Sit On It starts crowd funding to build 200 bus benches

Sit On It Detroit, the organization behind the renegade benches at DDOT bus stops, has big plans to add dozens more to sidewalks across the city later this year and early 2014.

The Hamtramck-based organization has launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise $10,000 so it can build 200 benches. Sit On It Detroit is running the campaign through Patronicity, a Midtown-based startup that helps amplify crowd-funding efforts by keeping them local. The campaign goes through the end of the month. The patron levels range from giving $100 buildings two benches and allowing the giver to place one bench to giving $2,000 to sponsor a whole bus route.

Charles Molnar and Kyle Bartell, both urban studies majors at Wayne State University, co-founded Sit On It Detroit a little more than a year ago. They started by taking reclaimed wood from derelict buildings and constructing double-sided benches with small book shelves built into the base stocked with free books. The idea is to put these at bus stops used by local high school students to encourage literacy.

"We're targeting the bus routes around the schools," Molnar says. "If we can put a book in these high schoolers' hands we think we can improve their literacy by the time they graduate."

Sit On It Detroit started putting out its benches this spring and were told by the Detroit Department of Transportation that they couldn't because they didn't meet the city's standards. A public outcry over it and a meeting with city officials allowed Sit On It Detroit to get the city's blessing.

Sit On It Detroit and its team of four people now have seven benches in use across the city with another two about to be deployed. It costs about $50 to build a bench. "Most of the money is spent on screws and polyurethane," Molnar says.

All of the money raised for the benches is spent on building them. That is the non-profit part of Sit On It Detroit. The business side of the organization also does contract work for other local organizations, such as building planter boxes for Woodhaven-Brownstown School District.

Source: Charles Molnar, co-founder of Sit On It Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

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