Planting tens of thousands of trees where abandoned and decrepit houses once lurked, cleaning up trash-filled alleys, creating career opportunities for challenged youth and improving inner city schools. Those may not be the downtown skyscraper and construction projects that grab so much attention, but they’re all ongoing initiatives launched and managed by non-profit organizations working in Detroit’s neighborhoods in an effort to revitalize our town from the inside out.
We learned about these community efforts at an especially uplifting panel discussion at a recent DBusiness Breakfast titled “Diamonds in the Rough.”
Detroit may be a rough-cut diamond but as the panelists repeatedly reminded us, our town can become a gem when “we do this by all working together.”
The beautiful thing is how many different ways unselfish, committed folks are working together to make a positive difference for our children and our neighbors.
Let’s start with all those trees. Michael Score, the president of Hantz Woodlands, told us how the organization, with the help of more than a thousand volunteers, converted a one-square mile area of Detroit’s lower east side from blight to bounty by planting more than 30,000 trees. Oh, those trees aren’t just for show, said Score. “By putting something in landscape,” he said, “it’s now drawing interest from investors who are seeing that space as attractive for development.”
When it comes to improving Detroit’s schools, Kwame Simmons of the Hantz Foundation noted it can’t just be accomplished by administrators–there must be a constant dialogue with parents and teachers. After all, he said, “schools can’t turn around by themselves.”
Chris Lambert, a longtime friend of Franco, is the founder and CEO of Life Remodeled. Its mission, he said, is “bridging people across divides to help transform each other’s lives,” in part by improving neighborhoods doing everything from building a house from the ground up to taking over the old Durfee Central High School building and converting it into a community center.
Lambert inspired us by explaining it’s difficult to get people of different races, political persuasions and backgrounds to just sit down at a table and agree on a plan, but when they find themselves working on a community project together, “something magical begins to happen. People begin to like each other and respect each other.”
Our team experienced this firsthand when we volunteered with Life Remodeled in 2017 and 2018 and took over their social media channels to showcase the work they do.
Dr. Akosua Barthwell Evans is the CEO of the organization she founded,–a woman-owned, minority management consulting firm. Three generations of her family have lived in different areas of Detroit since 1911. Dr. Evans returned to Detroit after living in New York City for several years and decided she wanted to do something to revitalize her West Boston Boulevard neighborhood. Raising both money and awareness, Dr. Evans and the West Boston Block Club planted flowers along the streets and cleaned several alleys clogged with weeds and harbored crime. That theme of working together came up again as she described the group’s “great” accomplishment:
“What we’ve done,” she said “is establish a sense of what can we do when we work together and bring about change.”
Yes…. working together as a team focused on accomplishing a common goal through open, honest and constant communications. That’s not only an inspiring strategy for rebuilding a city–it’s exactly how our Franco team works with our clients in order to give each and every project the best chance at success–quite often, just like Detroit…turning ideas that may start out as diamonds in the rough, into beautiful gems.
Interested in learning more about Franco? Contact us today!
Tina Kozak is Franco’s President. She can be reached at [email protected].