Hope wasn’t always apparent in Osborn. A Detroit, Michigan neighborhood was nicknamed “The Murder Zone” after having one of the highest crime rates historically in the nation. In 2012, the Detroit Free Press said, “Everywhere you look, there are broken windows, overgrown weeds, barbed wire fences and abandoned homes.” Life in Osborn was dark, with rampant crime, drug addiction, prostitution and poverty.
But in 2015, hope was about to make an appearance in Osborn.
Chris Lambert, founder and CEO of Life Remodeled, had Osborn in his sights. His non-profit started up in 2011 and now invests $5 million in cash, labor and materials into one Detroit neighborhood each year. Life Remodeled is more than just fixing buildings, it’s a movement about sustainable life transformation in individual lives.
NO ONE CARES
One such life was Pandora Ingram, a deeply depressed, cynical and skeptical Osborn resident who lost a son to gang violence.
“My son was murdered in the streets, and no one cares,” said Pandora angrily interrupting a planning meeting of Life Remodeled. “I see all your faces sitting around here. When are you all going to get down to action? If you all aren’t going to help for real, then beat it.”
Others may have dismissed Pandora’s outburst. But Chris Lambert sees people as more important than projects. He invited Pandora to come to the microphone to share her frustration and immediately offered to pray for her, right then and there.
“When I look at Pandora I see a woman who has suffered serious adversity. But I have nothing but hope for her,” says Chris. “By getting connected with Life Remodeled she is meeting people who genuinely love her and care about her community.”
“My son was murdered in the streets, and no one cares”
Life Remodeled works because of the engagement fostered within the community. Rather than imparting a new vision to a neighborhood, Life Remodeled comes alongside existing community leaders, and a host of donors like Starbucks, Marathon, and Lowes, to join together toward a common cause. In Osborn, that common cause was the severely dilapidated Osborn High School. Holes in the ceiling dripped rainwater onto ragged flooring and decaying walls. In 2015, Life Remodeled provided Osborn High School a new roof, gym, cafeteria, library and main office. In addition, thousands of volunteers cleared debris from the neighborhood, boarded up 472 vacant houses, and built two new school playscapes.
Since Osborn, Life Remodeled transformed Detroit’s Denby neighborhood in 2016, and in 2017 mobilized over 10,000 volunteers to clean up the neighborhood near Central High School.
On October 1-6, 2018, Life Remodeled will continue its investment by going beyond blight removal to beautification through planting trees and perennials, and enhancing parks and gardens. In addition, the Detroit Public Schools Community District leased an empty middle school for just $1 per year to be repurposed into a Community Innovation Center. Together with dozens of partners and thousands of volunteers, Life Remodeled is transforming the 90 year-old historic school building into a center for entrepreneurship, employment, and education.
TAKING A RISK
Back in Osborn in 2015, Chris Lambert still had a decision to make about Pandora Ingram. Did she qualify to receive individual homeowner remodeling assistance despite her cynical spirit?
In many ways Pandora personifies why Life Remodeled operates in some of the messiest neighborhoods in the whole nation. She was such a high risk, but such a potential high reward. So, Life Remodeled continued to work with Pandora. They helped her obtain counseling to deal with the tragic loss of her son and learn to cope with other crippling addictions. Seeing her natural charismatic qualities and her genuine desire to improve her neighborhood, they made her a block leader, leading a team of volunteers for the Osborn Project.
By the end of the project, Pandora’s outlook had entirely changed. “This has been a beautiful journey,” she said through tears at the closing banquet. “Not only did they help me remodel my home, but they built me up spiritually. I want to thank all you and thank God. I can’t wait for next year, so we can bless someone else.”
Check out liferemodeled.com | Hear Chris at The Multiply Conference 2018.