Three HGTV celebrities are making news in Detroit, rehabbing beloved buildings, adding playgrounds at neighborhood schools and building a home for a future family.
The work of “Rehab Addict” Nicole Curtis on the Ransom Gillis mansion, Carter Oosterhouse on the Osborn/Pulask Elementary-Middle School and newcomer Limp Bizkit band member Wes Borland on his recently purchased home in Detroit’s Arden Park-East Boston neighborhood should be lauded. Their rehabs, which have been and will be filmed extensively, will show thousands of viewers of this cable channel how Detroit is a “Comeback City.”
I applaud these efforts in many ways, especially when the bright national spotlight shines on the city for its rehabilitation efforts. I like when celebrities show up here, giving locals a little excitement and generating revenue for nearby businesses. Heck, I’ll even watch HGTV more than I already do for its longtime support of Detroit through shows like “House Hunters” and the like.
But what I want to note is the thousands of people who are standing with these famous folks to make these shows a reality. Yes, thousands. There are volunteers from multiple groups as well as the hired help (meaning camera crews and professional renovators) who are making these transformations happen within their short time frames.
This is the real Detroit. We might smile when we see these flashy cameras show up, but the worker bees behind the scenes always know that it is Motown muscle that makes this city work.
For example, I checked out the Oosterhouse project in the Osborn neighborhood upon the invitation of Quicken Loans, who funded the playground renovation that Carter’s Kids Inc. performed there this week. It was nice to meet Oosterhouse and to see his staff scurrying around the school site. The new structures they installed are beautiful, useful and important, giving these kids a playground rivaling any suburban school.
What struck me the most was seeing the dozens of people in neon T-shirts with the phrase “Life Remodeled” running around that neighborhood. Sure, it was cool to watch the TV crews set up the scene to film. What was more amazing was observing the large volunteer crews who came from Quicken Loans, General Motors and other companies swarm over a house that needed its trees trimmed or its broken windows boarded up. It was life in fast motion.
What can 6,000 employees from some of Metro Detroit’s most powerful companies do in just five days? A ton of work that can change lives – both for the volunteers and for the people of Detroit.
Life Remodeled set up the week-long volunteer effort at Osborn, Quicken Loans representative Chris Smith told me. The goal was to help Osborn residents with their efforts to keep their neghborhood in good shape through regular maintenance (longtime efforts were already under way with Life Remodeled; this volunteer week is in addition to that work).
Detroit-based Quicken Loans took it one step further – they got together with Carter’s Kids, a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing community parks and playgrounds for children. Together, these volunteers built two brand new playground structures at Pulaski Elementary-Middle School on the city’s east side. The two new playscapes include a set designed for younger elementary students and a second designed for the older students. The kids had to take recess inside during the previous school year because the playground equipment couldn’t support the school’s needs.
The playscapes were built over a three-day span and were part of a ribbon-cutting event Thursday at the school with celebrity TV host and Michigan-native Oosterhouse, founder of Carter’s Kids. This was the group’s first Detroit project.
“It’s long been a dream of mine to start making an impact in Detroit, and I know this won’t be our last project in the city. I have to thank the Quicken Loans volunteers – their enthusiasm was unbelievable,” Oosterhouse said.
That’s the most important takeaway I have from reading, watching and observing these celebrities when they arrive in Detroit. Yes, I’m impressed with their production values. Sure, I appreciate the money their companies invest in the city. But I’m happiest with the knowledge that there are so many good, good local people who make up the larger body of volunteers and workers behind the scenes. They are the heart of the city’s continual efforts to be a better Detroit. They’re superstars in every sense of the word.