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Benton Harbor deconstruction project having impact

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – A revitalization program is coming full circle in Benton Harbor.

The butterflies on Lisa Gorman’s home on Pipestone Avenue Home are a metaphor for things about to happen. “A rebirth,” she said. “A transformation… this house will be transformed.”

In March Bridge Academy students deconstructed several homes that were set for demolition in Benton Harbor. The pieces were given away and now the impact is being felt in the city’s neighborhoods.

The inside of Gorman’s home now is gutted. A 100-year-old mansion that once housed Benton Harbor’s elite was boarded up when Gorman bought it in March.

Plenty of sweat-equity has already been put into emptying the home. Gorman has been able to begin work on renovating the 3,300-square-foot building because, so far, the materials were free. “Could not have done it without them,” she said. “The materials are priceless.”

The materials were collected by Bridge Academy teens taking vacant buildings apart across the city. The homes were set to be demolished by Berrien County. Participants received construction certificates through the program.

Bridge Academy, an alternative high school in Benton Harbor, took the program a step further giving away the materials to people who needed them.

“We wanted to make sure we were targeting the local homeowners who really wanted to make a difference in their community but just didn’t have the funds to buy all the materials,” said Chris Fielding with Bridge Academy.

Gorman, who runs a local ministry, estimates she’s already saved thousands of dollars in construction costs. “The goal is get it fully up and running so that me and my five year old daughter have a place to call home,” she said.

Bridge Academy students are set to deconstruct four additional homes. The date for the next material giveaway has not been set.

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