Though the coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to a standstill over the last three months, the design community—from big brands to small businesses—has stepped up to help in a wide range of ways, whether that be sewing masks, donating goods, or organizing fundraisers. And sometimes they’re helping out by acknowledging and thanking essential workers.
Take, for instance, Oakland-based designer Kelly Finley. Finley, a former lawyer, runs the nonprofit Joy Street Initiative, an offshoot of her studio Joy Street Design. Joy Street Initiative typically works on community efforts like renovating women’s shelters in the Bay Area. When the pandemic slowed down the organization’s scheduled projects, Finley decided to redirect its resources to COVID-19 frontliners—a term she uses broadly to encompass everyone from medical professionals to grocery store employees to delivery people—by setting up a giveaway on Instagram last month.
“We see the home as a restorative place of refuge,” Finley tells House Beautiful. “We wanted winners to have a refuge to come back to after their shift is over after, after they do all the stuff that they're doing for other people, and to be able to come home and feel safe and loved.”
Finley offered three prizes: a $5,000 room makeover, a 90-minute design consultation, and a bundle of living room accessories. But she also wanted the gesture to go beyond a simple giveaway. “We wanted people to be acknowledged for what they're doing, so we required a lot of participation from the nominator,” she says. Nominators not only had to tag their nominee in an Instagram story, but they also had to share why they had chosen that person. “So in real time, the frontliners were getting the ‘thank you.’ They were getting the feedback that what they are doing is special,” says Finley. “It was so fulfilling to see.”
Winners were selected randomly, with the first prize going to Memuna Kamara, a mother of two in the Washington, D.C., area who has been working shifts as a nurse practitioner throughout the pandemic, despite being immunocompromised herself. The second prize was awarded to veterinary surgeon Dr. Courtney Campbell, who works at an animal hospital in Ventura, Calif., while the third prize went to healthcare provider Kristen Crawford of Carlsbad, Calif.
When the pandemic ends and business resumes, Finley will continue her nonprofit efforts to uplift others. “I believe that everything that I have achieved is because other people saw something good and helped me move forward,” says Finley. “The nonprofit was started so that we can help elevate everybody else, use our voice and resources to acknowledge what people are doing and to help people feel like they’re loved and wanted.”
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