The list of skills to be the Six-Day Project manager for Life Remodeled includes planning, organization, management and creativity. Then there’s the intangible – the humility to recognize the massive task of clearing 300 city blocks of blight in less than a week.
“We’re setting out to do the impossible,” said Dwan Dandridge, the Life Remodeled’s Project and Community Relations Director who is preparing to organize, equip, fed and engage 12,000 volunteers as they work around 90-year-old Central High School this summer.
“We’ll plan the best we can and we’ll execute,” he said. “But all the pressure is on God, and he’ll get the praise when it works out.”
That attitude helps define Dwan who, during the Great Recession, converted investment property into transitional housing targeting young men who had made bad decisions. He led Bible studies and prayers and helped find construction work for men who wanted a second chance.
“I wanted to teach guys a skill so they didn’t have to go and sell drugs,” Dwan said. “At the time, I was not able to communicate all that well. But this did take away the ‘Nobody cares’ attitude. I still have relationships with some of them today.”
The self-reliance Dwan tried to help instill in others was his approach to learning roofing, rough carpentry and dry wall hanging. After taking a 2006 buyout from Ford, where he worked a total of seven years in three different plants, he toiled as an apprentice on renovations of his father’s investment properties. Those skills led to Dwan’s Home Improvement and the eventual formation of Integrity Contractors, a partnership that performs historic home renovations in Detroit neighborhoods such as Boston Edison.
Though he wasn’t with them, Dwan in 2014 sent a crew of 10 to work on Life Remodeled’s Cody Rouge project, the first that focused on improvements to a Detroit Public School in addition to neighborhood cleanup.
This summer, in addition to the July 31-August 5 cleanup around Central High that Dwan is leading, Life Remodeled will begin transformation of Durfee Elementary-Middle School into a Community Innovation Center.
“Being a Detroiter is being protective of Detroit. I would often have concerns and reservations about outsiders coming to volunteer in Detroit,” Dwan said. “After working with Life Remodeled, I saw firsthand that Life Remodeled is who they say they are.”