Air date: March 29, 2012
You’ve heard the expression “it takes a village”. Well sometimes you have to make the village. Larry and Marilyn Johnson were well to do suburbanites who sold their computer business in the 90’s and then began volunteering in shelters. Larry: What we saw was this recidivism rate that was so high. Every twelve months, fifteen months we would see the same person come back again. And I will never forget Marilyn coming one time and she said something, somebody needs to do something about this. Why don’t we? The result was LifeBUILDERS, which started with one house on Detroit’s east side and a small group of recovering women. Larry and Marilyn threw themselves in. Marilyn: We did life together. We ate meals together. We did outings together. We did church together on Sunday. People who didn’t have cars we picked them up and drove them around wherever they needed to go. Mitch Albom: You kind of became an adoptive family didn’t you? Marilyn: Absolutely The results, no recidivism. One house let to another and another and eventually an entire block. Adult programs, children’s programs. The Johnsons were so inspired by a community dedicated to helping each other that this year they gave up their house in Grosse Pointe and moved onto the very block they have rehabbed. Larry: I feel great peace and I am absolutely certain, and I know Marilyn is too, that this is where we are supposed to be. Mitch Albom: I am sure you have many friends whose address are still Bloomfield Hills and Grosse Pointe. Marilyn: Most of them. Mitch Albom: …who say “You moved where?” What do you say to them? Marilyn: Well they have yet to visit. But that day is coming. I have hope. Today, thanks largely to the Johnson’s, a one blighted neighborhood stirs with life. A village is growing here and it is seeded with hope. One house at a time. One person at a time. Larry and Marilyn Johnson are reshaping The Heart of Detroit.