We typically envision interior design as a luxury—a want, not necessarily a need. But what if designing spaces that are nurturing and safe, for individuals who are in dire need of shelter, could directly and positively impact their lives and well-being? CEO, visionary, and founder of Enchanted Makeovers, Terry Grahl, has recognized the need in interior design and is paying it forward with her Michigan-based charitable organization. BELLA got to know Terry and learn more about her design business, where the mission is equally as beautiful as the finished product…
Terry, your story and your mission are so moving and selfless. Could you give our readers a brief intro into Enchanted Makeovers and the story behind the polka dotted pillow?
In 2005, I decided to start my own decorating business. I wanted to use my talents to transform the lives in my community. Having no portfolio, my first client took a chance on me. When the project was done, I asked her to give her home a name for a sign to hang in the yard, and she chose “High Hopes.” A year later, that same client called to tell me how one of her customers shared how he always passes a home going to work that had a sign in the yard called “High Hopes.” She couldn’t believe it and shared with him how I helped to heal her and her home. He didn’t hesitate for a second to ask for my contact information.
I did receive a phone call from this gentleman, but it wasn’t to hire me for interior decorating. It turned out he did fundraising for a local shelter for women and children. He asked that I volunteer my time to paint even just one wall. I agreed to at least visit the shelter’s dorm where women and children stay for over one year. There were more than 30 mothers and their children that would share this space. What I saw and experienced there would forever change the course of my life.
I took pictures of the dorm, although the images would forever be burned in my mind. The beds provided were used metal prison bunks with stained mattresses. They were covered with used bedspreads from a nursing home. The crumbling walls were held together with duct tape. The environment was completely broken.
I battled for days over whether I would even look at the photos I took that day. I did, and then I saw it: a simple white pillow with polka dots. You see, I have loved polka dots since I was a little girl. When I saw the polka dots, I heard “TRUST ME.” I immediately raised my right hand and said, “I will do it”!
After six months of learning and building relationships, the dorm was transformed into a beautiful cottage-like environment. Shortly after the project was done, I closed my business and started the non-profit Enchanted Makeovers.
Explain some of the many benefits of living in a nurturing environment and the positive impact these makeovers have had on the women and girls living in them.
We don’t just transform the “physical” environment at a shelter. What we do goes much deeper than just changing a surface. When we change the physical environment, it changes the way the women and children feel about themselves. The vast majority of the women and children have really never lived in a nurturing environment.
Behavioral and psychological studies have shown that a nurturing environment leads to better outcomes in physical/mental health and overall well-being. The majority of long-term stay homeless shelter environments work against those positive outcomes. The environment and empowering programs are critical if residents are to successfully re-build their lives. A beautiful space sends the message, “You matter and you are worthy.”
You have intertwined your compassion for others with your talent to design in order to transform these shelters into safe and comfortable spaces. Talk about what inspires you when decorating a room and the importance of incorporating handmade elements.
I always say what we do has really nothing to do with decorating. We don’t just transform the physical space; it is a tool for something much greater. What inspires me with each project are the women and children and how we may be able to positively impact their lives. It is inspiring to know we may be able to help someone stay in the program as some shelter programs are over a year. I think about someone is going to live in an institutional room that is basically black and white for a long time while re-building their lives.
The transformation of people when we bring the room to life with color and handmade treasures is what inspires me. When we are done with a makeover, I have had people say they have never seen a world like this before. They have never felt the love that goes into the details of the handmade items in the room. It is a powerful thing when you know an item was not mass-produced and bought in a store. It is a powerful thing when you know the item was made just for you and is as unique as you are!
Could you talk about some of Enchanted Makeovers’ initiatives, like Capes For Kids and The Sacred Sewing Room?
Enchanted Makeovers offers six projects and programs to not only inspire and empower women and children in shelters but the entire “village” that supports us. In addition to shelter makeovers, we have a program called the “Sacred Sewing Room.” I started the program after my mother once told me, “A sewing machine saved my life.” It is what helped her to battle depression. I knew I had to bring this life-saving skill to women re-building their lives at the shelter. The Sacred Sewing Room is a permanent fixture in the shelter. This program does not just set up a room full of fabric, patterns, and machines; through volunteer sewing instructors, this program shares the life skill of sewing that also serves as an important coping skill.
The other projects and programs are Doll Adoption, Traveling Pillowcase, Patch Project, and Capes for Kids. All of these involve people from our “village” who love making these handmade items. Capes for Kids is a simple yet life-changing program that has gone viral—capes are now being made all around the world. We believe the capes serve as an armor of strength, imagination, and hope. We want children in shelters to know that they have it within them to be their own superheroes. Children are transformed with a simple piece of material around their shoulders that lets them tap into the power of their imaginations.
You recently opened a new national headquarters. Explain the importance of this and what that means to Enchanted Makeovers.
Another important “transformation” that has taken place is with our new national headquarters located in Taylor, MI. One of our biggest goals over the years was to establish a national headquarters where all the business of Enchanted Makeovers could be conducted. It’s a place where our donors and volunteers can gather to learn more about the mission and participate in our programs.
With the help of so many donors and volunteers, we completely transformed a 1920s arts and crafts home into an “Enchanted” headquarters. We have rooms that look exactly like the bedroom transformation in a shelter. We have a Sacred Sewing Room and rooms that showcase the handmade doll, pillowcases, and capes. We have a large community table where people gather to share their stories too. To a person, they say there is something so special about the space and the way it makes them “feel.” They then know first-hand how powerful those feelings are, and why it is such a blessing to be able to share that experience with the women and children we serve.
You have been honored by and partnered with numerous organizations and individuals that recognize the importance of the work you are doing. Let our readers know how they can support, volunteer, follow, or help your mission.
We believe we have an unmatched ability to create a connection with the shelter, its residents, and the community at large. We believe if we change the way we serve, it will change the way we see each other. We never see it as we are “helping” the women and children as they have helped us in so many ways. We are all just walking together as one.
Individuals who would like to get involved can use what they love to do to contribute. Just e-mail us at EnchantedMakeovers@comcast.net.Volunteers put their hearts into their handmade items in support of our programs. We even have schools across the nation having their children make capes for other kids. Nursing homes are getting their residents involved too, which empowers them because they love how they can still share their talent by participation in our projects. And of course, we are always in need of monetary donations that allow us to run the mission.
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