Inspired in part by the television show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” which aired on ABC TV from 2003 to 2012, Life Remodeled has grown from building a single house from the ground up in six days and beautifying the surrounding neighborhood with 500 volunteers in 2011 to recently completing a third Detroit Public School-based neighborhood makeover at Denby on Detroit’s east side with 10,700 volunteers.
From the initial modest-yet-significant project – building a new house for a single mother and her four daughters in Westland, Mich., to a trio of $5 million projects in the last three years, Life Remodeled is gaining a reputation as a difference maker in Detroit counting more than 300 businesses, churches and community organizations as regular partners. A pair of documentary films in 2014 and 2015 have begun to spread the word of Life Remodeled throughout the United States and beyond, inspiring church groups from other states to take part in the annual project.
Life Remodeled founder and CEO Chris Lambert succinctly describes what the organization looks for in choosing projects – significant need and radical hope.
2011 – Incorporation and completion of first project, a single-family home constructed from the ground up in six days by 500 volunteers who also beautified the surrounding neighborhood
2012 – Four new houses in four Metro Detroit neighborhoods and beautification of those neighborhoods in six days.
2013 – First large-scale neighborhood project with one new home and garage constructed, 36 home remodels, 253 board ups of vacant homes and beautification of 65 blocks in Detroit’s North End.
2014 – Focus on Detroit neighborhoods with emphasis on a Detroit Public School becomes Life Remodeled’s new mission. More than 10,000 volunteers come together for a week in August and take on Cody High School, cleaning and participating in major projects like a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) lab, medical simulation lab, revamping of the home economics room and a new $1.2 million synthetic turf football field that allowed the first home games in more than six years at Cody. The volunteers cleared debris, boarded up 254 vacant houses and beautified 303 blocks of the Cody Rouge neighborhood while creating safe pathways for students walking to school.
2015 – Building on the success in Cody and Cody Rouge, Life Remodeled moved east to Osborn, one of Detroit’s most-blighted neighborhoods. Efforts focused on a new roof, gym, cafeteria, library and main office, among other upgrades to Osborn High School, but most volunteers fanned out in the 4.5 square mile area to clear debris from more than 300 blocks and board up 472 vacant houses. Pulaski Elementary-Middle School also received a deep cleaning and two new playscapes.
Life Remodeled has matured as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, receiving the bulk of its administrative funding from foundation grants, leaving fundraising efforts to benefit the annual projects.
2016 – The Life Remodeled effort deepened in community relations in 2016, and it was the creativity of a group of recent Denby High School graduates that led the way. The students wanted a “safe place to hang out” and that place – Skinner Park in the Denby neighborhood on Detroit’s northeast side – was the focused project instead of the high school itself, which was remodeled in 2011. A performance pavilion, new basketball courts, volleyball court, putting green and other amenities are now in place of the former under-equipped and underused Skinner Playfield. Another hallmark of 2016 was the dedicated involvement of seven suburban Detroit communities that sent volunteers to Denby, serving among the more than 10,000 volunteers that removed blight on 303 blocks, boarded up 362 vacant houses and helped repair 80 homes of Denby residents.