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The Power of Inspiration: Helping make a house into a home

Humble Design Cleveland is a nonprofit with a mission of changing lives and communities by furnishing the homes of those emerging from homelessness.

SOLON, Ohio — On a recent afternoon, Debbie Eastburn lead 3News anchor Jay Crawford and Kaulig Companies founder Matt Kaulig on a tour of a small family home that was in the process of being furnished and decorated.

"We've got three boys in here, so we have bunk beds and a twin," she pointed out. "[Before this morning] it was empty and we still have a long way to go. You're seeing [our team] at work work in the middle of  everything."

Eastburn is the Director of the the Cleveland outpost of Humble Design, a nonprofit with a mission of changing lives and communities by furnishing the homes of those emerging from homelessness. The organization was started in 2009 by Treger and Rob Strasberg and now operates in five cities including Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Seattle and San Diego.

Working with nearly 25 local partnering agencies, Debbie and her team match families and veterans in need, with designers and volunteers who decorate their new homes from top to bottom. In the last two years, they've transformed more than 120 homes here in Northeast Ohio.

"A lot of times for these families, when they get the house, they have nothing left over," Eastburn explained. "No means in which to put all the things in the house that we sometimes take for granted—the table, the couch, the dishes, the microwave."

And that's where Humble Design comes in. On this day, a team of two designers and three volunteers was working on a new home for a domestic violence survivor who is also a mom of six young children. It's families like this one that stick with Eastburn long after the team has moved on to the next project.

"Every time we do this for kids, it is unbelievable," she said. "We might turn the kid's room into a magic kingdom, full of toys and books...And yet what we find over and over is they gravitate towards the bed. ... They've not had a bed; they've slept on a floor ... and that is what I remember every single time."

Rebecca Mills is one half of the design team working on this home. As she explained, their process takes three days. It starts with meeting the family to learn about their needs and design tastes.

"We come back to the warehouse after that, and then we pick the large furniture," she told us. "Then we pick the curtains and all the design things on the second day, pack up and bring it on the third day."

It's work that could not be done without dedicated volunteers like Jolene Frohlich, who told 3News cameras that she first learned of the opportunity to volunteer at work. This is the third home she's helped decorate.

"You just lay out rugs and, you know, move the furniture around," she said. "You decorate, [and help with things like loading] in all the dishes in the kitchen. It's a really satisfying thing to do. ... It's very rewarding."

Jay and Matt knew they wanted to lend a hand too, and pitched in, hanging pictures above each child's bed. But beyond those needed in-person volunteer opportunities, Humble Design also accepts donations.

"We have a warehouse in Solon, and we always need donations," Eastburn said. "[We accept everything] from extension cords and light bulbs, mattress pads, we take beds, small kitchen appliances, we take all that stuff."

Items must be in new or gently used condition.

"Because part of what we're doing is trying to give these families dignity and hope, so we really try to put the best of the best into their home."

The Kaulig Companies team and WKYC Studios wanted to help with that, too, donating two beautiful pictures and useful kitchen appliances to this very deserving family.

"What we really realize is, it takes a village, right?" Eastburn said. "So the more we can get this kind of help out there, the more we can change the cycle of poverty and homelessness where it really starts."

If you're interested in volunteering or donating - you can learn more about Humble Design Cleveland here.

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