Another person I met while doing research
for my upcoming book on bullying was Terry Grahl. Terry is the founder and CEO of Enchanted Makeovers. The mission of Enchanted Makeovers is to transform shelters for women and children into an environment that inspires psychological and behavioral change. A haven is created where women and children rebuilding their lives are reminded everyday they hold the ”golden ticket” to transforming their dreams into reality. Our unique makeovers, projects and programs supplement the shelter’s efforts, building a stronger foundation for success and improved outcomes.
I am honored that Terry has agreed to be interviewed for my blog.
TM: How did Enchanted Makeovers come to be?
TG: A polka-dotted pillow changed my life and my journey. When I tell people this, most will say, “what?” and then envision a pretty, feminine, polka-dotted pillow, trimmed with a big flowing ruffle. Well, that is exactly what my heart saw when I viewed the old, worn, tattered bed (photo below), but clearly not what my eyes saw. That vision was the beginning of my personal transformation.
Opportunities present themselves all of the time. We just have to be awakened enough to see them. I feel blessed that God opened my eyes with the vision of the polka-dot pillow. You see, in December 2006, I received a call from a gentleman asking for help. I was an interior decorator, and he was the black tie event coordinator of a local shelter.He said, “we would be so grateful even if you just painted one wall.” Honestly, at the time, my first reaction was fear. I was fearful of going. I really didn’t know what to expect. I had never been to a shelter.
I decided to make the visit and, as with all of the consultations I conducted with my private clients in my decorating business, I took photos to assist with any necessary planning and visualization. That is, if I would actually accept the volunteer job. I still wasn’t sure, and was leaning towards a “probably not”.
A week had passed since my first visit to the shelter. I hadn’t given it much thought. All I know is that I had this lingering feeling of despair knowing the living conditions of the women and children. I began to reflect upon my own expectations for my life and the dreams of a child. I was a big dreamer; my mother instilled this upon me and my siblings.
Had I forgotten my own dreams?
My mother taught me that decorating didn’t need to be motivated by money and that by relying on your own creativity and vision – each home improvement was a selfless act of love. For my mother, making a home where her five children felt safe and where our spirits could soar was as important as keeping us fed and clothed.
How could I have forgotten my own big dreams, given my stable circumstances. But, more importantly, how could the women and children in the shelter realize that they were worthy of so much more? They too had dreams, but where could they be found again?
“The pictures, the pictures — I must look at these pictures.”As I downloaded them to my computer, there it was, THE picture. There amongst black metal posts, a stained mattress and an unfinished sheet rock wall was an answer.
There amongst the harshness was something dear to my heart: a polka dot, a safe pattern that has no sharp edges. There on that seemingly ordinary pillow was an answer. It was an answer from within me but not directly from me.When I saw the polka dots in that picture, I heard, “Trust me.” From that moment, I knew I was prepared to do whatever I could to bring hope to those women and children.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 again was that vulnerable child wanting their acceptance. 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.
Transforming the shelter took more than just my decorating skills. It required me to pull out strengths I didn’t know I had- finding, organizing, and leading enthusiastic volunteers and donors nationwide to help me carry out my vision.