Watching the news can be a painful reminder of how divided our country truly is. Race, religion and educational background are just a few divides across which we struggle to cooperate. In addition, despite sometimes living only miles apart, Americans of ample means and those living in poverty dwell in drastically different worlds. Rarely do we put forth the effort necessary to overcome the challenges of communicating and understanding one another, which cripples society’s ability to find impactful solutions.

In Metropolitan Detroit, we have witnessed well-intentioned suburban individuals and groups attempt to alleviate Detroit’s poverty crisis. We have also seen residents of the inner city make attempts to share their wealth of knowledge regarding oppressive systems that go unaddressed. Yet both are apprehensive about making the sacrifices necessary to develop meaningful relationships with one another. While financial resources are critical to urban renewal, all parties must come with the mindset that they have something to give and receive. Therefore, a different model of charity must exist where all sides are inspired to do the hard work of relationship building.

This is where Life Remodeled comes in.

We exist to bridge people across divides to help transform each other’s lives – investing approximately $5 million in cash, labor and materials into one Detroit neighborhood each year. Projects are determined by the community’s needs and vision, and we assist in three areas: Remodeling a community asset, repairing owner-occupied homes, and mobilizing 10,000 volunteers to beautify 300 city blocks in six days. Throughout the process of unifying for a common mission, participants begin to realize how much they respect and need each other, which is a catalyst for long-term relationships and partnerships.

Life Remodeled Family Values

Community First

We prioritize the expertise, desires and needs of students and community residents in the neighborhoods where our projects are focused.

Always Find a Way

There is always a way to do what needs to be done, and we not only believe this, but make it happen.

Bold Humility

We believe in taking the form of servants who value others over ourselves. We do so with confidence and relentless determination.

Our Approach to Sustainability

History of Life Remodeled

Life Remodeled started in 2010 with a handful of radically passionate friends who didn’t have the experience, money or even the social capital necessary to achieve their seemingly impossible goals for their first project. However, within one year of the conception of the idea, their seemingly-insane ambition to “always find a way” rapidly magnetized 500 other like-minded individuals, most whom they’d never previously met, and they achieved every facet of their original vision in only twelve months. To read more about Life Remodeled’s original operating model and how to emulate it in your own organization, download the Life Remodeled playbook.

2011

Westland

Life Remodeled constructed a single-family home from the ground up in six days and provided ongoing, holistic support services for the recipient family. A total of 500 volunteers also helped beautify the surrounding neighborhood.

2012

Pontiac, Redford, Hazel Park and Farmington Hills

Life Remodeled invested in four new families and built four more new houses in four Metro Detroit cities and beautified the surrounding neighborhoods, each in six days.

2013

North End

Life Remodeled moved into Detroit, taking on its first large-scale neighborhood project with one new home and garage constructed, 36 surrounding homes remodeled, 253 board-ups of vacant houses and beautification of 65 blocks in Detroit’s North End. The Home Repair program is established, providing critical home repairs to neighborhood residents, which includes new windows, a new roof, or a new furnace.

2014

Cody Rouge

Life Remodeled stopped building new homes in six days and shifted its focus to multi-million dollar renovations of existing high schools.

More than 10,000 volunteers came together for a week in August to invest in Cody High School and the surrounding community, participating in major projects like a new 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 and from school.

Framed by Grace Films produced a documentary called “Cody High: A Life Remodeled Project.” View trailer here

2015

Osborn

Building on the success in 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. Most volunteers cleared debris in the 4.5 square mile area around the school, clearing more than 300 blocks and boarding up 472 vacant houses. Pulaski Elementary-Middle School also received a deep cleaning and two new playscapes.

Life Remodeled produced a documentary called “Life in Osborn.” View here.

Life Remodeled 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

Denby

Denby High School students and recent graduate, Hakeem Weatherspoon, led the way in Life Remodeled taking a deeper dive into community relations.

The students designed a “safe place to hang out” and that place – Skinner Park in the Denby neighborhood on Detroit’s northeast side – was the focus project instead of the high school itself. A performance pavilion, new basketball courts, volleyball court, putting green and other amenities are now in place on the former under-equipped and underused Skinner Playfield. 

Seven suburban Detroit communities created official partnerships with Life Remodeled and sent hundreds of volunteers to Denby, serving among the more than 10,000 volunteers that remove blight on 303 blocks, board up 362 vacant houses and help repair 80 homes of Denby residents.

2017 – Present

Durfee/Central

2017

Life Remodeled began its first multi-year commitment to a Detroit neighborhood with the intention of the projects becoming more sustainable and increasingly fueled by community residents. 

Durfee Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) leased the former Durfee Elementary-Middle School building to Life Remodeled for $1 a year for 50 years. Durfee and Central students renamed the building “The Durfee Innovation Society” (DIS), which is now a multi-use space housing more than 30 nonprofit and for-profit organizations. DIS tenants, in partnership with students and community leaders, work to move the needle on educational outcomes, workforce gaps, entrepreneurism and human services.

In 2017, more than 11,000 volunteers gathered for  the Six Day Project, beautifying over 367 blocks surrounding Central High School, boarding up 534 houses, and painting, sanding, and cleaning the DIS.

The Life Remodeled Community Advisory Council was established, made up of neighborhood residents who continue to advise on projects Life Remodeled is considering and the impact these projects will have on the community.

2018

Life Remodeled determined that a five year investment was necessary to invest more resources and create more sustainable outcomes. The commitment was made to stay in the Durfee/Central community through September 2021.

10,397 volunteers participated in the Six Day Project, beautifying 316 city blocks surrounding the Durfee Innovation Society, boarding up 396 houses, clearing 102 alleyways, planting more than 700 trees, shrubs and perennials, building 6 community gardens, installing 20 little free libraries along Safe Routes, designating the safest routes to Durfee and Central schools with artwork, installing 3 new bus shelters, 5 grills and picnic tables at neighborhood parks and adding neighborhood signage.

Life Remodeled began tracking the long-term impact of its work in Detroit’s communities. Findings showed that one year following a previous Six Day Project, neighborhood crime decreased in 10 out of 11 categories.

2019

Nearly 10,000 volunteers addressed 257 blighted alleyways during the Six Day Project. Life Remodeled also hosted a summer camp for 125 children, a basketball camp for 27 youth, and attracted more than 3,000 Detroit kids and their families to Family Fun Day.

2020

The DIS reached 93% capacity and set the following goals.

From 2017 – 2020, a total of 96 homeowners in the neighborhood benefitted from the Home Repair program, receiving a new roof, new furnace or new windows.