILDERS community garden.

Dividing into teams, some of the team picked the remaining produce in the community garden, some cleared out and bagged the old vegetation, alot of us weeded, some sprayed to prevent additional weeds, and some mulched.

In the midst of the work we talked, laughed, and got to know each other in new ways. One of the joys that morning was filling 6 bags to overflowing with the last of the tomatoes, beans, peppers, and herbs from the garden. We distributed the veggies to the neighbors and were rewarded with smiles and thank-yous.

After a long morning's labor we were able to stand back and see the transformation! The raised beds were ready for spring planting, the weeds were gone, and the property looked neat and tidy with mulch spread evenly around the walkways.

Before heading back for lunch we toured a bit more of the community. We saw what God is accomplishing to bring hope to this community through donations and funding, volunteer hours, and neighbors helping neighbors. A new athletic field, lots of renovated housing, and the future site of a community center and a Head Start campus all were evidence of a neighborhood moving forward.

We cooled off at the LifeBUILDERS gathering space called The Branch and had a simple lunch together. Conversations revolved around the morning's service project. Some of the comments were... "a great experience, I forgot about my own problems for awhile, how encouraging to see all the good things happening in Detroit, let's come back and do something else."

Before departing for the afternoon our pastor taught us a camp version of AMAZING GRACE. We know it is because we've experienced God's amazing grace in OUR lives that we wanted to serve our neighbors in Detroit on that hot Saturday. We're already thinking about a spring project back in the LifeBUILDERS community to continue to share His love and amazing grace!

Everything. Nothing. Something.

Guest blog from LifeBUILDERS' Friend Dan Whitfield

Early in my sales career I once went out on a sales call with a top representative at my company. We were visiting a large national service company, and potential client. When it came time to make a recommendation the rep went LARGE. His proposal included all of our services. I mean EVERYTHING. The decision maker was polite but relatively quickly said, "thanks but no thanks." He wanted NOTHING.

The rep quickly pivoted and made a simple statement. He said, "You know, there is a lot of landscape that we could talk about between EVERYTHING (my proposal) and NOTHING (your decision)." He briefly suggested one part of the proposal (SOMETHING) that made the most sense in light of the customer's current needs. In no time, the customer said, "I'll give that a try. Let's do it." 

After that sales call, the rep said "I use the "everything, nothing, something" approach all the time. My greatest clients met me in the middle after my first recommendation. SOMETHING allowed me the time it takes to build total trust. Something is better than nothing. I can develop the account from there."

In the years since, I've occasionally used the "Everything, Nothing, Something" approach during a sales conversation. But actually, I've found its greater purpose has actually been that it has become a helpful framework in my life. It's been a guide for me in responding to many of the life and business requests that come my way. Here's how I've used this framework:

1. EVERYTHING. (Not literally)

Needs and requests will always exceed resources. We can't say yes to everyone or everything. Nor should we.  Research, due diligence, process, collaboration and communication with other stakeholders will serve us well before saying yes to many of the requests we receive. I'm not suggesting "paralysis of analysis."  But, trying to do everything is exhausting and can't be executed for the long haul. 

Potential EVERYTHING pitfalls – Burnout and/or buyers remorse. And, it’s simply not possible.

2. NOTHING. (Saying yes to very little)

Being selective, single minded, and laser focused on what's important to you and your business is a great life and business strategy. With this approach your calendar stays clear and you can always reconsider after additional review. 

Potential pitfalls – You will miss out on many meaningful things and potentially hurt or hinder the people and causes in your life that you actually could help.

3. SOMETHING. (Doing something meaningful for many things)

Candidly, this is my favorite part of this decision-making framework. I enjoy saying yes. I like to buy things. I enjoy responding positively to requests. Most importantly, I want to help others and really make a difference. By carefully choosing and responding to the right requests we give ourselves the bandwidth to do something meaningful for many of the requests we receive. 

Potential pitfalls – Not as much fun as trying to do everything. Sometimes we become limited in what we can do because we’ve said yes to more than a handful of people or opportunities.

I'd like to give you a chance to test out this framework!

I volunteer for a nonprofit organization called LifeBUILDERS Detroit. We serve the under-served in Regent Park. This community was once called Detroit's most dangerous zip code. Think of boarded up houses and gangs controlling the streets. But, not anymore! Not because of hundreds of people who said, “YES” and “SOMETHING.” Amazing things are happening and the community is being restored and revolutionized!

Now more than ever we need the help of those who are committed to change in major metro areas. Here's what we need in reference to the framework I've discussed above:

1. EVERYTHING - We need approximately 2 million dollars to build a community center and finish renovating the almost 2000 abandoned homes in this neighborhood. I believe someone would see this cause as worthy of the give EVERYTHING framework.

2. NOTHING - We certainly understand that many people are already committed to other great causes and have to say no at this time. 

3. SOMETHING - We need people who are willing to donate $250 for a camp scholarship this summer for a worthy child in this neighborhood. In years past this has been one of the most significant components of empowering youth in the community. Doing SOMETHING could change the life of an under served youth!

