Turning Shelter Into ‘Home’ by Denise O’Toole Kelly

Families arriving at Family Renew Community in Holly Hill to begin to end their experience of homelessness find their little cottages not only fully furnished and equipped but also thoughtfully decorated, thanks to Laurel Gaddy and her team from Ormond Beach Presbyterian Church.

“I think all of us feel like we want the families to be kind of moved by the sense of, “Wow … this is a home. This is a welcoming home and someone took the time to put it together nicely for me,” says Laurel, who leads the team as part of her outreach ministry as a church elder. About 10 members and friends of Ormond Beach Presbyterian are directly involved, and many more donate household items, she says.

Getting the apartments ready for homeless families has become an evening and weekend passion for Laurel, who works full-time in health care. When one of the 14 units of the converted 1950s’-era motel on Ridgewood Avenue opens up, Anita Dudley, the program manager who works with the families who stay there, has it cleaned, then calls Laurel. For more than a year, Laurel and her team have restocked and redecorated every apartment that’s turned over.

“They are just a blessing,” Anita says.

Upon attaining financial stability and finding affordable housing elsewhere, families are invited to take house wares and furnishings — everything except the beds — with them.

Laurel and her team have a list of everything it takes to make the apartments comfortable and functional for new occupants — kitchenware, bed sheets, bath towels, lamps, wall art, a mop and broom and such — and collect donations of these items year-round from the Ormond Beach Presbyterian congregation.

“Almost everything we need is provided. It’s amazing,” Laurel says.

When storing the donated items, Laurel groups things that complement one another. Designing the decor is the fun part for Laurel and the other volunteers, who include her mother, Betty Ceribelli.

“She and I have always enjoyed looking at decorating magazines and just doing that for the fun it,” Laurel says. “We have some wonderful people on our team that say ‘this picture looks good here’ or ‘let’s put this lamp here.’”

Typically, the furniture is pulled from donations to Family Renew Community’s Secret Attic Thrift Store and is in place when the decorating team arrives. However, when an apartment recently was done in a Southwestern farmhouse theme, Laurel’s mom donated a dinette from home that fit in perfectly.

“It’s done with love,” observes Anita, the program manager. “You can tell when you walk it, it wasn’t thrown together. It’s with love.”