Sen. Carl Levin, Winnie Krieger and Aaron Krieger at the entrance of their old school holding one of their old Durfee yearbooks
Sen. Carl Levin, Winnie Krieger and Aaron Krieger at the entrance of their old school holding one of their old Durfee yearbooks. (DIS)

To mark the occasion of its 10th anniversary, Life Remodeled is hosting a free Virtual Celebration on Thursday, Dec. 3, featuring Isiah Thomas, Gabrielle Union, the Detroit Youth Choir and more.

The nonprofit Life Remodeled works to transform Detroit communities in need. It’s headquartered in the Durfee Innovation Society (DIS), formerly Durfee Elementary-Middle School on the campus of Central High School in Detroit.

Life Remodeled, celebrating its 10th anniversary, has turned this historic location into a hub of innovation and a force for good, housing more than 30 organizations that collaborate with each other and students and community leaders to foster much needed educational improvement, workforce growth and entrepreneurial opportunities.

To Life To Life Logo
To Life To Life Logo

Life Remodeled recently received a $100,000 grant from the Jewish Fund to create space for local students to come together. The space (Durfee’s former locker rooms) will feature an arcade, tutoring and homework help as well as pop-up educational and social programming for the K-12 students next door. Some of the old lockers and even hair dryers from the girls’ locker room have been repurposed into different features within the the space, which will also have four commercial washing machines and dryers for students to use (a lack of access to clean clothes is a significant contributor to the high Detroit truancy rates).

To mark the occasion of its 10th anniversary, Life Remodeled is hosting a free Virtual Celebration 7-8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, featuring Isiah Thomas, Gabrielle Union, the Detroit Youth Choir and more. Register here.

Jen Friedman has been COO of Life Remodeled since July. Her father-in-law is a Durfee alumnus who still feels sentimental about his old school. “This is an opportunity for people to support a special place in their lives and make it sustainable, both for the future and for local students to enjoy now,” she said.

Calling Jewish Alumni

The Jewish community has long-held ties to Durfee. In the 1940s-50s, the student population at Durfee was made up of a large Jewish contingent who grew up in the close-knit neighborhood surrounding the school. Though these former students and their families migrated to the suburbs over time, they still have a love for Durfee. Many of them, now in their 70s, 80s and 90s, still reside in Metro Detroit and have remained lifelong friends.

Winnie Krieger, who graduated in 1949, and her husband, Aaron, of Farmington Hills, met at Durfee (although they didn’t “get together” until high school, she said). “I made wonderful friends at Durfee, who are still my friends today,” she said. “There were a lot of Jewish kids, and I think we felt at home there. There was a strong sense of togetherness. And we received a wonderful education — something we didn’t always recognize at the time.”

As senior citizens, Jewish alumni of Durfee are among the most vulnerable during the pandemic and have been isolated, many on lockdown/quarantine and alone at home with minimal interactions with family or friends since March. To help ease that isolation, organizers of the Life Remodeled Celebration are planning a special “To Life, To Life Remodeled!” free virtual reunion event to bring together Durfee’s Jewish alumni. It will be held 6-7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, immediately prior to the Life Remodeled 10-year anniversary virtual event and will be hosted by Friedman.

Often, older people have a hard time getting places, and many were unable to attend last year’s event that celebrated the opening of the newest Metro Detroit Youth Clubs (MDYC) named after former Sen. Carl Levin, former Congressman Sander Levin and Jim Comer, Detroit philanthropist and founder of Comer Holdings LLC to be housed within the DIS.

Anyone with a phone or computer can attend, Friedman said. She encourages attendees to participate at “Show & Tell” with old photos, Durfee yearbooks and memorabilia. Attendees will also learn how the nonprofit has breathed “new life” into their alma mater and is positively impacting their former Detroit neighborhood.  

“It is an opportunity for people to reconnect to that special place and reconnect with one another,” Friedman said.

To attend the alumni event, which starts one hour before the celebration event, register at https://liferemodeled.com/durfeealumni. Interested Durfee alumni can also call Brooke Adams at Life Remodeled at (313) 444-2897 or email her at brooke@liferemodeled.com.   

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