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Interior designers give time, expertise to non-profits

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Who wouldn't want the expertise of a professional interior designer to help make over their space?

For most, it's a dream out of reach, but an organization called Designs for Dignity provides free interior design services to non-profits throughout the Chicagoland area.

"We really provide anything from space planning, furniture donations, paint selection, really working with the non-profit to figure out how they can use their facility in the best way," Jennifer Sobecki, executive director, Designs for Dignity, said.

Designs for Dignity partnered with Heartland Housing in 2008 when it first acquired a North Side building known as Hollywood House, which provides 197 units of affordable housing to low-income seniors.

"Whenever you do affordable housing, you have a tight budget. You always have budget constraints because of the funding sources you get. What Designs for Dignity is able to do is stretch that budget tenfold," Michael Goldberg, executive director at Heartland Housing, said.

"We really work with vendors and manufacturers to leverage pricing where there is a budget. Where there's not a budget we really go and try to get donations from our manufacturers, showrooms in the Merchandise Mart -- really working on the non-profit's behalf," Sobecki said.

As are many of the furnishings, the labor is always free.

Lisa Adams is the director of design at a Chicago-based architectural firm and has worked on projects around the world. She is volunteering here with a goal of making the space look less like an institution and more like a home. Adams recalls coming here as a child to visit an elderly relative.

"I spent some time here visiting her on weekends and helping her re-arrange her own apartment and little did I know flash forward years later I'd be doing volunteer work for the renovation of this facility and improving the environment," Adams said. "There's a whole wealth of talent out there looking to contribute in a way that is significant."

Over the past six years, Adams has spent about a thousand hours volunteering her time and expertise working with non-profits. Designs for Dignity will be honoring her with a Spirit Award at its annual gala later this spring. Find out more at designsfordignity.org

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