The name D.I.V.A.S. is an acronym for Designing Interiors Volunteer At you Service, but don’t let the name fool you, the only “diva” in us is the fervent focus on our mission. We are humble, enjoy serving others, work hard and always take the initiative to help others less fortunate than ourselves.
The D.I.V.A.S. is the creative part of the Houston Furniture Bank, a 501(C)3 non-profit charity organization that services the furniture needs of disadvantaged families being assisted by nonprofit charitable agencies in the Houston area. We “create hope thru design” by transforming these families’ homes from bare bones into something homey & comfortable using mostly donated, gently used items. the D.I.V.A.S. share the recycling focus of the HFB by reusing, repurposing, and recycling. Our recycling center is the DIVAS room at the HFB warehouse. We sometimes do minor face lifts before painting and/ or recovering chair seats.
The clients/families we serve are striving to recover form various life situations. They are all disadvantaged but diligently working with Social Agencies to improve their circumstances. Based on referrals from their Case Managers, we select those we consider most deserving of ‘a hand up not a hand out’. For various reasons many have lost everything in the way of personal belongings. Moving into new housing is a huge step up but sleeping or sitting on the floor is disheartening. Enter the DIVAS, bringing a bed, a sofa, bedding, storage, decor, etc. All the things that make an empty house a home.
In The Beginning
In 2003, Houstonians Ann Cummins and Janet Ely completed a leadership program which issued a challenge to all its graduates: go out into your community and do something to improve the lives of other people. Dream big. Be unreasonable. As volunteers at a local housing project for battered women, they had longed to do more for the residents at the center, but didn’t know what they could offer. Searching for inspiration, they considered their own talents and interests. Their hobby of refurbishing household castoffs from garage and estate sales hardly seemed useful. Yet, the tiny duplexes which provided housing at the center were drab and haphazardly furnished.
Cummins and Ely recruited some friends who shard their enthusiasm for turning trash into treasure and paired them with residents at the shelter. The volunteers vaulted into action, scouting thrift stores and yard sales, sprucing up shabby furnishings and knocking on doors to raise money. When the weekend for makeovers arrived, Cummins, Ely, and friends came early with husbands, boyfriends, relatives, and neighbors to turn their visions into reality. With extraordinary ingenuity and lively team spirit, the volunteers created award worthy makeovers.
The benefits for these families extended beyond that exciting weekend. Many were inspired to paint bedrooms, tidy their small yards, and keep their homes cleaner. One resident left a note of gratitude for the volunteers who decorated her small house. She spoke little English, so her young daughter translated the message and printed it carefully inside a card: “thank you so much for making my house look so beautiful I really do appreciate it.”
It was after that weekend the D.I.V.A.S. were officially born. Several months after that first miracle-making weekend, the divas repeated their efforts, decorating a total of 23 living spaces at the shelter. Then in 2004 the divas branched out and joined forces with the Houston Furniture Bank to provide free decorating services to more than 85 non-profit assistance agencies throughout the city.
Client families may be a family of one or 4-5 members in “homes” ranging from one to 3 bedooms. The DIVAS, also, provide makeover services to group facilities : residential shelters for female veterans and home less young people, substance abuse recovery facilities, shelters for women and children. We complete 8 – 10 projects yearly. The opportunity is there to serve more families in need. Our ability to increase this number depends on recruiting new DIVAS.
We select specific donated items for the DIVAS Boutique. These items will be restored/recycled or used ‘as is’ for the purpose of fund raising sales events. All proceeds from these events are used to supplement our project budgets when donated items are not available. We recently participated in a Junk Hippy event in July. Look for our announcement on Facebook regarding the February event.
We make it simple to be a part of our mission, just “have a big heart, a passion for giving and a bit of decorating craftiness”. We have roles for all types of people and any level of involvement is welcomed. Retirees, working Mom’s & Interior Designers have fun working on projects. This includes DIVOS – Decorating Interiors Volunteer of the Opposite Sex. Any volunteer fitting this description is greatly appreciated and a valuable asset.
Why not become part of this unique, caring organization by submitting your contact information on the form below. Ann Shaw, Co Leader, will follow up to get you on board. New DIVAS will attend a DIVAS 101 Orientation Class. Here you meet other new DIVAS, become acquainted with policies and procedures, tour the HFB warehouse and DIVAS Room, meet our wonderfully helpful warehouse staff and become the proud owner of a DIVAS tee shirt.
Donor Recognition – These donors generously supplement our project needs. Thanks to:
Classic Moves Lowe’s Sherwin Williams HomeDepot IIDS SAFD