When deciding what to write about today, I opted to bring a human interest story to you, my wonderful readers. You know how I feel about all things WOMAN. I love discussing all the issues that women of all ages face, and this story touched me deep in my gut. I hope after reading about an incredible woman and her story, Terry Grahl and her organization Enchanted Makeovers, you will be just as inspired as I was. Her energy and passion literally jumped out of the phone, and I had to pass her story on to all of you. Enjoy!
On January 15, 2007, Terry received a call from a gentleman asking for help. He was the black tie event coordinator from a local shelter. He said, “We would be so grateful even if you just painted one wall.” Terry, an award-winning interior decorator, was fearful of going. She really didn’t know what to expect. She had never been to a shelter. She decided to go and see how how perhaps she could volunteer in some way, with her expertise in design.
A week had passed since her first visit to the shelter. She hadn’t given it much thought. All she know is that she had this lingering feeling of despair knowing the living conditions of the women and children. She began to reflect upon her own expectations for her life and the dreams of a child. She was a big dreamer; her mother instilled this upon Terry and her siblings. Had she forgotten her own dreams?
I quote Terry, “Soon, I was back at the shelter presenting them with a design plan and a vision of what was to come. There was no turning back. I vowed to see this project to completion. With no funds and no volunteers lining up at the door, I had only to put my trust in God, keep the faith and, most importantly, I needed to step away from my ego. These women and children must not be disappointed again. As I presented the plan to the group of women and staff, I was overcome with emotion. I realized the thin wall that separated our lives. We all deserved and desired the same things. It was simple, but seemingly so complicated in its simplicity. I would find a way to break through this thin wall.”
As Terry continued accepting work from private clients, she felt something was missing. She had taken on additional shelter projects in 2007, but continued to hold onto the security of her paying clients. December, 2008, she decided to close her decorating business. She knew without a doubt that God had much bigger plans for her life. They made a deal with each other on that day. Terry asked that He would continue to provide the needs for her family (food and a roof over their heads) and she would begin her mission.
In January of 2009, Terry created Enchanted Makeovers, a non-profit organization that changes shelters for women and children into places of peace and possibilities.
So, on Nov. 15th, 2009 at Vista Maria’s Myriam House in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, the excitement was palpable. Over the past two months, dozens of local volunteers had given of their time to paint, sew, hang mirrors and inspirational signs, and install new lighting fixtures and closet doors in 11 bedrooms for at-risk, abused and neglected teens. Dozens of others from across the nation and around the world had lovingly created beautiful handmade gifts such as slippers, dolls, stuffed animals, journals and embroidered pillowcases. The entire project was almost a year in the making. It was time for the big reveal.
The 20 girls from the shelter ranging from ages 13 to 18 raced up the stairs and into their completely transformed rooms shrieking with laughter. “Look at this-you have to see this!” the girls exclaimed, pulling the volunteers and dorm leaders by the hand to point out details such as a fairy’s delicate shoes on the hallway mural, lace trim on the newly painted pink closet shelves, decorative wood towel racks and butterfly wall appliqués. One girl giggled as she mimicked making a snow angel on the plush, brightly colored polka-dot rug. Some had tears streaming down their cheeks as they hugged each of the volunteers in turn.
For Terry, it was a poignant moment. “We’ve spent so much time here this year getting to know some of the girls,” she said. “It’s rewarding to watch a dull, dreary dorm metamorphose into a beautiful, welcoming, homelike environment, and I thoroughly enjoy the physical transformation that we were able to accomplish with all of the donors and volunteers. But being able to see the impact of this transformation on the girls who live in the dorm is the heart of Enchanted Makeovers. It’s all about using beauty-down to the smallest of details-to show each girl that she’s worthy of love.”
More than 200 volunteers, businesses and individual donors-some from as far away as Singapore-participated in the project, and gifts ranged from handmade hope chests and new bedspreads to books, jewelry, celebrity swag bags and other personal items. The dorm transformation marked the final chapter in the 10-month-long project that included a Celebration of Cooking Event in June, at which the girls were both the gourmet chefs and the belles of the ball.
Enchanted Makeovers volunteers also helped the girls plant and harvest a vegetable garden over the summer. “Enchanted Makeovers isn’t just about dorm makeovers and pretty gifts,” Grahl said. “Although that’s probably the most visible of our outreach efforts, we’re also involved in numerous other events throughout the year that are designed to build strong relationships and great memories with the children who live in the spaces we transform.” For the girls living in Vista Maria’s Myriam House dorm, Enchanted Makeovers’ 2009 Vision Project was a powerful statement about the generosity of strangers and the unlimited potential of the human spirit. “Many of these girls haven’t experienced much love in their lives, so this project means so much to them,” said Amy Adamson, Program Unit Manager
And while there are some people in this world who watch, there are others who do. Who act. Terry is one of them. And as I hung up the phone with her, one thing stuck with me, “I hope my work sparks people into action in their own lives. No matter what your passion is, find it, and follow it.”
Well said, Terry.
For more information on Terry and her organization, please see www.EchantedMakeovers.org