02/22/2012 02:21 pm ET Updated Mar 02, 2012

'Leaders To ReBuild Detroit,' Habitat For Humanity Initiative, Begins With $1M From GM CEO Dan Akerson

Just days before home-building charity Habitat for Humanity celebrates its 25th anniversary, the organization will launch a $25 million project to expand its work and rehabilitate homes in MorningSide, a neighborhood on Detroit's east side.

The three-year project, "Leaders to ReBuild Detroit," kicked off Wednesday afternoon at J.E. Clark Preparatory Academy with a $1 million personal donation from General Motors Chairman and CEO Daniel Akerson and his wife, Karin.

While Habitat has built 79 new homes in the MorningSide neighborhood in the last five years, according to Director of Development Tara Franey, the ongoing project will focus primarily on rehabilitation, critical repairs, energy-efficiency upgrades and weatherization projects, helping 500 families by 2014. Habitat will also work with community and outside organizations to provide programs like financial literacy trainings and homeownership workshops.

Franey said the organization was planning work that would help revitalize the entire community.

"We're looking at the whole neighborhood," she said, "rather than building one house and leaving."

The project is part of the statewide $225 million "ReBuild Michigan" campaign, and Habitat has several partners in it, including Wayne County, Michigan State Housing Development Authority, the Detroit Land Bank Authority and Detroit Public Schools.

According to Franey, the organization is particularly concerned with children's safety while walking to school, and Habitat is thrilled to partner with the school district. DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts spoke at the Wednesday afternoon announcement, along with Karla Henderson, group executive of Planning and Facilities for the City of Detroit and Akerson. Detroit students even presented Karin Akerson with flowers.

While Habitat has procured its cornerstone gift for the campaign from the Akersons, organizers have a long way to go to reach their $25 million fundraising target. Franey hopes other community members will be inspired to donate to the campaign.

"We named it 'Leaders to ReBuild Detroit' for a reason," she said.