Charles Molnar and Kyle Bartell – US
Charles Molnar decided to solve a city-wide problem in Detroit. Long waits at bus stops have been a sore point and an annoyance to commuters who rely on bus transportation. College student Charles Molnar had an idea: Why not build some benches? Seems simple, right? In towns and cities around the world there are benches at bus stops.
Charles Molnar and Kyle Bartell were both urban studies majors at Wayne State University when they co-founded Sit On It Detroit in 2012. To start their project, they took reclaimed wood from derelict buildings and constructed double-sided benches with small book shelves built into the base stocked with free books. The idea was to focus on increasing literacy among high school students reliant on public transportation. They targeted school bus routes so that they could improve the literacy rates of high schoolers before they graduated.
Drama did ensue with the local transportation agency. In the spring of 2013, they started to put out their built benches at bus stops and were promptly told by the Detroit Department of Transportation that they couldn’t keep them at the bus stops because they didn’t meet the city’s standards. However, DDOT allowed Sit On It Detroit to provide commuters benches after the public outcry, established protocols were implemented and city officials met with them.
By April 2014, Sit On It Detroit has installed 20 benches all over the city at bus stops and parks. They ask the people of Detroit via their Facebook page where they see a need for a new bench to give people in the community direct involvement with where the benches go.
Volunteers from the Heidelberg Project and Wayne University students have worked to build the benches. Students get credit for their help. It costs about $50 to build a bench. They raised much of their money for the project through crowdfunding. The hours spent building aren’t the only memories being made by the bench builders. Each piece of wood tells a story because they are all reclaimed from buildings around the city. They also maintain the benches and supply of books. They are receptive to calls from the community when someone lets them know that a bench needs maintenance or the books need to be replenished. They encourage readers to take the books on the busses and the community to help replenish new books.
The business side of Sit On It Detroit also does contract work for other local organizations, such as building planter boxes for Woodhaven-Brownstown School District.
I love how the students from the school district enjoy the process of sanding, stripping and finishing wood for the benches. Eighth-grader Kenyatta Sellers saw first-hand how the benches are built and how they make a change for the better in the community.
I hope someday I can meet these amazing innovative entrepreneurs if fate allows. In the meantime, here’s to adding lots of value to the world Sit On It Detroit and showing that despite obstacles, you can change the world, and move beyond entrenched political will, one bus stop at a time!
Sources: recruitdetroit.com, sitonitdetroit.com, My Grandmont Rosedale, USA Today, Detroit Free Press, Huffington Post, Facebook