MNK Designing to Empower Women, Inspire Strength and Hope

October 1, 2021

How do you help someone take their first steps towards a new life? Where do you start? YWCA offered us the opportunity to relearn how design can make a true, lasting impact in someone’s life.

Women who arrive at the YWCA Sara McKnight Transitional Living Center are fleeing domestic violence, with only the cloth on their back and sometimes, their children on their arms. The center provides temporary housing for women, with or without children, experiencing homelessness. The first stop they make is in the basement—the Donations Room—a closet within the facility which provided much needed clothing and necessities to the women. Over time, this closet fell into disrepair and its poor condition and appearance, despite supporting the women, often reinforced the hardships and difficult circumstances that they had experienced.

Harnessing our talents as designers and architects by volunteering our services provides opportunities for designers to pursue valuable tools to achieve their client’s goals and messages. This is how the Dede Rogers WISH Boutique was newly transformed. With a vision to revitalize the closet into a more positive experience for women and children was the ultimate driver in this project as efforts for donations and partnerships were made to achieve this.

In honor of Dede Rogers’ donation to the YWCA and SHEBuilds, a project of Rebuilding Together—which hires women and provides them with training in non-traditional fields—the closet was named the Dede Roger’s WISH Boutique. WISH stands for Women Inspiring Strength and Hope. The construction of the project broke traditional boundaries since it was designed and executed by women, including volunteers and the residents.

The experience within the center needed to welcome the guests and inspire hope and relief. All members of the team contributed towards this vision and extended their own embrace towards the future guests of the closet. The result is a refreshing and rewarding engagement directly with the people who inspires us to do good. Our design decisions were made in the hope that when women and children walk in, the space says, “we love you,” “you are special,” and “you are deserving.”