Below is a link to investigate further this opportunity. Test this framework out. It just might be helpful to you. I know it could help others! Thanks for your consideration of this request and for testing the framework!


LifeBUILDERS Featured in The Detroit News

LifeBUILDERS had the privilege of welcoming Detroit News reporter Stephanie Steinberg to our campus this month to see the work we are doing here in Regent Park. She was so impressed with the wonderful community that the story made the front page news on May 6, 2017.


Please read her story and share the LifeBUILDERS story with friends and family. We are all LifeBUILDERS and have a part in restoring this beautiful community.

Click Here to read the Detroit News story.

Photo from The Detroit News article-May 6, 2017.

Photo from The Detroit News article-May 6, 2017.

.....the Johnsons moved to the neighborhood and changed the community one house — and person — at a time.
— The Detroit News

Philanthropy, the true calling

A word from our director....

When you hear the word “philanthropy” what comes to mind?  Is it rich people giving away tons of money to causes that are important to them?  We probably all know people directly or indirectly who do just that.  In fact philanthropy means: the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.

When I read that definition, it sounds a lot like what Jesus asked of us. Love others and give generously.  Of course, he knew that if He could inspire us to give of ourselves to others we would be the beneficiaries.  It is in fact better to give than receive…..really!  When we recall how so many here in our community give to others out of their own poverty we are so humbled.  

When Marilyn and I could no longer suppress the innate desire to do something about wrongs or injustices that we long looked upon, we did what we knew was asked of us. We did what we could, with what we had to give. We were then prompted to give more and in different ways and we did. That meant, for us, moving into the Regent Park community of Detroit from the comfort of our Grosse Pointe home only a few years after we had launched Lifebuilders.  For you that might mean something very different; maybe volunteering a day with youth or making sandwiches for those in need. The ‘desire to promote welfare to others’ is expressed in any way you can give it.    We can all be philanthropists.  It is not just a term for the wealthy.

So, what is the calling that you are hearing? Each of us hears a call every day, and each of us can give what we can, with what we have.  Our  encouragement to you is to not miss the opportunity to give yourself away to something when you are continually burdened by some great wrong or injustice.  You can suppress this desire to lend a hand, to make a difference but you will only fully realize real joy when you see the light of hope come on in a person’s life or even a great wrong made right as a result of you saying “I’ll do it, let me help, let me go”. How can we at LifeBUILDERS help you live out that calling?  Whether big or small, philanthropy changes us and changes those around us, and we want to continue to see the change for good in Detroit!

-Larry Johnson, LifeBUILDERS Executive Director


LifeBUILDERS Receives Nike Community Impact Fund Grant for Flag Football Team

LifeBUILDERS is proud to announce it is one of 48 nonprofit organizations across the U.S. to be awarded a $5,000 Nike Community Impact Fund (NCIF) Grant. The NCIF grant is designed to support organizations that build strong communities and give kids opportunities to enjoy physical education, sports and play.

The LifeBUILDERS NCIF grant will be used to provide funding for the expansion of a neighborhood Flag Football team which includes coaching, transportation, equipment, and facility upkeep.

A committee of Nike Community Store employees from each city chose grant recipients that give youth early, positive experiences in sport and physical activity and strengthen communities.

“We are grateful to be chosen by Nike for this grant,” said Larry Johnson, LifeBUILDERS Executive Director. “These funds will have a dramatic community impact right here in Detroit through our youth sports programs by funding our Flag Football team.”

Since 2010, the Nike Community Impact Fund has awarded more than 375 nonprofit organizations with more than $3.75 million in grants. With the most recent round of grants, the total impact for 2016 now stands at $800,000.

LifeBUILDERS Chosen as a Detroit Revitalization Fellows Employer Finalist

Seeking a Professional to Join LifeBUILDERS as Director of Home Ownership

LifeBUILDERS has been chosen as a finalist along with 15 other nonprofit organization in Detroit to partner with Detroit Revitalization Fellows, a program of Wayne State University. Applications will be accepted on the the DRF website through February 10, 2017.

LifeBUILDERS is an employer finalist for Detroit Revitalization Fellows 2017-2019 cohort. We are looking for a talented mid-career professional to act as a Director of Community Home Ownership focusing on turning renters into homeowners, and creating and managing programs designed to aid current and prospective homeowners in the financial management and literacy required to effectively qualify for and payoff a mortgage.  Could that be you? Apply to be a fellow at www.detroitfellows.wayne.edu.

Detroit Revitalization Fellows matches talented mid-career leaders with civic, community and economic development organizations working at the forefront of Detroit’s revitalization efforts.

The program strengthens the city’s talent pool while building the capacity of key organizations driving progress in the city. Fellows serve full time for two years in salaried positions while engaging in rigorous leadership development, which includes monthly workshops, study trips and “Detroit Dialogues” with community leaders around key issues.

