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Arcadis Principle Engineer Jackie Saling gives back to Detroit

Arcadis Principle Engineer Jackie Saling gives back to Detroit

 May 02, 2019

Jackie Saling, Principle Engineer and Associate Vice President at Arcadis US, has found a great way that she and other Arcadians can give back to her hometown of Detroit, Michigan. Below, she shares her inspiring story.

Helping forgotten communities in Detroit

Jackie lives in Plymouth, Michigan with her husband Josh and two daughters Sydney and AJ, aged 10 and 7. But Jackie’s originally from the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, and has a deep connection with the city.

The second half of the 20th Century was a difficult time for Detroit. Back in 1950, the city had a population of 1.8 million, and readily available, good paying, manufacturing jobs. In 2017, Detroit’s population was around 673,000. Over time, those manufacturing jobs disappeared , and many people moved out of Detroit, leaving behind a largely African American population. In the 70s and 80s, the city suffered from drugs, the sales of which led to rampant violence and crime. This peaked in the early 1990s, when Detroit was known as the murder and arson capital of the United States.

Since then, Detroit has been undergoing a revival, with businesses and people gradually moving back into the city. But the influx of economic activity is no guarantee that underserved communities in the city will share in the prosperity. When Jackie received an email from Arcadis North America CEO Joachim Ebert, she started thinking about how she could help. 

"I was looking for a new challenge and a way to connect with people in need, when I got the email from Joachim about the Quality of Life Pro Bono. He’d asked us all to submit ideas for projects, where we could leverage Arcadis’ resources and know-how to help communities," she explains.

"The only requirement was that the project had to show demonstrable potential to improve quality of life and the work needed to align with Arcadis’ capabilities. I definitely wanted to do something for Detroit. That’s how I found out about “Life Remodeled” and the Durfee Pro Bono project."

Detroit Arcadis project

Giving time and expertise to a worthwhile project

Life Remodeled is a non-profit that invests in Detroit to sustainably transform neighborhoods for the better. The organization had taken over an abandoned, former elementary school and was working to change it into a community innovation center: space to give recreation, after school programs for real world education and skills learning, as well as office space for small businesses.

The school was in a bad state of disrepair. Jackie suggested that Arcadis sponsor the project by giving Arcadians' time and expertise to help improve the state of the building, so that it could be used again by the community. This work involved a property condition assessment (electrical, civil and architectural), a health and safety assessment, asbestos survey, drinking water sampling, and ceiling insulation evaluation. 

"Over the course of six months, we worked to upgrade the building so the space could be leased out as soon as possible. Our property conditions assessment helped Life Remodeled direct funding to the most critical repair and restoration projects. And, even now, our work is being used to improve the building," adds Jackie.

Setting a good example to her daughters 

Working on the Durfee Pro Bono project was a very rewarding experience for Jackie and her fellow Arcadians. It was a valuable opportunity for them to use their work to directly benefit local communities in need. But it was particularly important for Jackie as it allowed her to set an example for her two daughters.

"I’m very motivated to set a good example for my girls. I work hard so they can see that they can do great things when they grow up. But I also know that they don’t see a lot of people who look different from them or have different economic circumstances," says Jackie.

"So, I have to make it a priority to get them to places, so they can see that not everyone is as fortunate as them. And I want them to experience, first-hand, how fulfilling it is to give back and help others. 

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