On Friday September 25 2009, lives were changed. Some staff began as early as 6 AM to prepare for teams arriving to help with LifeWorks 5th Annual Home Improvement Challenge. Apartments may have been renovated, but at days end, the real improvement was in the lives of LifeWorks clients.
LifeWorks clients live in a supportive housing program offering subsidized housing to kids who need a “getting on your feet period.” LifeWorks clients are former foster care children, former homeless youth and teen parents who may have never before received the help they need for a fresh start. Having worked hard to come up through the ranks of other LifeWorks programs, these clients are preparing to soon be self-sufficient.
Through LifeWorks Home Improvement Challenge (HIC), corporate and community teams partner with a volunteer decorator to design the space of a LifeWorks client. Groups must use environmentally friendly and recycled materials and work on a very small budget. They have exactly one day, from 8 AM to 4 PM to complete the transformation.
At 8 AM, chilled to the bone from unseasonal 60 degree temps and full of Maudie’s breakfast tacos, Einstein Brothers bagels, and Starbucks coffee, 9 teams officially started to makeover the homes of deserving LifeWorks clients. The clients were enjoying the day off site at the Wyndham Garden Hotels waiting for the big reveals of their apartments later that afternoon.
Morning work for almost all teams mostly consisted of painting living room, bedroom, and bathroom walls, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, patio screens, etc. and basic furniture assembly. With many teams singing, dancing, and laughing, morning quickly passed into lunch time. Lunch was made possible by Which Which who donated enough boxed lunches to feed the LifeWorks staff, volunteers, and clients.
The relaxation of lunch time quickly passed into an afternoon filled with the feeling of urgency. Volunteers began the task of setting up for the big afternoon celebration. They moved tables, chairs, set up a large buffet of food donated by H-E-B Central Market, hauled ice chests loaded with drinks, set up a makeshift stage, and more. Teams still had much to do. Many were assembling furniture, unloading groceries, unpacking microwaves and blenders, ironing and assembling curtains, making beds, and many other tiny design features that make the apartment renovations truly come to life.
Reveals went off without a hitch and started at 4PM with clients being ushered into their newly furnished apartments by their LifeWorks Advocates. Shock and tears of happiness were the norm for most of the clients when they finally got to homes they only dreamed they would someday have.
Tables brightly decorated in bright blue and accented with IKEA centerpieces made of green watering cans greeted happy clients, teams, and their families for a celebration. Munching on an array of treats like fruit, chicken, and quesadillas, many volunteers relaxed for the first time that day and eagerly awaited the awards results.
LifeWorks awards are issued at celebration for the teams that were the most green, teams that had the best use of recycled resources, and finally the challenge champion team with the best overall design. Judging was handled by Matt Briggs of Four Hands, and Celicilia Camp and Lori Atkinson from IKEA.
Design on a Dime was awarded to New York Life Longterm Care and Patty Sifuentes
All the apartments were fantastic so it was hard for the judges to choose winners. A parade of homes was conducted after the celebration so other volunteers and their family members could see all the hard work other teams had done for other clients. The clients were exhausted, but happy and eager to spend some time with their families in their homes. Many sat and chatted with the volunteers who had worked in their apartments. No matter how small the time spent, clients and volunteers formed a bond. Volunteers shared an intimate space with clients and truly made someone’s dream come true. When the clients do eventually move to new places and live on their own, they will not only take furniture, but will also be able to take the heart put into every facet of the renovations with them, and for many, that is the real improvement.
LifeWorks wants to thank all of our donors, volunteers, teams, and designers for all the hard work and effort they put into the 2009 LifeWorks 5th Annual Home Improvement Challenge.