Pastor's community project firebombed by arsonist

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A former Detroit school transformed to serve a higher calling is targeted in a most unholy act.

Someone deliberately torched the building -- that had been rehabbed by a local pastor. As the flames poured out, Pastor Alanzo Bell reflected on what he poured into this old school house on Outer Drive.

"We were like, 'we got classrooms, a gym, we can really do our programs in here,'" he said.

Back then, it was just the former Duke Ellington Middle School. By the time Bell leased it from Detroit Public Schools in 2013, the pipes had been ripped out. So he went to work building the Redeeming Center.

"Kind of like building the car while we are driving it," Bell said. "We were patching it and piecing it together while we were still running the programs."
A senior center, a cafeteria for the homeless, basketball leagues, even a program for teen parents.

"We just got the place put together for a daycare," he said.

All of which cost money.

"We put at least $65,000 dollars into it," Bell said.

So on Saturday night after the flames ravaged copy machines, desks and a children's toy room, he saw it for himself.

"This just took the breath out of me," Bell said. "Because we put a lot of money in this. We try our best to help the community and all I could think is, 'why would you do this?'"

The pastor says what happened at this old school is no accident. Firefighters told the pastor they found lighter fluid on the grass and now they are looking for an arsonist.

He is looking too, but for another reason.

"I still believe in the people in this area and I am praying for those who did this," Bell said.

As for where he goes from here, he's not sure if the district, which owns the school, will pay for repairs. But one thing is certain:

"I know for sure I'm going to keep with the program," he said.