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

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

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  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;

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.  

JPMorgan Chase

Earlier this year JPMorgan Chase closed 5 branches.  They decided to donate those branches to non-profits having an impact in the community.  We were the recipients of the branch located 5 blocks down the street from us.  In addition, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation made a 2-year grant to us to help with the renovation and to offset startup costs for new and/or the expansion of existing programs at this location.  We are thankful.  This will really help us as we are in need of space in the interim before relocating to the Community Center.

Maranatha Giving Update

For one(1) week in July Lifebuilders was the featured mission organization at this 77-year-old conference center on Lake Michigan where Billy Graham and so many others have spoken over the years.  This was the second time we have had the opportunity to share our work before hundreds of people from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, etc.  It was a great week. At the end of the week of sharing the work and its impact the guests are asked to donate to the project that was presented.  We presented the Community Center as a project that Maranatha could help us with and they responded in an overwhelmingly generous way.  Their gift along with a matching grant from the Lloyd and Mabel Johnson Foundation has provided over $200000 towards the project.   We are grateful.

Five Housing Rehabs Start!!

We recently received a Community Housing & Development Organization (CHDO) designation with Wayne County.  This has resulted in an award to rehab 5 houses in our community beginning in December.  John Hambrick, our consultant for housing, continues to be instrumental in raising our work before more and more people. Thanks John!!  We are grateful.

Maranatha Bible & Missionary Conference Center (July 4-11)

From July 4th-11th LifeBUILDERS was the feature mission organization at Maranatha located in Muskegon on beautiful Lake Michigan. We presented LifeBUILDERS ten times in five days. We asked Maranatha to support us by generously giving to the redevelopment of the community center and they responded by giving beyond our expectations!! We are overwhelmed with gratitude for their generous giving. Thank you to all of those who came to support us: Mike & Belinda Agrusa, Kevin Marshall, Brooke Ballard, Dymond Holoman, Destiny Brace, Sheila Jackson, Mona Harris, Karla Chambers, Vonte Dillard, Queisha Smith-Hale, Aaron & Labretta Marsh, Taquala Johnson, Roger & Susanne Ulmer, Dre & Leah Bracey, John & Kathy Loudon, and the family of Aaron Robinson. We are thankful.  

(ELCA) Rose Up to the Challenge in Detroit

Starting July 16th, the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America (ELCA) started their “Rise Up” campaign where thousands of volunteers worked in many areas in Detroit. LifeBUILDERS was blessed to have nearly 1100 volunteers work on many different projects, including painting a mural on our soon-to-be community center. They even painted murals on the boards that were used to board up vacant homes. Each morning, busloads of energetic volunteers came to do God’s work in the community. Thank you ELCA for rising to the challenge and for being such a great blessing to this neighborhood. Thank you Lisa Jeffries and so many others. Also, thank you John Loudon, Mike Agrusa, Kevin Marshall and Norma Foster from LifeBUILDERS. 

See the video: 

ELCA | LiFEfBUILDERS from AaronjRob - VintageImagePro on Vimeo.