It doesn’t always take a village to renovate a home — but it sure helps.
Heather Faust, owner and founder of landscape architecture company Exterior Spaces by Design, wanted to help someone. She just didn’t know who.
She started talking with Shanna Middleton, interior designer and owner of staging and real estate firm Designed to Sold, about combining the resources of their companies on a project.
“I came up with the idea that we should do a home makeover to use our passions. We didn’t know what we were looking for. We thought it would be a mini-makeover,” Faust recalled. The lingering question of exactly what the project would be was answered when Bridget Caulder joined Designed to Sold.
… or so they thought. Caulder recommended the McLean family, whose Raleigh home had been damaged by a tornado. Both parents, Van and Terri, are legally blind, and keeping up with home maintenance was near impossible for them. They struggled to make ends meet while caring for their children, 15-year-old Van Jr. and 13-year-old Rhonda, who has Down syndrome.
Originally, the renovation team planned only to refresh the younger Van’s room, but after their first meeting at the home to discuss the project, the agenda quickly changed.
“As soon as we went into their house, it was just devastating what we saw,” Faust said. The home was in such ill repair, it needed to be gutted. “It went from this small thing to a huge project.”
Furniture, flooring, appliances, countertops — the expanded undertaking was going to require a lot of help. So the three started asking, and nearly 40 Triangle companies answered their call with donations.
What differentiates this project from so many others is that it wasn’t put together through an established charitable organization. “We aren’t a nonprofit,” Faust noted. “It’s amazing we were able to get all the things we did, because nobody’s getting a tax write-off.”
However, after the overwhelming success of this project, Faust is establishing her own nonprofit, dubbed Three Incredible Days, to keep the spirit of renovation alive for other needy families.
In total, 19 Cary companies contributed to the makeover project by donating building materials, skilled labor, items for a fundraising auction, money and other things necessary to complete the process. From coffee for the volunteers donated by a local Starbucks, to a full day of electrician services by All Trade Contractors, to a weekend stay for Van and Terri at Homewood Suites hotel, companies gave their resources to the cause.
Triangle Carpet Specialist in Apex was due to donate laminate flooring for portions of the home, but when other arrangements fell through at the last minute, the company stepped up to offer new carpet in the rest of the rooms.
The family’s barely functional kitchen cabinets were replaced by Kitchen and Bath Galleries, and granite countertops finished them off, from Upon the Rock in Wake Forest. When Garner TV and Appliance learned of the family’s story, the owner turned over a new microwave, stove and dishwasher.
And then there were the volunteers who brought it all together during a three-day weekend in mid-November. “We had somewhere between 100 and 200 volunteers,” Faust said.
“Parents would come up here and think they were dropping their kids off for a community service project, and they’d be here five hours later,” Caulder added.
“Little Van,” as the Enloe student has been dubbed, enjoys skating as a hobby, and in designing the room, Faust wanted to give him a space that reflected his personality. She enticed RBi Sign Installation & Service, based in Fuquay-Varina, to donate letters to spell "skate" on his bedroom wall. His appreciation is undeniable.
“I like my room especially — because Heather did it — and it’s just a blessing that I can have a new house. I feel at home here, and I can have friends over,” he said.
“It’s nice to let their son have what they couldn’t have when they were growing up.” Caulder said, referencing the McLeans’ humble upbringings.
“We didn’t even have running water,” Van Sr. said. “Every time I get in the shower today I’m thankful because I know where I came from.”
Terri insists that their fortune in receiving more than they ever expected was a gift from God, and one that she wants to pay forward. “When you get blessed, you want to be a blessing for someone else,” she said. “No matter what the circumstances may be, wherever I’m asked to go, when Bridget calls, that’s where I’ll be.”
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