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As the season of holiday shopping gears up, it's easy to get caught in the whirlwind of buying, whether for yourself or loved ones. But now is also an important time of year to support organizations dedicated to helping those in need. While the holiday season is joyful for many, for others who are without food, shelter, or good health, it can be a time of immense difficulty. In the spirit of holiday giving, why not earmark some of that holiday shopping cash for a worthy cause? At House Beautiful, we're especially passionate about organizations that put design to good use, whether it's enlisting designers for fundraisers or providing safe and welcoming homes to those without them.
Read on for some of our favorite design and home-related nonprofits to consider for a donation this holiday season and always. (Don't have extra cash to donate? Several of these accept donations in the form of items or volunteer hours.)
With a mission to "transform lives through design," Dallas-based Dwell With Dignity liaises with design teams and social services to provide completely-outfitted homes for families escaping poverty or homelessness. "They do everything," says designer Denise McGaha, who sits on the board. "They stock the refrigerator. They give you everything you need in your pantry. It’s all these things we take for granted."
The organization was the brainchild of interior designer Lisa Robison and has drawn many other supporters in the design community, including Jean Liu, who has decorated homes for Dwell With Dignity families. "I really do believe that if you can come home to a space where you feel happy and healthy and secure, that really changes your outlook and your confidence to go out into the world and work on the other aspects of your life that are in need of improvement," Liu says.
Founded by Pascale Sablan, Senior Associate at Adjaye Architects and president-elect of the National Organization of Minority Architects, Beyond the Built Environment spearheads programming aimed at dismantling racism and sexism in the design profession and the built environment. "Beyond the Built Environment uniquely address the inequitable disparities in architecture by providing a holistic platform aimed to support numerous stages of the architecture pipeline," reads the organization's mission. This includes Say It With Me(dia), a pledge encouraging media outlets to dedicate 15% of coverage to minority creatives; an exhibition of minority work titled "Say It Loud," (inspired by a James Brown song, "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm proud), now turned into a VR app; a camp (See it Loud) aimed at minority children; the Great Designers Library directory of diverse talent, and more on the way. “From the very beginning of my career,” Sablan says, “advocating for diversity was at the heart of it.”
The Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club has become synonymous with the design community in New York, thanks to the annual Kips Bay Decorator Show House that has been running for nearly 50 years. It was founded as a fundraiser for the Bronx-based community clubhouse, which provides kids and teens with space for after-school play as well as opportunities in sports, dance, visual arts, and more. Now with partner showhouses in Dallas and Palm Beach, the Kips Bay Decorator Show House has become a model for leveraging design talent for a cause—and its clubhouse continues to be a foundational part of kids' lives.
This Washington, D.C.–based organization supports trauma survivors by designing spaces to help them move forward. "Most people believe that interior design is a luxury. At OA, we believe that interior design is an underutilized tool to empower, encourage, and resurrect people at their lowest point," reads the company mission. "When we live in personalized spaces that affirm our humanity, we feel important—a major first step in moving past trauma and loss."
Designer Kelly Finley spun off this 501(c)3 from her design business in early 2020 with the mission of uplifting others through her interiors work. She earmarks 10% of profits from her design firm, Joy Street Studio, to the initiative, which has completed projects for women's shelters and more.
"The people who are most impacted, the people who are most often found in their shelters also happen to look like me," says Finley, who is Black. "So as a woman of color, I felt like, this is something concrete that I observe and help people that are in need."
"I just want to give them a little bit more dignity," says the designer. "You know, how nice would it be to, when their their kids come in, have them say, 'oh, it's so nice. I feel loved. I feel like somebody cares about me.' That's just a great way to start your rehabilitation."
Founded with a mission of helping those impacted by HIV/AIDS, Housing Works has since expanded to provide support for those impacted by COVID-19, homelessness, and more. The organization operates beloved thrift shops in NYC, where proceeds from furniture and accessories support its mission of providing housing, medical care, and support to New Yorkers in need. Its annual Design on a Dime event, conceived by James Huniford, has interior designers outfit spaces with donated items, all of which are then sold to benefit the organization; it's become a beloved tradition for New Yorkers.
Operating in Westchester, New York, where housing costs are notoriously high, A-HOME provides affordable housing in a manner that supports community engagement. Potential residents complete an application and interview process, and pay rent based on income and ability. Homes are purposely built in desirable neighborhoods to foster interaction with local community.
Since its founding by Malene Barnett in 2018, the Black Artists + Designers Guild—BADG (pronounced "badge") for short—has provided a community, network, and support space for Black creatives. Since its founding, its hosted the virtual Obsidian showhouse and added educational programming and awards franchises. A donation can support the BADG Lab, giving resources to BADG creatives, the Education Fund to give scholarships and grants, or the Misson Fund, to support BADG's core activity.
Founded by designer Maryline Damour, the Kingston Design Connection endeavors to bring together makers and creatives in the Hudson Valley to both champion collaboration and support worthy causes. The group's annual design showhouse has become an innovative fundraiser, raising money not only through ticket sales, but forging deeper connection with the community by providing affordable housing in areas where home prices are skyrocketing.
"When I started the showhouse in 2018, the goal was to connect people and keep the dollars in the community," says Damour, "but I always thought there could be a more strategic partnership," she says.
The field of "craft" should be as diverse as the works crafters create—and that's the mission of Crafting the Future, which partners with youth arts organizations to champion young creatives of color and connect them with opportunities to thrive as makers. That can mean internships, trainings, or commissions.
Chances are, you've heard of Habitat for Humanity. The organization has set an example for improving housing access by building ground-up homes—or renovating existing ones—to meet needs of those unable to afford them. Through Habitat's unique model, future residents participate in a required number of hours of work on their homes, giving them a foundational role in their future residence. Always looking at what's next in the housing market, the organization recently unveiled its first 3D-printed home and is working with House Beautiful on a new development in the notoriously difficult housing market of San Francisco.
The nonprofit partner for House Beautiful's 2022 Whole Home, Our House supports families escaping homelessness by providing access to healthcare, education, housing, and employment opportunities. "Our interrelated programs address the root causes of homelessness and ensure every family that leaves Our House has the tools needed to achieve lasting self-sufficiency," explains the group.
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