When Life Remodeled chooses a neighborhood for investment, it seeks out community leaders to learn where significant need and radical hope exist. In Central Detroit, Denise Lyles is one of those leaders.
She oversees the Lawrence/Collingwood/Burlingame Block Club, known as LCBC, bordered by the Linwood and Dexter thoroughfares; Denise has the pulse of her community where family members live on many of its streets.
In late 2016, Restore Church pastor Clete Bontrager recommended Denise meet with Life Remodeled community engagement assistant Andrea Lambert. “I looked into her eyes and I could connect with her spirit,” Denise said. “But you have to do your research. Don’t expect what you don’t inspect. My Dad used to tell us that all the time.’”
Her research included meeting with Mayor Duggan’s Department of Neighborhoods District Five leaders who oversee blight-related issues. Another meeting with Andrea followed and “I have been gung-ho ever since,” Denise said.
“Our desire and vision is to expand outward. Our community is everything around you,” she said. “We together can make it better. It’s not a he thing. It’s not a she thing. It is a we thing.”
Including Central residents, more than 12,000 volunteers will participate in Life Remodeled’s Six-Day Project in Central from July 31 to August 5. Goals include busting blight on 300 blocks and boarding up 300 vacant houses. Before the project begins, more than 50 owner-occupied homes, including Denise’s, are receiving one major repair, such as windows or a furnace, from contractors donating their services.
Denise has 65 years of ties to Central though she spent much of her childhood and early adult years in East St. Louis, Illinois. She studied at Southern Illinois University, directed the Virgil Calvert Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and later worked in a variety of positions for Safeco Insurance.
Family needs, including the deaths of three brothers and ailing relatives, brought her back to Detroit with her youngest daughter a few years ago. Today she works at Wayne County Community College as a “note taker” for blind students and others “who need extra help – everything short of doing their work for them.”
Denise said the help that Life Remodeled has promised to Central, including the transformation of Durfee Elementary-Middle School into a Community Innovation Center, is a catalyst, not a cure for what her neighborhood needs.
“You get people involved. That’s how you get sustainability,” she said. “We are doing this together. The residents must take ownership and possession. When it comes to Life Remodeled, these people are angels walking the earth manifesting God’s blessing to be a blessing to others.”