“If you care about Detroit and you’re dedicated to seeing a Detroit that is providing opportunities for everyone who is here, in addition to the people that want to be here, this is really an unparalleled opportunity for having an impact,“ adds Aaron Goodman, a 2015-17 Fellow serving as community engagement manager at Community Development Advocates of Detroit.

For more information or to apply, visit detroitfellows.wayne.edu.

Another Great Summer!

What a GREAT time we have had this month at our annual Summer Day Camp! This has become a highlight for many of our community parents and children as children come and learn more about God through games, activities, song, dance, and lessons from the Bible. We would like to thank all who helped make this camp a success; from our volunteers, counselors, teen helpers, financial partners, and those who have continued to pray for the children that we had a chance to love on over the past three weeks!


LifeBUILDERS, through instructor Angie Evans, has been pouring into the lives of young girls for over a year now through our Worship Dance program. The girls meet weekly to worship Jesus with their dance, and they were able to bless 300 viewers through a recital at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on March 11.

$10,000 From 100 Faithful Friends


Last month LifeBUILDERS received an amazing blessing from “100 Faithful Friends of Rochester”  They donated $10,000 to our work here in NE Detroit!! Each of the 62 members gave $100 and an additional check for $3800 was given by one generous Faithful Friend. 100 Faithful Friends is a charitable organization of individuals, couples, and families started by Steve and Nancy Benedettini and Lana Doneth. For more information, check out the article at http://patch.com/michigan/rochester/lifebuilders-detroit-receives-10000-100-faithful-friends  We are so grateful. 


Moody Urban Scholars Program

LifeBUILDERS is so excited to partner with the Moody Urban Scholars Program and would like to welcome Chris Ratcliffe and Aaron Robinson as they begin their community service hours in 2016. Partnerships with local ministries can make a huge difference in the amount of lives that can be touched and the work that can be achieved.

Turkeys & More

We’ve long had a tradition here of providing turkeys and all the fixins for as many of our local residents as possible.  This year was no exception as on Saturday, November 21st  60 families gathered together at LifeBUILDERS to connect over breakfast and fellowship with one another.  It was so much fun!!  Each family was able to take home baskets filled to the brim with milk, eggs, potatoes, apples, stuffing, cranberry sauce,  a large turkey and more because of the great generosity of friends of the ministry who organized the group and purchased and distributed all the food.  What a praise.  Way to go Nancy for your leadership.  Residents were encouraged and for those unable to come up to Lifebuilders for health reasons the baskets were delivered.  

Overcoming the Digital Divide in Detroit


Within the next 10 years, 80% of all jobs in the United States will require not only digital literacy, but digital fluency. Digital fluency in Detroit is a daunting goal, especially with almost 40% of households not being connected to the Internet. Best Buy has recognized the need for technology and training and has generously awarded LifeBUILDERS with the “Closing the Technology Circuit in Detroit” Grant. With the grant and the community partnership of Snapshot Design, LifeBUILDERS will be able to equip the Regent Park Community with access to current technology tools (computers, printers, software, etc), training  and skill development. God has provided abundantly.  

Sources: Detroit Free Press; Michiganradio.org

Community Center

We have long had our sites on the abandoned school in our community.  Thanks to so many of our passionate donors that vision has been realized and the real work of making this into the epicenter of the community has started.  There is much work ahead but with God nothing is impossible.  We believe that once this Community Center is completed we will be able to reach hundreds of more children and families.  Check out the site plan below.  Make arrangements to come and visit and see all that God is doing on Detroit’s Northeast side.

Channel 7 WXYZ Detroit

Many students from Parkway Christian School in Sterling Heights, Michigan choose to serve at Lifebuilders recently.  We are grateful.  Many of these students hearts were touched by the work that God has called us to here on Detroit’s Eastside.  Channel 7 news came out that day and did a short piece on our work.  We are grateful. Take a look. 


We were selected by WDAT to be the featured ministry for the month of September.   Their staff came and interviewed Mike, Kevin, Marilyn and myself.   So tune in throughout the balance of the month and hear the heartbeat of the ministry.  Thank you Scott Loudon for recommending us to your friends at WDAT. We are grateful.

Fall Youth Programs

Ready, set, go!!! Monday, September, 21st began our first week of youth programs for the Fall.  There is the highest level of enrollment, volunteer participation and anticipation to date.  The schedule looks like this:


  •      Monday’s   3:30-5:30   After School 6th-12th grade girls
  •      Monday’s   6:45-7:30   Praise Dance Team with Miss Angie
  •      Tuesday’s  3:00-5        K-5 Kidz Club
  •      Tuesday’s  7-8 p.m.     Middle School & High School Boys
  •      Thursday’s 7-8 p.m.     High School Boys & Girls
  •      Saturday’s 10-1 p.m.    Kidz Camp (once a month)


-there will be additional activities such as sports nights, retreats, etc. throughout the year.  Stay tuned. 


We are praying for and believing God for an impactful season with these young people from our community.  Pray along with us please!  We have all made a renewed commitment to prayer and intentionality this year.