Well, hey there!
Today, I’m going to share some photos and information about a makeover project our family was part of recently. It doesn’t feel quite right to celebrate the room reveal results like one would normally do in a “before and after” post though, because even though these previously outdated, unclean, uninviting rooms are now fresh and friendly and fun, the truth is, they only exist because a family has been fractured.
They rooms we worked on are located inside the Department of Human Resources here in Montgomery, Alabama, and they serve as a place for children who were suddenly removed from their home (by the authorities) for one reason or another. Every day, kids of all ages (babies to teens) wait in these rooms while caseworkers reach out to local foster families about taking them in. Kids in foster care also meet with their biological families in these rooms from week to week, and unfortunately, often times, from year to year. Many children spend their birthdays and family holidays in these rooms while waiting for their parents to work through the reunification process or to be adopted by a foster family or by other biological relatives.
So, obviously, I wish these rooms didn’t even have to exist, but since they do, I will just say that I am BEYOND touched that so many people cared and banded together to transform these spaces with us. They really were in such great need of a makeover and I’m relieved the children who eat, sleep, play and wait in them will (hopefully) be a little more comfortable now.
It all started when our neighbor-friend, Sonia, contacted us via text. She had been fostering a newborn baby boy who was in her care for several months after a really rough first few days of life. She had to bring him to DHR for weekly (sometimes daily) visits and she noticed there really wasn’t a clean, safe, soft place to put him down while she was there.
In addition to her work as a foster mom, she also works for an organization called Kids To Love, whose sole mission is to help meet the needs of kids in foster care in Alabama. With their help, Sonia was able to secure three new (wipe-able!) futons and ALL new toys and books for the dismal rooms at DHR. Rounding up these items fueled her passion to completely redecorate the spaces, so she sent us photos of the rooms and, of course, we immediately wanted to help. Kevin quickly built a website to help raise funds and, thankfully, after sharing about it on my Instagram Stories, Insta-viewers were inspired to partner with us right through their phones and donated almost $7000 in a 24-hour period!! We also received a message from the store manager of Home Depot in Prattville who offered to donate AND install the all the flooring!
Needless to say, we were all in complete AWE of how many people wanted to join us in this effort (most of the donations were $5, $10 or $20) and we are ECSTATIC that we will be able to use the extra funds to fix up a few MORE rooms at the DHR facilities in nearby counties now too!
Thank you SO MUCH if you are one of the precious people who donated! Here’s a look the first few rooms you helped us to re-do!
“Small Room” BEFORE:
“Small Room” AFTER:
“Big Room” BEFORE:
“Big Room” AFTER:
“Long Room” BEFORE:
“Long Room” AFTER:
We’ve still got a few things to purchase, hang, and rearrange, but I was so eager to snap photos of our progress while Kevin, Steevenson and I were there last night. Besides the one security guard working at the front desk, we were the only ones in the building. It’s a huge, mostly windowless, multi-level place filled with a disorienting network of hallways and hundreds of rooms all separated by thick walls and heavy, wood doors. If you don’t know your way around, it would be very easy to get lost. Most of the lights were off while we were there, so Steevenson stuck close to whichever room we were working in. In the beginning, he wanted to help (and to test all the new toys!), but after a few hours he needed a break, so he sat down on one of the couches and watched whatever DVD was in the player. Every time I looked at him sitting there, I felt so thankful he was safe. So motivated to keep doing whatever I can to make sure other vulnerable kiddos feel more comfortable during tough transitions too. And because of the number of messages and donations that flooded in to my Instagram inbox, I know that many of you do too.
Lots of you expressed interest in fixing up the family rooms at facilities near you too, and I whole-heartedly encourage you to reach out to your local foster care organization about making it happen. If you don’t know who that is, and you don’t know a foster family, find someone who does. A foster family will be able to point you in the right direction. If you hit a dead end, or are told that redecorating “isn’t allowed” (some will say that), I encourage you to dig deeper. There is no reason a makeover like this shouldn’t happen, especially if individuals and local businesses are willing to volunteer their time, talents, products and services to make it happen. Invite a caseworker or two (who works in the building you’d like to fix up) to join your team, and request that your group be allowed to work at night or on the weekend to minimize the amount of noise and activity you may bring to the environment during the week. And as for fundraising, make it easy for folks to partner with you financially by using platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter where they can donate to the effort via a simple Paypal link.
And if you have children, I encourage you to let them join in on the project too. Right now, it may feel like they’re just absorbing colorful rooms full of toys, but one day, the seeds we plant by inviting them to chip in (whether it’s painting walls or just opening and “arranging” the toys) will have the ability to blossom into really some important qualities and characteristics.
Please don’t hesitate to comment below if you have any other questions for us about this project or how to do something similar in your neck of the world. We’re happy to help if we can! And since I’ve been getting a lot of questions about where everything came from, I thought I’d link to everybody and everything here too:
Flooring – Sterling Oak Luxury Vinyl courtesy of Home Depot in Prattville, AL
Wall Paint – courtesy of John Lee Paint in Montgomery, AL (thanks to the friendly Instagrammer who suggested I give them a call and ask. They said yes!)
Last but not least, I’ll leave you with this quote shared by the manager at Home Depot that reached out to me about donating the flooring:
“Leadership is influence. Nothing more. Nothing less. It is not dependent on titles or positions. It is dependent on people discovering their gifts and passions and then using them to make a difference in the lives of others.”
Here’s to discovering our gifts and passions so that we can use them together for the greater good! 🙂