On May 15th, thanks to the community's generous donations and Welcoming Home volunteers, the homes of three formerly homeless neighbors were transformed. And, on this particular Saturday, two 'community rooms' and a large bedroom (sleeps six) at a Homeward Bound transitional housing facility for families in crisis were also refurbished. (Read more about HB later in this newsletter).
Four places in one day is quite a bit to take on. Well, it really isn't all in one day. Countless volunteer hours go into coming up with the list of needed items, doing a layout of each room, outreach/vetting of donations, intake, pick up of the large items, boxing up, installation and clean up/recycling.
We wish to thank our long-time partners in moving—Birch Circle Movers and North Bay Moving and Storage. If you have moving needs, these businesses support their community and provide excellent service, so call them!
We'd also like to call out new non-profit, "Make It Home," which accepts gently used furniture and distributes it to non-profs with clients in need. We rely on "Make It Home" to magically come up with needed items when no donors have signed up for them. They always come through with great pieces and contributed quite a few to our May 15th Welcomings.
May 15, 2021 - Morning
Bright and early, our awesome community moving partners, Birch Circle Movers and North Bay Moving and Storage, picked up the heavy furniture (sofas, dining tables etc.) from all over Marin; by noon they'd arrived at St Luke's Presbyterian Church, where our volunteers helped load the trucks for the apartments and Homeward Bound.
Home #1: Anthony
Anthony has been an artist, sculptor and performer his whole life; currently, he performs in local productions and even teaches improv to seniors. He's also been a professional pastry chef! He was referred to us by Marin Center for Independent Living.
Anthony is currently dealing with severe diabetes, which caused him to have his toes amputated (horribly painful). Sadly, he is also going blind—as you can imagine, a devastating condition for an artist. Amazingly, he is practicing cooking and baking wearing a blindfold so he can prepare himself for when his sight is totally gone. In spite of his troubles, Anthony has a sparkling personality and a great sense of humor. He told us that after we delivered his new bed he couldn’t sleep the first two nights because "the bed was too comfortable"! More seriously, he added that thanks to the new bed, his back is better. All he needed now, he joked, was a onesie. Of course, we got him a superhero one!
The four images above are all "before" photos. The top two show the living space that was being built-out for Anthony's new studio apartment - it was still under construction when we met him. In the meantime, he was living in a temporary space awaiting his new digs (bottom two photos). Looking at the construction photos it's hard to image that cramped space would shortly become his welcoming new home.
Check out the transformation! This bright, airy studio is now Anthony's home and creative space, thanks to your generous donations. The area rug divides the living room from the bedroom area. The nice, white screens section off much-needed storage space. Notice the cheery Welcoming Home basket and fruit tray created by thoughtful donors.
The "before" photo on the left was taken in Anthony's temporary living space. The table had to function for dining, art and as his desk. His new studio boasts a separate dining area with lovely table and chairs, an art corner for his easel and a real desk.
Talk about a picture being worth a thousand words! Anthony's smile sums up how grateful and delighted he is with his new home.
Home #2: Dennis
Dennis was referred to us by Resources for Community Development (RCG). He worked as a warehouse foreman for 20 years. After five back surgeries, he was confined to a wheelchair and unable to work. He has been homeless for a number of years ... sleeping in his car until his car broke down, then just sleeping outside. He was able to get a room in a hotel for a short while but was hit over the head with a gun and robbed of the little money he had. He went back to sleeping in the streets, as he considered that to be safer. Thanks to a driver who worked for Community Action Marin’s Homeless Outreach Team, Dennis was given an RCG housing application and shortly thereafter found a ground floor apartment through that organization.
The top left photo shows Dennis' living room when we first visited. it was furnished with only a couple of worn chairs, plastic crates and cardboard boxes with his belongings. His "new" living room is now a bright, cozy place to relax and chat with friends.
The "before" bedroom (top left) had a well-worn second hand mattress and not much else. His new mattress, box spring, frame, pillow, and new sheets arrived just a few days after we first visited him, as part of our "Starter Kit". "It's been such a long time since I've slept in a bed like this," he said. Now he also has a new rug, table/desk with a lamp, as well as more storage (not seen in picture).
