Chris Lambert founded Life Remodeled in 2010, loosely based on the TV show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” After three years of projects centered on building houses from the ground up in six days that were deeded to deserving families who were also offered free financial advisement and professional counseling, his team initiated a strategic partnership with the Detroit Public Schools to refocus Life Remodeled’s efforts on under-resourced high schools and their surrounding neighborhoods, evolving into a transformative citywide community rebuilding initiative.
In the last three summers, Life Remodeled has raised $15 million in cash, labor and materials and mobilized more than 30,000 volunteers from business, community and church organizations to set the groundwork for sustainable change in three Detroit neighborhoods, each focused on bettering the public high school and creating safe passages for attending students.
Organization focus areas: Life Remodeled exists to bridge people across divides to help transform each other’s lives. Each year we invest $5M into one neighborhood, renovate a community asset, repair owner occupied homes, and mobilize 10,000 volunteers to beautify 300 city blocks in six days. Every phase of each project is about the people transformation that takes place in the process.
One of our greatest successes has been…
Inspiring the suburban Church to become active and dedicated missionaries in the city of Detroit. We’ve been able to get churches to do more than just show up for a one-day event, and several have made long-term commitments to the schools and communities where we invest.
One thing we would not do again…
Detroit is about 84% African American. One of the biggest mistakes we made was having an all-white staff for the first two years, and then it took us three more years to get an awesome staff where more than 50% of our leaders are black. Sure, we have lots of excuses and examples of multiple attempts to find African American applicants, but the bottom line is that we didn’t try hard enough and we didn’t have the right relationships in place to appeal to African American talent.
One moment when I thought: “This is why I do what I do” was…
The first day we ever met Pandora was when she burst into one of our monthly community meetings, angry and intoxicated. She looked around the room, pointed at everyone and said, “You people aren’t going to accomplish anything in my neighborhood. All you’re gonna do is talk about your plans, plans, plans. Nothing’s gonna happen, nothing’s gonna change….So you need to get out!”
She then informed us that her son, Martonio, was murdered in the streets of the adjacent neighborhood just two years prior. We learned quickly that Pandora had endured a tragedy no mother should ever have to experience, and she’d never learned coping mechanisms to deal with her pain. Needless to say, Pandora was the #1 antagonist against Life Remodeled, and against the project.
However, over seven months, she became our number-one advocate, recruiting many youth and residents to join, becoming a leader during the project, and she was elected to the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance Board of Directors, where she continues to serve to this day.