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Introduction to Joy Street Initiative



How is your home making you feel during this forced break? Do you feel sheltered? Supported? Maybe even inspired to get creative with your new working style or spare time? (Virtual happy hours over here!) This kind of space is exactly what we want for our clients and for our community. Yes, I do mean the WHOLE community.  As we’re all getting extra acquainted with what’s really going on in our homes right now, this feels like the perfect time to talk about how spaces are impacting lives in the Bay Area. And it all starts with a personal story…


A Life-Changing Realization During a recent volunteer session that I coordinated through my alumni association, we were tasked with painting the dining room and kitchen of a domestic violence shelter. I was excited that I could gather the resources and people to do the project. The client was thrilled that we were there to beautify the space. It was going to be a good day.   As we started setting up, we quickly realized that only 2 out of 12 volunteers had EVER painted a room. That means 10 people who had never held a paintbrush were there to paint. Without getting into the gory details of paint footprints on the floor or yellow brushstrokes on the ceiling (what??!), I found myself looking at the finished product and feeling very disappointed. It wasn’t anyone’s fault — we just weren’t professional painters! After the event, I paid a real painter to come back and fix the issues. I knew that if this was a client’s project or even my own home, I would never have allowed this type of work, even if it was free. And it wasn’t fair for the recipients to have to deal with it either.  Think about it — your friend who has never painted so much as a bird house shows up at your home and wants to paint a room for you just to be nice. Would you let them? Would you pretend that you were grateful for the subpar work? I don’t think so! This was the exact moment that got me thinking... Why do we so often volunteer for jobs that aren’t our specialty? More importantly, how could I use MY unique skills to give back to nonprofit organizations in a more effective and powerful way? Then... inspiration struck!


Meet Joy Street Initiative As designers, we know how important home is – to get rest, recharge, feel safe, etc. Whether you've had a stable upbringing or you've experienced trauma, homelessness, or violence, your home represents safety and well-being.  Giving money to causes I believe in is easy, but I care more about making an impact with the skills I have gained, where the value goes farther and is therefore more rewarding. Plus, I believe that we are all a product of other people’s help and influence.  So, instead of assuming nonprofits or people in need should take whatever we want to give them and in whatever condition, I decided to create an organization with ethos. Joy Street Initiative.  What do we do? Well, we’ve teamed up with local Bay Area community organizations that support the disadvantaged through housing, advocacy assistance, and education support. We then transform these spaces through the help of partners, volunteers, and vendors’ donations of furniture, hardware, finishes, appliances, household goods, and more.   Joy Street Design donates all design time and 10% of our design firm’s profits to purchasing materials and paying for labor. We believe that all people deserve a certain level of dignity, and we honor that dignity by providing the same level of design and service that we would want in our own homes! Joy Street Initiative’s Mission

Our mission is two-fold...

1. Safe & Confidence-Inspiring Spaces

Our first goal is to provide safe spaces that are thoughtfully designed and executed for the women and children that are currently in shelters or transitions. We seek to do this by respecting the people that we’re helping and showing them the dignity that comes with receiving that help.  It’s easy to lose your dignity when you’re down on your luck. We aim to provide a thoughtful and well-considered design, because having a quality environment can enhance your self worth and give you the confidence to be successful. 

2. Peaceful & Productive Work Environments

Our second goal is to create a more peaceful and productive environment for the people doing the hard work — the counselors, social workers, case managers and house managers — so that they can do the work that makes their clients feel welcomed and safe in their spaces. Most nonprofit organizations don’t have the bandwidth or resources to focus on interior design, so we are also able to take some of the load off of the administrative work and make those areas feel welcome while allowing them to focus on the bigger goals of rehabilitation.   


Ongoing Project: Oakland’s Elizabeth House Our current partnership is with Oakland’s Elizabeth House, an organization that provides transitional housing to women with children who have experienced homelessness, domestic violence, addiction or poverty.   The House supports women and children in their transition to independence by empowering them with the tools to rebuild their lives, including housing, education, employment, and health and wellness resources. We have committed to renovating their entire building in the next 2 years! Our initial projects have included renovating rooms after a family transitions out, before the next family moves in. You only have to look at the Before & After shots of these spaces to emotionally feel the difference...





This family bedroom feels updated, colorful, respectable and more like a home. Not to mention that it has storage!



This bathroom feels fresh, comfortable, and much more inviting. Deep, Resounding Impact There is nothing better than hearing that your work is impacting lives. Ariana Hill, a case manager of the home, told us:  “The newly designed rooms make our clients feel at home and more secure. To go from a car to a room that has been designed with thought, care and dignity, creates a power you can see in the client's overall behavior. Our clients bring their guard down earlier and are more open to the process and our programs.” Wow. That’s powerful. To know that these women and children feel more comfortable, more at home, and more open to creating a future they want — it goes so far beyond a beautiful bedroom. 

Imagine how that mother now feels more empowered and able to raise her children. Imagine how those children grow up believing in their own potential. Imagine who they will impact as they grow up, find their own talents, and serve their communities. THAT is beautiful, and it’s exactly the kind of support and empowerment I believe our community needs. But Oakland’s Elizabeth House isn’t done yet. Coming up next… the kitchen! Stay tuned!


Get Involved We are currently looking for donations and vendor partnerships to help achieve our grand goal of a new kitchen and dining area that inspires conversation, community, safety, and creativity.  

If you’re interested in partnering or supporting Joy Street Initiative, please contact us today.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes and one that feels particularly appropriate given our current climate:


“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Martin Luther King, Jr.


Stay well, be kind, and live joyfully my friends. Kelly

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