Overwhelmed by the sad conditions at a women’s shelter, interior designer Terry Grahl was inspired to help transform shelters into a place where hope can flourish.
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What was your big dream?
I am an award-winning interior decorator whose dream was to give hope to ‘at risk’ women and children by transforming the shelters that save people’s lives into beautiful sanctuaries that heal their spirit.
For my mother, making a home where her children felt safe and their spirits could soar was just as important as keeping them fed and clothed. Improving and decorating our modest home expressed love for her family. Through her example, I learned to envision possibilities, creatively shape environments, and the value of hard work involved in transformations.
From that seed came a love for decorating which began with family and friends, blossomed into a thriving business called Terry’s Enchanted Cottage, and ultimately became Enchanted Makeovers.org an organization that changes shelters for women and children into places of peace and possibilities. (Not just where basic needs are met, but spiritual needs for hope and beauty also).
How did you accomplish it?
The journey began in January of 2007, when the coordinator of a fund raising event for a local shelter expressed that he would be grateful if I would agree to paint even a single wall. As I viewed the depressing conditions, old prison beds, mold, decrepit paneling, the dingy, sad-looking area where women and children came to escape from domestic violence, or stayed to deal with drug addictions, I found my calling. I vowed to create a space for those women and children that would revive their broken spirits and help them heal.
Operating from the belief that our environment affects the way we feel about ourselves, how we see the world, and our place in it, I undertook a two year transformation of Grace Centers of Hope Women’s Shelter, Pontiac, Michigan. Armed with vision and belief that we can act to make our dreams reality, family, friends and community volunteers were recruited and organized to transform the shelter’s bedrooms. Donations of money and goods were solicited. Professional contractors and decorators were invited to participate. An extreme makeover replaced rooms of drab paneling, mismatched bedding and dreary, institutional colors, and in its place, a bright, cheerful, caring space emerged, punctuated by positive affirmations and items meant to inspire faith, and belief in the power to make dreams a reality. To emphasize the connection between transforming your environment and changing your life, a motivational speaker conducted a workshop to encourage the shelter’s women to create their own vision of the future, how they would like to transform their own lives into something beautiful.
The work continues as we build a network of volunteers and donors nationwide. We have already begun work on our next ‘extreme makeover,’ benefiting abused girls in our community, we are visibly demonstrating that people care, showing the girls they are worthy of something better than what they’ve had, creating a lasting lesson that transformations are possible, and that beauty can rise from ashes..
Blessings: Projects have been featured in several national publications, blessed with many prestigious awards and even an appearance on the Oprah Show.
Where did you find inspiration to get started?
I have always loved polka dots my entire life (no sharp angles, fun and a shape that can’t hurt you). When I found a bare pillow laying on a stained mattress at the women’s shelter with a subtle hint of polka dots I knew without a doubt that was god speaking, ‘Trust Me’.
I still can’t believe how a polka dot pillow changed the course of my life; finally I’m living not just existing.
What motivated you to keep going?
Faith, hope and a volunteer by the name of Mary Stanczyk was my life saver.
What’s your next Big Dream?
To promote my organization on national television and inspire thousands to help with the The Traveling Sanctuary Bag campaign and help transform women’s shelters across the U.S.
Who is your hero?
My older brother Todd and mother are my heroes. They are exceptional human beings who are full of integrity, compassion, strength and hope.
What do you wish you did better?
I wish I would have had more faith and confidence.
What book is on your night stand?
Signs From Above by Doreen Virtue
What is your favorite lipstick?
I love lipstick but I prefer a great ‘foundation’.
What is your favorite quote?
“Sing like a bird after every storm.”