The power to effect change amplifies exponentially when teams collaborate. But a sensitive mission must be handled, well, sensitively. When Kaye Youngblood of artisans’ collective The Garage on 25 volunteered to furnish rooms for local women and children needing affordable housing, a vendor advised her design team not to appoint the apartments with a motley collection of castoffs. The family spaces had to be curated mindfully, with a feel of warmth and peace, using items the designers would want in their own homes.
First, though, a quarter-of-a-million-dollar renovation had to happen. A partnership between Hendersonville’s First United Methodist Church, the Housing Assistance Corporation, and Safelight — a Hendersonville-based nonprofit that provides services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse — developed a plan to restore a derelict apartment building owned by the church for use as long-term housing for Safelight’s clients, who are mostly women and children. This housing is especially needed when client families leave Safelight’s emergency shelter.
FUMC’s Board of Trustees Chairman Gary Lambert describes the renovation as total. “After we met with [Safelight Executive Director] Tanya Blackford and others from the organization, it was clear we needed to utilize the building this way, and our renovation included everything from replacing flooring and appliances to a complete electrical upgrade. The stars truly aligned for us on this project, and so many organizations and individuals from both inside and out of FUMC made it happen,” he says.
After the restoration was completed, the eight refreshed flats were up to code but not cozy. Recognizing how important it was for the new residents to feel safe and truly at home, Youngblood and her crew from Garage on 25 chose two of the building’s apartments to appoint — a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom. Youngblood’s grandfather ran a garage business in the building on Highway 25 South for decades, but she and several friends transformed it into a treasure-hunting retail space for handmade and upcycled home accessories and furniture, vintage finds, and bonafide antiques offered by more than 80 vendors (plus a coffee shop).
With her business partners Ellen Schwab and Susan Brady, “we always wanted an opportunity to help our community, so this was perfect,” declares Youngblood. “Many of us are moms, I’m a retired teacher, and we just cared for these clients and wanted to help.”
They tapped vendors with specific talents who “repurposed, distressed, and painted to match the décor schemes that were chosen,” Youngblood explains. “We have a few who are either credentialed interior designers or just very skilled at design work, and they went in and took measurements, looked at window placement, and performed other tasks in the beginning, when the two spaces were empty and raw, that were absolutely necessary for us to create a design plan.” Colleague Tippi Mace helped with one of the apartment’s layouts, and Linda Edwards and Sandi Hosey also did important space planning. Many more donated furniture, art, textiles, and, perhaps most importantly, “tons of time and labor — they painted, hauled furniture, and hung art, all of it.”
Youngblood and her cohorts express deep admiration for Safelight’s work in the community. “We had loads of fun,” she says, “but they’re out there every day doing the real work to save lives.”
The Garage on 25 (3461 Hendersonville Road in Fletcher) is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am-5pm and Sunday from 1-4pm. See the venue’s Facebook page or call 828-376-0198 for more information. To find out more about Safelight’s mission, see safelightfamily.org.