If you don’t know John George, you should. If you do, you should want to learn more about why this community activist has spent the last 27 years reclaiming Detroit one house at a time.
George is the founder of Motor City Blight Busters Detroit (MCBBDetroit). He created the non-profit organization more than a quarter century ago when his neighborhood started downhill and the bad seeds began to move in. It was the late 1980s and Detroit’s shrinking population and abandoned homes and buildings were taking their toll.
“I believe it is a form of child abuse to allow children to grow up around blight,” said George. “I’ve dedicated my life to leading a special group of dedicated volunteers who have made a difference in Northwest Detroit and around the city.”
You can learn more about George and Blight Busters in a new documentary called “Urban Warrior” was created by former Fox 2 TV reporter Nancy Bransetter. It will air on Detroit Public Television Thursday, September 10 at 8:00 pm. That evening MCBBDetroit will host a screening and fundraising event at the Artist Village Detroit, located at 17336 Lahser Rd. in Detroit (Old Redford). Dollars raised will be dedicated to a new roof for Artist Village Detroit.
There will be tours of the revitalized area, including community gardens (Farm City Detroit) and the Veteran’s Village Detroit training facility. You can also participate in a discussion about how this zero-budget documentary was created with the assistance of what George calls, “Blight Buster Magic.” A question-and-answer session will take place before and after the screening.
Blight Buster Magic has followed George, who is truly a magician with a magic touch.
Since it was founded Motor City Blight Busters and is coalition of community partners can claim 120,000 volunteers, according to its website. Those volunteers contributed more than 658,000 hours to paint 684 homes, board up and secure 379 abandoned buildings, renovate 176 houses and build 114 new ones to make suitable housing for 1,160 people.
To accomplish that they used 21,000 gallons of paint, 15,500 pounds of nails and 15,470 sheets of plywood.
That’s not all. They demolished 113 houses with sledgehammers and people power and undertook 3,850 neighborhood clean-ups that resulted in 1,550 dumpsters of trash and 70,000 garbage bags.
Volunteers have come from everywhere. Over the last two years Blight Busters has hosted more than 500 suburban teens who volunteered for inner city projects through the “Summer in the City” program. It also brought together 150 people in the JACOB (the Jewish and Chaldean Opportunity Builders) to assist in projects and helped 20 urban teen-age girls find fun and healthy activities in another Motor City Blight Busters program, Girlfriendz.
George and Blight Busters also created Angel’s Night to help stop the fires that plagued Detroit on Devil’s Night. Over the years, 3,900 neighborhood residents have participated in Angel’s Night patrols from the Motor City Blight Busters headquarters. City officials expanded the program and last year it attracted more than 65,000 volunteers city-wide.
There’s still more. Blight Busters fed 350 people at its first annual Thanksgiving dinner, provided space for 300 students to learn building trades and culinary arts at ACCOSS Training Center in the Motor City Resource Center and offered free health screening to 500 citizens.
George was also involved in the development of the new Meijer store at 6 Mile and Grand River.
The positive energy from John George and Blight Busters has done much to help transform Detroit. Check out the documentary on Detroit Public Television or get to the screening and fundraising event at the Artist Village Detroit.