Design Flash: Covenant to Care

Sept. 1, 2005
By Laura Bordeaux
The ASID Connecticut Chapter’s community service project enabled a local charity to better meet the needs of neglected children.

It's not everyday that a group of highly trained and skilled professional interior designers are able to use their talents to bring about productive change to the office functions of a charity. But the American Society of Interior Designer's Connecticut Chapter was given such an opportunity not long ago by Covenant to Care in Bloomfield, CT, an organization that provides for the emotional and physical needs of the state's abused and neglected children.

In 2003, Alex Lenox, the acting president of the Connecticut ASID chapter, asked Laura Bordeaux, ASID, of FX Design Inc, in Glastonbury, CT, to chair the chapter's community service project. Bordeaux had personal knowledge of the charity because she had mentored a teenage mother through the agency. ASID wanted to help create a better environment for the agency that does their best to provide for others.

Bordeaux was told that the charity needed help with their office organization and layout. Two additional designers, Diane Pritt, ASID and Donna Auclair of Jung Brannen Associates in Farmington, CT, volunteered to become committee members. Although the former Catholic convent building was once impressive, the CTC offices were reminiscent of 1950's and 1960's government issued furniture, and there were bags of donatedchildren's clothes scattered in the reception area. The design team determined to approach this pro bono project just like any other commercial interior redesign, requiring all new finishes and furniture.

Pritt and Auclair scheduled the programming meetings with the staff of Covenant to Care todetermine their functional needs. The first objective discussed was how to create an inviting reception area that would reflect what Covenant to Care was all about. Instead of walking into an entry full of donated goods, the team came up with the concept of utilizing the University of New Haven Art and Design students to create original works of art that would depict multi ethnic woman and children. John Arabolos, ASID of Arabolos Design in New Haven, CT volunteered to head up the students' art project. Pritt and Auclair then designed a curvilinear wall as a focal point in the reception area. Local Wolf Gordon representative Christine Galanopoulos donated beautiful navy ultra-suede wallcovering for the curved wall which would create the perfect background for the artwork, as well as a dramatic entry. By adding glass block donated from Bruce Hollis in the entry, light would be allowed to flood through above the curved wall.

The next priority was creating as much storage space as possible to accommodate all the donated goods such as baby monitors, bottles and clothes. Pritt and Auclair redesigned the space and created over storage and cabinet storage in every possible location. Laurie Riddile from Atlantic Plywood Corp. donated all the Nevamar laminate that was used for the new counter tops. The team then looked at reducing the size of the conference room, which was previously used as a "catch all" for donated goods and mentor meetings. By downsizing the conference room, they were able to carve out an additional office for the mentor coordinator. This new office was imperative to lend an element of privacy for meetings with mentors who are assigned to teenagers or teenage mothers to be.

The team's next challenge was to raise funds and solicit donations of goods and labor to complete the new space. The first manufacturer to step up and donate products was carpet representative Fury Sabato from Bentley Prince Street, Inc. Following Bentley, President Paul Prevenou of PAC Group LLC General Contractors, located in Harwington, CT, agreed to provide construction management services at no charge. Mannington Flooring donated flooring as well as vinyl base, and The Home Depot in Bloomfield donated $2,500.00 in gift cards, while going the extra mile to meet Bordeaux at the job site one Saturday to donate and deliver additional building material. She asked W.A. Crosscup owner Ray Poulton to donate paint and wallcovering labor for the project. When his son Ian Poulton heard about the project from his father, he asked ASID if he could coordinate painting, while utilizing boy scouts for thelabor in an effort to earn his Eagle Scout badge.

While the office space is only approximately 2000 sq. ft. the pro bono project has taken until the summer of 2005 to near completion. A special thanks to Covenant to Care's Landlord Mitchel Wurmbrand who allowed Covenant to Care to use swing space in his building at no cost to the charity for over two years. Fortunately Covenant to Care also received financial gifts from trustees of the Covenant to Care Board to offset some of the unforeseen expenses.

After two years the offices are 85 percent complete. The staff moved in on August 8, 2005. Prior to their move-in, Maggie Cole, ASID Industry Partner donated her services to photograph the new space. The transition from Covenant to Care's previously unorganized space to their new well-designed offices with all new furniture should provide a great moral boost as well as create a much more efficient work force. ASID trusts that all their diligent perseverance has created a unique and highly productive environment in which Covenant to Care can continue their tireless efforts to change and improve the lives of thousands of needy children in Connecticut.

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