Janet and Willie are two seniors who received a complete home makeover, courtesy of the DIVAS of Houston Furniture Bank earlier this spring. Overcoming a foreclosure and a bedbug infestation, the couple was forced to walk away from furniture they had accumulated over a lifetime. Today, the pair is comfortably sheltering in place in their fully furnished home, thanks to the thoughtful efforts of DIVAS volunteers.
Janet and Willie were connected with Houston Furniture Bank through Star of Hope, a social service agency that supports homeless families in Houston and one of over 45 agencies that partner with Houston Furniture Bank. Once Janet and Willie had received their essential furniture, they were connected with the Designing Interiors Volunteers At your Service (DIVAS), a group of volunteers who use their decorating talents to help families settle into their new homes.
Last year, Janet and Willie’s home was foreclosed on and their furniture was infested with bed bugs. Geneva and her sister, Janet and Willie’s daughters, were determined to find their parents a new home but the timing of their parents’ move couldn’t have been worse. Geneva’s sister was diagnosed with lung cancer a month before and money was tight for the entire family. They didn’t know how they were going to move their elderly parents, let alone find and furnish an entire home.
The sisters looked to the community for resources for their parents, eventually connecting with a caseworker from the Star of Hope. This Houston institution has been working to connect Houston’s homeless population with services for over 100 years and their partnership with Houston Furniture Bank goes back over twenty years. Their Star of Hope caseworker was able to help Janet and Willie find a home, connect them with essential furniture from Houston Furniture Bank, and link them with the DIVAS to provide additional services.
DIVAS volunteers visited Janet and Willie at their new home in the early spring of 2020. During their visit, they saw that the couple’s home still needed additional furniture and was desperately in need of a little love. This was a job fit for the DIVAS’ talents and expertise. Over the course of the next four weeks, DIVAS volunteers visited Houston Furniture Bank’s Furniture Distribution Center where they selected furniture for Janet and Willie’s home. Some furniture items were “rescued” from the warehouse and given their own makeover by the DIVAS. A fresh coat of paint can completely rejuvenate an old item, which is exactly how one DIVA transformed an old china cabinet into a fresh, new piece of furniture. In addition to selecting furniture at Houston Furniture Bank, the DIVAS also applied their own resources to purchase decorative, accent items like curtains, comforters, and lampshades to make the home feel special.
At 9 am on February 29th, a Houston Furniture Bank delivery truck, along with a team of DIVAS arrived at Janet and Willie’s front door for Installation Day. The couple spent the morning at their daughter’s house while the DIVAS got to work. By 1 pm, the makeover was complete and Janet and Willie were called home for the big reveal. Upon entering their new home, the pair were blown away. The DIVAS had redecorated and fully furnished every room in the three-bedroom house. Geneva remembers her mother’s reaction to the big reveal:
My mother was ecstatic. She keeps saying she’s never had furniture like this and thinks her home looks like a magazine. I even cried when I saw the house. It is amazing to know that people who want to do good actually exist in the real world. You see stuff like this on TV, but when it actually happens to you or someone you know, it is amazing.”
Geneva and her sister each take turn caring for their parents during the week. Not only were Janet and Willie’s bedroom redecorated, the guest room where the sisters sleep when caring for their parents overnight was also fully furnished and decorated. The DIVAS makeover relieved the sisters of a huge challenge by providing their parents with a beautiful, comfortable, and functioning home. They furnished and decorated three bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, and a dining room. Geneva believes this makeover has had a great impact on her, her sister’s, and her parent’s lives, “receiving this furniture was a blessing for everyone,” she said.
The experience was also rewarding for the DIVAS volunteers who put so much time and love into the project. “It’s so great to go into someone’s home and help them settle in,” reflected Shiela, a member of the DIVAS. Shiela recalled how overwhelmed Janet was at the reveal. “She was very pleased and started crying and gave everyone a hug,” she remembered.
Daughter Geneva reports that despite the uncertainty created by the coronavirus, her parents are doing great and the Furniture Assistance they received has been a true blessing to the family. “The furniture helped a lot,” she said. “If they didn’t have it, they would be sitting on the floor and sleeping on the floor.” Geneva shared with us that her mother “still talks about how much she loves her furniture and how her home looks like a magazine.”
You can help families like Janet and Willie by donating your gently-used furniture to Houston Furniture Bank. For more information on how to donate, please visit our website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Your support allows Houston Furniture Bank to provide furniture assistance to families in need. If you would like to become a member of the DIVAS, please email DIVAS leader, Michelle King, at email@example.com.