Eric Smith

Clad in his red Life Remodeled T-Shirt, Eric Smith was among the legion of more than 10,000 volunteers who contributed to the makeover of the Denby neighborhood last month. He was there before the majority of volunteers, and after about 240 hours of work over six weeks leading up to and including Project Week, Eric is still in Denby. It’s his home.

Eric was part of the Denby 20, a group of soon-to-graduate students who had much to give and more to gain from the project in their neighborhood. He and 19 other Denby High School students were paid minimum wage 20 hours a week for four weeks and 40 hours during Project week. All worked directly for Life Remodeled, through the Grow Detroit’s Young Talent program, which along with the Educational Achievement Authority, paid their wages.

Eric’s knowledge of Detroit led to his selection as a block leader for blight removal and beautification. What happened next was unexpected.

“Working with #LifeRemodeled this summer inspired me to give more and make changes within myself,” Eric said, personalizing the non-profit’s “remodeling lives one neighborhood at a time” mission. “Before this I would describe myself as shy and afraid to open up and express myself. After going through this life-changing experience, I’ve became more talkative than ever.

“They gave me a voice and purpose so stepping up and being a leader was no choice, it was an obligation.”

Now that the project is done. Eric sees similarities in how neighborhoods like Denby and the city itself need strong support to have a chance at making a permanent comeback.

“Will power is recognizing that there is a problem and having the willingness to step up and do something to fix it,” he said. “Life Remodeled is a good example of that. The creators saw that the neighborhoods around our schools in the city aren’t as safe as they should be due to all the blight. They took initiative, stepped up, and became the face of change within the Detroit neighborhoods like the way Dan Gilbert has downtown.

“Hopefully, Life Remodeled inspired the people of the Denby community to make a change within themselves to create a better world on their own.”