As you can see, the dining/kitchen area has really changed. The handsome donated cabinet provides much needed storage space. Since he didn't have a dining table, he used to pull out a drawer to use as a dining surface. Now he has an attractive dining table and chairs where he can enjoy his meals.
Dennis is a fairly quiet, private person but the wide smile on his face and relaxed pose as he settled onto his new sofa say it all about how pleased he is with this transformed home!
Home #3: Mia’s Family
Mia is a single mother with four children. She held down a supervisory position for more than a decade until she gave birth to her youngest child. Her husband was severely abusive toward her, both mentally and physically. When it became an emergency situation, she took the children and fled their home. North Marin Community Services came to the rescue, helping them find shelter and a path forward, which included an apartment to rent.
We were so impressed by Mia's positive attitude and the strength of the family unit. She has already finished two semesters towards her AA degree and has applied to a number of Bay Area companies for a position as an Administrative Assistant working remotely.
When volunteers visited three weeks before the Welcoming, there was virtually no furniture in the home (top left). With beautiful, gently used furniture, an elegant, cozy living room was created where the family can now gather and relax. Note the festive "Welcome Basket" prepared by a creative donor. In the bottom picture, you can get a glimpse of the patio now outfitted with a place to sit an enjoy a quiet morning coffee.
The dining space was turned into an actual dining room, complete with two donated highchairs for the babies. A thoughtful volunteer even brought a vase of flowers in celebration of the first family meal.
Mia's favorite color is teal and she dreamt of her bedroom being a sanctuary. It also needed to have a workspace where she could work from home. Thanks to our creative volunteers and generous donors, we think we made it happen. She now has the padded window seat she wanted, a warm rug and a quiet area to study and work.
The toddlers' room is right next to Mom's. It's now a colorful, cozy room full of toys. There's even a rocking chair for Mom to sit in while she keeps an eye on her youngest two.
The whole family (plus some relatives) returned to their new home. You can tell how thrilled they were to see what awaited them. "I'm just so very grateful," said Mia. "I just can't believe it." Knowing Mia and her family as we now do, we hope their "new" home will give their determination and hard work a place to flourish and to enjoy the bright future ahead.
#4: Homeward Bound
Many of the families referred to Welcoming Home come from Homeward Bound (HB). In 1974, HB began providing shelter for homeless Marin community members. After a couple reorganizations they realized that shelter alone would not solve homelessness, thus they broadened their mission statement to reflect a more expansive goal: "Opening doors to safety, dignity, hope and independence.” including opening an emergency shelter in San Rafael for four families. Welcoming Home is proud of our partnership with HB and appreciate the opportunity to transform the homes of so many deserving individuals and families who come from HB transitional housing.
Our final stop was one of Homeward Bound's transitional housing facilities for families in crisis. The room above is part of a small, common "living room,' adjacent to a play area in the group home. The well worn sofa was replaced by a beautiful leather love seat and oversized armchair. A bright lamp, colorful painting and rug provided a fresh, new look for the room. See “after” picture above right.
Above left is the"before picture" of the main "community room," where residents gather for meetings, training or to watch TV. Two play areas provide entertainment and toys for the younger residents. Thanks to a donated large, comfy leather sofa, brand new rug from our long-time donor/partners at City Carpets, elegant console (not shown in picture), brand new drapes, art and donated furnishings and toys for the play areas, this important room got a complete makeover.
The play area for the little ones (in upper left corner of "before picture" above) was a bit of a jumble and dark. The toys, too, had seen better days. In the upper right and center pictures above, you can see that we added added a couple of donated kids' carpets, some bright wall art and plenty of storage for the games and toys. The unfortunately unseen console under the TV became "Lego's Central," with tons of Lego's donations that donors "persuaded" their kids to share.
On the second floor of the house is this dormitory-like room with five beds. The before pictures are on the left. Donors contributed brand new sheets, comforters, pillows, blankets and a fun floor lamp to make the room more inviting. A couple of elegant dressers now provide much-needed storage space.
When the Family Center Director saw the "new" rooms, she sent us this message: "Oh my goodness! It is absolutely beautiful. Both living rooms and room 9 are warm, welcoming and shine with dignity. Thank you so very much for this gift."
Once again, our heartfelt thanks to all who helped to make these transformations happen brightening the outlooks of those who live there. They will never forget your kindness.
The Welcoming Home Team