Sunday, June 29, 2008

My Town Monday, Detroit

Founded by John George, the nonprofit Motor City Blight Busters turns 20 this year -- two decades of performing both prosaic and extraordinary actions to hold back the decay that has attacked two northwest neighborhoods in Detroit.

The group is involved with the construction of a 35-foot-high gazebo that will serve as a community meeting place on Lahser just north of Grand River, a neighborhood that includes the old Masonic Temple that houses Blight Busters' offices. They took a wall, erected in the sixties to hold back supposed crime, into a piece of art.

Blight Busters began when John George and two neighbors boarded up an abandoned house in their neighborhood in northwest Detroit.

Twenty years later, George said Blight Busters has demolished more than 150 houses, contributed to the renovation of some 200 homes, and, working with such partners as Habitat for Humanity and Northwest Detroit Neighborhood Development, have constructed 300 homes.

Part crew boss, part executive, part P.T. Barnum, George says

"It's not my job to spread negative energy."

Blight Busters takes credit for coining the term Angels Night, which turned Devil’s Night on its ear, marshaling thousands of volunteers for Paint the Town and Operation Clean Sweep.

These days, Blight Busters is using art. George said he has seen what artists have done to rehab neighborhoods in other cities, and he's teaming with Detroit artist, Chazz Miller to turn a complex of old buildings on Lahser into places for viewing, teaching and performing art and music. .

The Stats:

In its history, Motor City Blight Busters in conjunction with its coalition
of community partners can proudly claim
120,000 volunteers, who have contributed more than
volunteer hours to paint 684 homes, board up and secure 379 abandoned buildings,
176 houses and build 114 new ones to make suitable housing for 1,160 people.

In the process, they used
21,000 gallons of paint, 15,500 pounds of nails and 15,470 sheets of plywood.

They demolished
113 houses with sledgehammers and people power and undertook 3,850
neighborhood clean-ups, that resulted in
1,550 dumpsters of trash and 70,000 garbage bags.

Over the years, 3,900 neighborhood residents have participated in Angel's Night patrols from the
Motor City Blightbusters headquarters. City officials have expanded the program and last year it
attracted more than
65,000 volunteers city-wide.

Blight Busters fed 350 people at its first annual Thanksgiving dinner, provided space for 300 students to learn building trades and culinary arts at ACCOSS Training Center in the Motor City Resource Center and offered free health screening to 500 citizens.

Always working to bridge the gap between groups, Motor City Blightbusters has hosted more than
500 suburban teens over the last two years who volunteered for inner city projects through the
"Summer in the City" program, brought together
150 people in the JACOB
(the Jewish and Chaldean Opportunity Builders) to assist in projects and helped
urban teen-age girls find fun and healthy activities in another
Motor City Blight Busters program, Girlfriendz.

(Much of this info comes from the MCBB website and an article in Detroit Free Press.)
For more My Town Monday, see Travis Erwin
He's taking a break this week but his team goes on.


Travis Erwin said...

Seems like a very worthwhile organization. They must be doing something right o have kept organized for twenty years.

debra said...

that's how change happens, isn't it. One person, one can of paint, one brick at a time.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, but it's a damned big city.

Barbara Martin said...

For an organization that has done so much for the city, it's sending out positive energy to others. Thanks for this post, it reminds us all we have to pitch in wherever we are.

lyzzydee said...

I think it all comes down to taking one step at a time and not accepting that a set back shouldn't mean you stop.
Interesting post,

pattinase (abbott) said...

Detroit has a long way to go, of course, and we continue to have scandals that rock our faith it will ever change.

Linda McLaughlin said...

What a fantastic organization. I'm glad Detroit has such a wonderful group of dedicated volunteers. I remember reading about Devil's Night and how awful it was. So glad that's a thing of the past.

Linda / Lyndi

Debbielou said...

Sounds amazing !!