ABW shelter renovation
CEO Peter Messner is gearing up for the company’s second annual Design for a Difference community service project, but he is managing his expectations. Much like a first win or a first love, the first project was special. “Nothing can quite match what we did last year,” he says.
Messner is a board member of the International Design Guild, the organization that created Design for a Difference as a national contest to bring designers and retailers together in support of charity organizations, sponsored at the local level by member retailers. Designer Dani Polidor of Suite Artistry entered the Messner-sponsored competition in Rochester with a design to upgrade a common area at the Alternatives for Battered Women (now, Willow Center) shelter for victims of domestic violence. That design was recognized with a $2000 regional prize.
While the prize was intended to spruce up a single space, Messner said “my brother Greg and I walked through the shelter to see the room we were to upgrade, and knew immediately that we weren’t going to stop at one room.”
Messner rallied more than two dozen businesses and individuals to turn a $2000 upgrade into a $20,000+ renovation of all the hallways and four common areas in the shelter. In addition, the company led a massive drive for toiletries, and created collection bags they shared with vendors and customers. The impact on the residents and employees is summed up by ABW (Willow) CEO Jaime Saunders, who called the change “nothing short of transformative.” The project had a similar impact on the Messner team. Messner says “everyone at the company was able to participate, and the effort brought us all together for a good cause.”
Sales consultant and interior designer Jessica Salada says “we were just reminiscing about what the company did, and we’re all so proud to have been involved. Everybody really got behind it; customers, too.” She adds “Messners do more good than I ever imagined.”
Sales associate Karen Farmer says “you realize how something as small as toothpaste and shampoo, something that we take for granted, can ease somebody’s transition--somebody running from a life-threatening situation.” Farmer adds “the toiletries drive made people aware in the community. And seeing customers come back with huge bags, people going above and beyond, was great.”
The extent to which the team rallied together was no surprise to Salada. “We’re so small and family-owned, it’s how we operate anyway. The come-together attitude is how we are all the time. “
The nature of Design for a Difference has evolved. No longer a national competition, Messner will continue to support one project per year. Messner’s 2015 Design for a Difference recipient is the David Hochstein School of Music and Dance. The team met the choice of Hochstein with enthusiasm. Farmer said “we just started talking about the Hochstein school, especially what they do for people with special needs.” Salada adds “It’s nice to get behind one charity. Doing that brings the team together, motivates everybody together.”
Messner reflects on the 2014 effort for ABW (Willow). “I can’t imagine being this personally invested in another project,” he said. Maybe there is something about your first. We’ll see.