It all started when Marsialle Arbuckle, executive director of the Center for Urban Youth and Family Development bought a careworn house in Northwest Detroit for $1. His hope was to convert the home into a community center for foster care youth that have aged out of the system. Now a year later, with help from the Drops of Good Maxwell House Community Project and some substantial renovations, Arbuckle’s dream is a reality.
“This was given to me. I happened to be chatting with a gentleman from church and knew he worked at a bank. I was hoping to ask him for a loan to get one of these dilapidated buildings and he said ‘you want a broke down house? I’ll give you one!’ So he gave me one for a dollar,” Arbuckle explains.
But beyond that, he was unsure of where to find the funding to make the renovation happen. But after applying for and winning the contest for the Maxwell House Drops of Good campaign, the Center for Urban Youth and Family Development was awarded $50,000 to get their community house up and running.
Construction ran from mid-June until the grand opening this week. The Children’s Center, a welfare agency that works with the Department of Human Resources will assign youth ages 18 to 21 to the center as soon as it’s certified as a safe and nurturing space to live in. More than a roof over their heads, the center will offer these young people the Step Beyond mentoring program, substance abuse prevention and treatment, life skills development, and workforce development and training.
“We’re going to utilize the space during the weekends for an Internet café that other foster youth can come to,” Arbuckle adds.
Home and gardening expert and blooming television personality Katie Brown was an integral part of revamping the old house into a modern, inviting home. “You get approached to do a lot of things but this one in particular meant a lot of me. I have a thing for bringing beat up houses back to life and if it’s for a good cause, that’s all for the better,” Brown says. “I also have an adopted baby and I like to think we saved her from the foster system.” Although she spends much of her time traveling, she makes it a point to come back for charity work going on in Michigan. “My friends joke that if they were to open my veins, Lake Michigan would come out,” she jokes.
All joking aside, urban projects and youth development particularly move her. “I thought that sweet spot of 18 to 21 years old is such a transitional time—it’s either make it or break it,” she says. “So to give them a center like this where not only are they going to get to live here, but they’ll also get counseling for things like job placement… it’s all good.”