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Movie spotlights Detroit’s Osborn community

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Blight, crime and abandonment are part of daily life in the Osborn community on the east side of Detroit.

“The movie asks: Is there life in Osborn? The answer is yes. God is here and holding this community together,” Chris Lambert, CEO of Life Remodeled, told a crowd gathered at the Bel Air 10 Theater in Detroit on Tuesday morning to watch the trailer.

But so are children gathered in school, parishioners singing in churches and residents talking on their front porches.

A two-minute movie trailer that premiered Tuesday about an upcoming rebuilding effort in the Osborn community shows both sides of one of Detroit’s poorest and violent communities.

The purpose of the film, “Life in Osborn,” by director Walter V. Marshall is to show despite the circumstances there is hope in Osborn, said Chris Lambert, CEO of Life Remodeled, the nonprofit leading the effort which kicks off on Monday.

“The movie asks: Is there life in Osborn? The answer is yes. God is here and holding this community together,” Lambert told a crowd gathered at the Bel Air 10 Theater in Detroit on Tuesday morning to watch the trailer.

“Osborn is so much more than blight. People need to know this story no matter where they are,” Lambert said.

Life Remodeled and its partners are trying to rally at least 12,000 volunteers from businesses, the Osborn community and other neighborhood organizations and churches to join forces in the 4.5-square-mile neighborhood from Aug. 3-9 to help fulfill its mission of "remodeling lives one neighborhood at a time."

As of Tuesday, 9,000 volunteers have committed to the project, Lambert said, including 3,700 from General Motors and 2,000 from Quicken Loans.

Project plans include a new roof system at Osborn High School and significant upgrades to the Osborn cafeteria, gym and library.

There are also plans to create safe pathways to school for students, board up more than 500 vacant homes and structures and beautify 300 blocks, including front and back yards and alleys. Volunteers will also demolish 20 burned out houses that are beyond repair and remodel 21 homes.

Bertha Marsh has lived in the Osborn community for 35 years, raising three children and seven grandchildren. She attended the trailer premiere, saying homelessness, blight and safety are the most pressing needs in the community. The project will show residents of the community that someone cares.

“It’s showing people, the community, our young people, that somebody actually cares about them, somebody cares where they go to school, somebody cares to where they live. They want to make it safe and beautiful place to go to school and even bring more residents to reside in our community. That’s the bottom line. It’s a bigger picture,” Marsh said.

Support for the project has come from the Skillman Foundation, which provided a grant of $200,000 for the second consecutive year; Cunningham Limp Construction, which is leading the Osborn library renovation, and iProspect, which is donating digital marketing support.

Business partners for the Osborn project include General Motors, which is expected to provide equipment and materials necessary to take on about 40 percent of the project territory including a majority of board-ups.

Quicken Loans will focus on improvement to Pulaski Elementary School and the surrounding blocks. The company is offering supplies to help with repairs.

Within the community, the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance is leading canvassing to inform and recruit residents to participate in the project.

Black Family Development received a $150,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation to support the work of Life Remodeled and to purchase lawn mowers, edgers, trimmers, and other equipment and supplies for the clean-up.

The equipment will stay in the neighborhood and may be used to help interested residents to start a landscaping business after the Life Remodeled project to help sustain the efforts and to help ease high unemployment, Lambert said