When it resonated on a local pastor’s heart that families in his community were losing their homes, he envisioned a way of bringing residents together to help their fellow neighbors in need. In 2011, this vision evolved to become Life Remodeled—a nonprofit organization headquartered in Westland, Mich., that strives to remodel lives, one family and one neighborhood at a time.
“It was in part in reaction to the amazing television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” says Chris Lambert, pastor of Ekklesia church in Westland, Mich., and president of Life Remodeled. “I heard stories that families were losing houses. Anywhere from 17 to 26 percent of families lose their houses in their first two to five years.”
Real Needs, Real Communities
Since its creation, Life Remodeled has built six new houses for six low-income families in Michigan, as well as provided them with counseling, financial training and spiritual guidance. “Giving a family a new home isn’t a good thing if it’s not combined with other factors that need to be addressed,” Lambert explained. The organization aims to give each family a complete, holistic transformation.
The giving didn’t stop there, as Life Remodeled also served the surrounding neighborhoods by renovating existing homes, boarding up abandoned houses and beautifying the local areas. “A brand-new house is kind of the centerpiece to each project,” Lambert says. “Surrounding the house, we’ve done a variety of beautification projects. For the neighbors, we mow lawns, trim bushes and build wheelchair ramps.”
To top it all off, Life Remodeled completed each of these projects in just six days. “The reason we do it in a week is that it builds intensity,” says Dom Morelli, vice president of Life Remodeled. “Mass amounts of people working together builds a wonderful community.”
Connecting large numbers of people to work for a united cause was one of the organization’s original goals.
To accomplish the set goals, Life Remodeled has formed relationships with local businesses, churches and organizations and gained support from a variety of volunteers and donors. All labor is done by various unpaid installation and distributor contractors. The organization has partnered with Faith Works Michigan, Central Detroit Christian, HOPE, Handyman Ministries, Allied Building Products, Cross Renovations, Barton Malow, Carrier, Alco Products, R.A.M. Residential, Blaze Contracting, National Roofing and Sheet Metal, A & Z Commercial Roofing, Priest Construction, Cousins Roofing, Bulk King, Dr. Joe Canu, Quicken Loans, General Motors and Ford—just to name a few. USG and Armstrong products were used throughout the interior of the homes.
While there are quite a few areas in need throughout Metro Detroit, Life Remodeled aims to assist those that are already being proactive. “We look for areas where there is a lot of need but also a lot of hope and families that are clearly in need,” Lambert says.
One Family, One Neighborhood
The most recent project took place July 29-Aug. 4 at 700 W. Philadelphia in Detroit. “Our heart is really tied directly to the city of Detroit right now,” Lambert explained. “Central Detroit Christian has been down there for 18 years developing that neighborhood. It was a perfect fit because there were already people on the ground that we could partner with. What really excited me was learning that there are a lot of these kinds of people in Detroit. When we come together and work together, pretty amazing things happen. There’s a lot of hope.”
In less than a week, Life Remodeled built one new house, renovated 36 existing homes, boarded up 253 vacant houses and beautified 65 blocks, which surpassed its original project goals. More than 5,250 volunteers from local businesses, churches and organizations came out to help. “God provided people and resources, and it got even bigger than we were imagining,” Morelli says.
“We provided one life-altering transformation per home minimum,” Lambert explained. “Everything from wheelchair ramps to eight roofing projects, four brand-new roofs and four major roof repairs. A lot of porches were redone, some electrical, some plumbing. We cleaned out alleys and cleared out tons of grass—all in six days. It was wild.”
R.A.M. Residential Inc. of Shelby Township, Mich., donated its services for the new build. “I was in a position where I wanted to help someone out. I felt that God had blessed me financially, and I wanted to share it with someone less fortunate,” Owner Roger McCauley says. “We put the roof on the new construction, and we did the cedar-shake re-roof/re-deck for the house next door. I also found out that they didn’t have enough money for the driveway, so I found someone to do that. You can’t do a nice, beautiful house without a driveway.”
“One of the most difficult roofs was right next to the new build. An elderly woman had been praying for a new roof for three years and had no way of knowing how she was going to get it. It was a big roof, and market cost would be $15,000 to $20,000,” Morelli explains. “R.A.M. came in with a full crew, and it took them about four days to completely tear it off and replace it. The home was built in the 1800s, so they had to tear off all shingles and all existing wooden shakes beneath the shingles, and put on a new deck.”
“McCauley really has a heart to serve and to give back,” Morelli says. “His crew was just very excited to be there. They wanted to be on site. When they left they were disappointed because they really enjoyed it. So many people were thanking them. In our business, that doesn’t happen a lot on a job site. You get a contract, you get paid and do your job.”
According to Lambert, the participation was overwhelming and inspiring. “People came from churches, non-profits and businesses,” he says. “Quicken Loans brought 1,300 people. General Motors brought out 750 people, and Ford brought about 150. GM and Ford even worked on some renovations hand in hand, and one of the coolest things was that some of the neighbors started coming out and helping.”
“Allied Building Products supplied all materials for the builds. They are very instrumental in working with us. When you’re doing all this in six days, deliveries are important,” Morelli added.
The Big Picture
Life Remodeled is connecting people, building relationships and providing avenues and opportunities to give back. While every project is unique, each one has proven to be a rewarding, life-altering experience for everyone involved. “In life, the biggest asset we have is time, and you realize that as you start getting older. You look back at your life and say, ‘Have I really given 100 percent? If I haven’t, what can I do? What talents and abilities has God given me that I can use?” Morelli explained. “I have better friends and better relationships with family because of this. I encourage everyone to do that in their lives. I’m living, not just existing.”
“I am blown away by the transformation that takes place in real communities for the neighborhood when a huge number of people put aside their differences to come together for an amazing, common cause,” Lambert says. “We all change and grow in a variety of different ways. To be a part of this—there’s nothing I would rather do.”
Life Remodeled is gearing up for its biggest and most exciting project yet, as the organization plans to remodel a Detroit public school in the summer of 2014. All contractors, volunteers and donations are welcome. For more information or to get involved, visit www.liferemodeled.com.