When Detroit filed for bankruptcy in July 2013, it became the largest city to go bankrupt in the US. Its population has declined from 1.8 million in 1950 to 700,000 people and as a result of the population loss, it gained tens of thousands of abandoned buildings, lots and streets in the process.
On Thursday I spent the day volunteering, along with 600+ engineers from my company’s department, to go clean up and remodel a Detroit High School and surrounding neighborhood in a Detroit City suburb. This was a week long event organized by the non-profit organization Life Remodeled, and thousands of people from various communities, companies and organizations were involved.
The goal of Life Remodeled, is to inspire hope in the neighborhood around the high school and to make the community safer by removing areas of blight. It’s a daunting task though, since the income levels are low, city services aren’t that great and there are huge areas of the city in similar states.
Fortunately we had great weather Thursday and we weren’t affected by the Great Flood of Monday night.
There were four major activities assigned to our volunteers; clean up and refresh the high school prior to the school year, remodel selected houses, board-up abandoned houses and generally clean up the neighborhood by cutting down overgrowth and removing trash. I was a member of a neighborhood cleanup team and we were assigned about 5 streets to clean along with 3 other teams. We brought our own hand-tools but were provided chainsaws, trimmers and lawnmowers to use on the day.
Here’s one of the houses; this particular one was in good shape compared to many that we saw.
When the support truck finally arrived bringing food and water for lunch, we sat down on the side of the road and enjoyed the view:
The street we reached at the end of the day was the worst one. I think only two houses in the entire street were inhabited, and of the remaining 10 houses, three were condemned with one having been badly burned. This photo is taken shortly before we had to return to the “command center”.
It was a long day and I’m looking forward to the weekend to recover! It was rewarding though and many of the local residents thanked us for being there. It was great being part of such a large event and seeing all the energy that the teams had. I just hope we made a difference!