Restoring Grace to Grace House: Overview and Musings

Household fix-its can be a chore. Painting, construction, cleaning – let’s face it, the process can be arduous. But for AmeriCorps preparedness members, renovating a transitional shelter was less of a mundane task and more of a utilitarianism venture.

The 14 AmeriCorps volunteers in the Red Cross’ Safe Families Program traveled to Decatur to fix up Grace House, a 90-day transitional shelter for women and children. They made the jaunt on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and sought to do more than revamp the rooms. They wanted to turn Grace House into a home – not just four walls and a roof, but a place of comfort and sanctuary.

Volunteers had six weeks to organize the overhaul of a shelter 180 miles away. They collected donations, put out media bulletins, contacted corporations and planned out the day’s tasks.

Megan McCarthy, an AmeriCorps member with the Safe Families Program, led the project’s planning and execution. She said the AmeriCorps members received 1,663 material donations and $950 in just a few weeks’ time.

“The scope of this project was immense,” McCarthy said. “With the limited timeline and limited staff resources on account of the holidays, we really shot for the stars on this one.”

On the menu for the renovation: Painting five rooms, thoroughly cleaning the living spaces, building countless furniture items and moving around bulky items. It was a massive project, and all crammed into a 14-hour work day.

McCarthy, who is also a member of Illinois LeaderCorps, said that there were several obstacles to the project. However, the project was a success and the volunteers had a palpable, indelible effect on the residents of the shelter.

“Grace House got what it needed, and we got to be a part of making that happen,” McCarthy said.

After weeks of reflection, project leaders say the extent of the project is still difficult to portray. But most members agree: After massive planning, daunting tasks, physical exhaustion and hours upon hours of painting, the residents of Grace House are now more likely to get back on their feet. Positive surroundings can go a long way. And at the day’s end, benefiting a part of society often neglected by the layman can feel downright good.

From the Decatur Herald-Review:

“Americorps volunteers from all over the state spent Monday making the house feel more like home. That included cleaning and painting the five bedrooms and two bathrooms on the second floor, as well putting plastic on the windows and replacing the furniture …

… Day of Service activities in Decatur began Monday morning with the arrival at Grace House of a 17-foot truck bearing beds, linens and painting supplies. The truck and eight other vehicles carried 15 volunteers from Chicago, East St. Louis, Quincy and other parts of the state who came a day early for a training session at the Country Inn & Suites in Forsyth today.”

See the full story.

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