DPOL -Julie Davis and Cheryl Hays
After interior designer Julie Davis completed a mission trip to Africa five years ago, she knew that she would want to continue helping women and children once back home to Nashville. Thinking about her own expertise and the fact that many of her clients, because they were re-decorating, often found themselves with extra furniture and home furnishings, she hit upon an idea.
“I thought I could operate as a connector between them and those that might need their extra items,” she says.
Another lightbulb went off, though, when a mutual friend introduced her to the CEO of the local YWCA. Davis learned how the organization was taking in women who had been domestically abused to help them on the road to healing. As part of that process, the women could apply for subsidized transitional housing — moving them from the save haven of the Y to new lives on their own.
“At that point, the Y could only provide an inflatable mattress and a few basics to set them up in their new homes,” says Davis. “So a partnership that would take advantage of my access to extra furniture seemed like the perfect marriage.”
Soon, Davis and another friend, Cheryl Hays, a registered nurse, were operating Re-New, a furnishing service that’s became an official program at the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. “When these women leave their abusive situations, they don’t take anything with them but their children and the clothes on their back,” says Hays. “We thought they deserved so much more.”
Davis, who still maintains her interior design practice, chooses from an inventory of gently used furniture and all the trimmings — from artwork to lamps, from bedding to dishware — to match the ages and genders of the people who will be living in the space. Meanwhile, Hays works almost full-time on the effort, managing the stock and coordinating donation pickups and the schedules of some 65 volunteers. Together, they all work to shower more than two dozen women and their children each year with the hope and love of a warmly outfitted home.
“Most of our volunteers are women because I think there’s a commonality there that has to do with nesting,” says Hays. “Put eight to ten women in an apartment, give them two hours — and you’re done. There’s flowers on the table, food in the fridge, and dinner on the stove. It’s a gift of unconditional love but I feel that we and the volunteers get even more out of it than these women do.
“We’re honored to be part of their brave journey.”
Adds Davis, “when they first see what we’ve done, from the welcome mat at the door onward, they are just blown away. The things that people donate have been phenomenal. It’s shown me that although a lot of people think that the problem of abused women is so big,” she continues, “if you give them the avenue to help they’ll see that they can make a difference one home at a time. They see their contribution go out the door and immediately enter back into the community.”