Thursday, May 26, 2011

Giving Shelter

“To provide protection or to place under cover.”

This story began in 2004, while I was working on a showhouse to benefit the Union County Chapter Of the American Red Cross.  I met a human dynamo, Kathy Bragg, who was their Executive Director.  You could tell she was a “get-it-done” kind of gal, as well as one of the most positive and sunny people you might ever want to meet – and genuinely so.  Kathy opened my eyes to the real meaning behind being of service to others, as she shared so many stories of how, even a little, could mean so much and go so far.  The Red Cross has literally provided shelter from many of life’s storms, and Kathy, along with many others, figured out ways to help folks find a clearing in the clouds.

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Just a couple of months ago, Kathy announced she would be leaving the Red Cross to take a leadership position with our local community shelter.  I’m sure more than a few tears were shed, even though we all knew what a blessing her vision and energy would be to others.  This was another calling to serve her community, and with her can-do spirit, she dove right in.  

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In the meanwhile, I had been reading Kathy’s posts on her Facebook page, about some of the needs she had been recognizing around the shelter.  She mentioned how they could use some new chairs for the dining hall.  Someone stepped in and donated thirty seats.  When Kathy posted that some cans of Scotchguard were needed to protect the fabric on the new chairs, I immediately thought of Jeannie Laffoday, of Fiber Services, and Jeannie came through with donating the protective finish.  (Thank you bunches, Jeannie!) 

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The cogwheels began turning and I thought perhaps even more could be done to provide a nurturing environment for folks who are trying to make the transition from being without a home, to a life with more hope, fulfillment, and promise.  From the temporary residents, to the ones who drop in for a meal, to those who seek shelter during the winter months, life has its set of challenges.  While there may be multiple reasons folks are in this position, it’s most assured they didn’t count on the shelter to be the last place they would land.  The goal of the Union County Community Shelter is to help them establish their independence.

After speaking to Kathy, and then meeting with her at the shelter, (along with some very special staff members), we knew it would not be an overnight project, in addressing all of the items on the needs list, but by creating some priorities, they could notched away at, a bit at a time.  As we chatted over lunch in the dining area, I couldn’t help but to think of my wonderful vendors, industry resources, and social media friends, who might be able to help me to spread the word about this project and that ever-growing list.  Perhaps some might even be able to provide some products or in-kind services. 

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The dining area and kitchen are going to be a pressing priority.  New flooring is needed, along with some cabinetry and paint. 

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There are “opportunities” for a new sanitizer/dishwasher and some plumbing updates.

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The kitchen and the dining room are connected so it just makes sense to do them at the same time.  Of course, there are connecting hallways so that affects the need for the flooring to continue.  (It’s the old “toe-bone is connected to the foot bone” challenge.)

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The dining area functions as a multipurpose space and it becomes the emergency shelter during the winter months.  Educational events are held here, too.  It needs a new floor, new paint and some “happy”.

There are other areas to be addressed, as well.  The entry, the resident’s gathering room, the men’s dorm and bath, the women’s dorm and bath, the offices, the storage areas, the hallways . . . well, no area would be turned down for some extra TLC! 

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The board members, staff, and volunteers have done a tremendous job at keeping things going . . . and during some really tough economic times.  A long-term vision can always benefit from extra support, and I hope I can be a part of that process, as well as others.

After all, aren’t designers also supposed to help build hopes and dreams?

All my best ~ Wanda

PS – We’re just in the beginning stages.  For now, if you are a paint vendor, I would love to speak with you.  If you are a local painter and can offer labor, a happy dance would be in order!  If you are a flooring distributor, and can provide tile or laminate flooring, please give me a ring.  Thanks so much for any connections as they are appreciated more than you could know. 

Soon, the Union County Community Shelter will have a website up and running.  Until then, you can follow along on their Facebook Page – UCCS.

1 comment:

The Fine Life said...

Great post and project, Wanda! I look forward to seeing the finished results. You should talk to @EricaatBluLabel and @daykarobinson. They just finished a similar project for a charity they started, called Room Service Atlanta (@RoomSvcATL). Once they got rolling, designers and suppliers from all over Atlanta pitched in to help. I really admire what both you and Kathy are doing!