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Life Remodeled coming to Cody Rouge this August

Many people start a new year by envisioning the good things they want to accomplish in the coming months.

Next week, in one Detroit neighborhood, that exercise will go far beyond the individual to share and shape a vision for an entire community.

The Cody Rouge neighborhood is holding an event its calling a “Vision Casting,” as it prepares for something big coming in 2014 – a new partnership with the nonprofit Life Remodeled.

Life Remodeled, based in Livonia, works to remodel lives through rapid-fire renovation and beautification of homes and other buildings. In this case, it’s centering on schools, including the Cody High School campus as well as Mann Elementary and Henderson Academy.

The idea is to bring together thousands of volunteers over a span of six days in August to renovate the schools in a transformative way. Kenyetta Campbell, executive director of the Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance (CRCAA), said already she’s felt a sense of optimism rising in her community. People who she’s longed to get more involved in the community are speaking up, she said, including alumni of Cody High School.

“It took this to get people excited,” Campbell said. “People want to be involved.”

Chris Lambert, a local pastor, is the executive director of Life Remodeled, which has so far executed six makeovers. In 2013, a team of 5,000 volunteers spent six days in the North End neighborhood, where they built a house and did other clean-up work.

Lambert said the idea began with the popular TV show Extreme Makeover, in which needed families receive lavish updates and renovations to their homes. Lambert said he’d heard many participants of the show wind up losing their homes due to high taxes or utility bills. He wanted to find a way to do a similar give-back, but include supports that will ensure the changes can last like financial planning and budgeting lessons.

It’s important to us that we go to a neighborhood that has both hope and serious need. - Chris Lambert

In this case, the nonprofit is partnering with a slew of local organizations to make the event happen, including Detroit Public Schools, the City of Detroit, Gov. Rick Snyder, the United Way, and community groups like the one Campbell heads.

Winding up in Cody Rouge was no accident.

“We are there because there is already amazing work happening there,” Lambert said. “It’s important to us that we go to a neighborhood that has both hope and serious need. We really want to be somewhere that already has traction, with boots on ground, and with sustainability on its way.”

The Cody High Schools have provided a wish lists of what it would like to see accomplished, including things like new windows updated bathroom facilities, and new athletic fields (which construction will actually begin on this spring). At the Vision Casting, community members will have the chance to hear more details and the complete vision for what’s planned.

Campbell said the need for new windows is especially long overdue.

“You can’t even see out of the windows, and that’s how it was back when I went there,” said Campbell, who graduated in 1991. “It looks like a prison from the outside. You wouldn’t even know it’s a school.”

To make the event a success, Lambert predicts they’ll need 10,000 volunteers, who will deployed mostly in neighborhoods doing clean-up, blight removal, and painting lines of sidewalks to identify Safe Routes to Schools.

Youth will also play a major role in the event. Campbell said the CRCAA Youth Council is already working to identify families who could be potentially helped or served through the event.  And Lambert added that the ideas provided by youth will be presented to collaboration partners and incorporated whenever possible.

“They’re huge in this,” Lambert said. “We have kids already starting to engage in developing some plans, like layouts of what rooms could look like in the school. Kids involved in that labor force, and engaging community, kids are crucial.

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