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Giving Back to a Shrinking City

Communication Senior Lecturer and author Gordon Young is doing his part to fight blight in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. He raised more than $11,000 in crowdsource funding to tear down a vacant, decaying home that attracted squatters and drug users on Parkbelt Drive in the city. The surrounding neighborhood is comprised of homes that have been well-kept by hard-working families.

"This is really a testament to all the care the residents of Parkbelt Drive have put into their homes and their block," Young said. "They may not be able to influence the corporate decisions or U.S. trade policies that contributed to the layoffs that damaged Flint so profoundly, but they are doing everything they can to preserve their neighborhood. I'm glad I could help them out in some small way."

More than 150 people donated to the Indiegogo campaign. The idea came from Young’s book Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City that explores the struggle of Flint residents after General Motors eliminated more than 70,000 jobs in the city. Thousands of abandoned houses still attract crime, depress property values, and destabilize neighborhoods. He says he discovered pockets of hope where people refused to abandon the city his family called home for four generations.

“Flint is on the edge of an important turning point that I’m happy to take part in,” Young said. “Despite heartbreaking conditions, people are fighting back and taking pride in their neighborhoods. It’s an important reminder that community is ultimately defined by people, not politics or economics.”

Crews tore down the house November 11 as neighbors cheered. Paulette Mayfield, who grew up in the house next door, plans to adopt the vacant lot through a city program and maintain it.

Learn more about the project here.

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