Reclaim Detroit is recovering after fire

Ed White
Associated Press

Detroit — A Detroit group that gives new life to wood, doors and antique fixtures salvaged from deserted homes is getting its own revival.

With no strings attached, Reclaim Detroit said it has received a $100,000 grant after a fire destroyed a workshop, tools and wood saved from more than 100 houses.

“We’re in good shape now, but I wouldn’t be able to say that without the support of Open Road Alliance,” said Susan Dundon, business innovation director at EcoWorks, the nonprofit parent of Reclaim Detroit.

Open Road is a Washington, D.C.-based philanthropy that specializes in just what Reclaim Detroit needed: a generous dose of cash to rise above a disaster.

“This one was a no-brainer,” said Open Road executive director Maya Winkelstein. “There was a high opportunity cost if they couldn’t overcome this obstacle. They had already proven there is a strong market for their services.”

Indeed, Reclaim Detroit trains people to work in the construction and demolition industries. Workers carefully dismantle houses and other buildings to save centuries-old wood and other valuable pieces that would otherwise be destroyed. The wood is milled, refinished and sold throughout the Detroit area, especially to restaurants wanting tables.

Reclaim Detroit operated at a large warehouse in Highland Park that was destroyed by fire in February. It hopes to open a new mill shop this summer, thanks to Open Road, which provided the largest grant.

“Our ability to earn money was imperiled by the fire. … We lost a lot of antique doors and handles. We lost all of the circular saws, ladders, pickaxes. You name it, we lost it,” Dundon said. “Insurance didn’t cover all the losses. It’s extremely difficult for the insurance market to value salvage materials.”

Winkelstein said Open Road has faith in Reclaim Detroit.

“If you don’t trust them to manage the money,” she said, “you probably shouldn’t give them money in the first place.”

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