Designing for Veterans is a nonprofit interior design organization that believes the built environment can have a tremendous impact on the physical and psychological life experience of disabled veterans when returning home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It is the mission of Designing for Veterans to aid and assist these disabled veterans through pro bono
interior design services, that address their individual needs and to create fully functional, barrier-free and aesthetic environments that offer veterans the opportunity and ability to live independent and active lives.
Designing for Veterans harnesses the support of the interior design community via volunteer work service by design professionals and interior design students who donate their time and expertise to create environments that will ease the lives of these veterans. In addition, through the support of industry suppliers and manufacturers donating their products they not only assist in creating functional environments but do so at no cost to the veteran while diverting the excesses of these supplies and furnishings from landfill to veteran projects. The organization practices green building principles established by the United States Green Building Council dedicated to designing quality and healthy interiors
while reducing energy consumption, waste and negative environmental impacts on our communities.
The projects range in scope from homes, to condominiums to other housing units in which veterans live. The organization accepts monetary donations for the purchase of equipment, appliances, furniture and furnishings as well as the manufacture of custom furnishings in order to meet the specific need of the veterans concerned so they can live lives of dignity and respect they so well deserve. They accept volunteer architectural and interior design services from industry professionals, product donations from suppliers and manufacturers as well as volunteer professional services in electrical, plumbing, carpentry, flooring, painting, custom window treatments, to name but a few.
The Designing for Veterans Team
"Architecture and interior design is not just a job.
It is a reponsible commitment in community service; a responsibility
to the enduring and creative advancement of human kind and environmental preservation."
Like many Americans, September 11,2001 was a wake up call for Ms. Cisco. She knew responsibility was knocking on her door. That call reverberated when she saw veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in October of 2010. It was then the price of freedom became a stark reality; the sacifices our young veterans had made would change their lives forever. This ignited a fire that soon became a passion. What could she do to honor our severely disabled veterans and how could she help to improve their lives.
She discovered Homes for Our Troops, a nonprofit organization started by John Gonsalves, and offered her volunteer service as a design professional. Shortly, she learned that while beautiful and ADA compliant homes were being constructed across the country there were no interior design services as part of the package.
Thus, the seed of Designing for Veterans came into being when she gathered her friends from The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago, where she was continuing her education, to rally behind the cause. The goal was to provide home environments to veterans that allowed them the freedom to move, be independent and enjoy a higher quality of life. And this would be accomplished by providing professional interior design services, furnishings, and accessories necessary to execute their custom design at no cost to the veteran.
Originally formed under her tenure as the 2010-2011 Vice President for the student chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers at the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago, Designing for Veterans has now grown into its own nonprofit chartiable organization bringing relief to severely disabled veterans in the Chicago and central area of Illinois.
As a recent graduate of The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago Stephanie plans to work in the healthcare field and has chosen interior design as a life long career because, in her own words, "I believe that interior design has the power to shape our lives, our interaction with each other and improve productivity." And when asked, "Why is Designing for Veterans important?", she quickly replied.
"Most of us are very fortunate and have so much to be grateful for, but it is often too easy to forget how lucky we are. We get caught up in our hetic schedules and struggles. Volunteering gives us the opportunity to rediscover who we are, change lives and the communities around us.
"I can not just say thank you. I need to show my thanks to the veterans who have sacrificed so much for so many. Through Designing for Veterans we are able to forget about ourselves and give back to the veterans who have unselfishly given so much for our country and those who live in America. My life has become fuller, richer, and greater by the veterans I have met and been inspired by."
Janice is a recent graduate of The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago and plans to work in the area of hospitality and restaurant design. Her passion to service is best expressed in her own words: "The number one reason I wanted to become an interior designer was to simply help people." And when asked what inspired you to become one of the founding members of Designing for Veterans she had this to say:
"Just hearing about Cameron's story is truly inspirational. For someone to come out the war, having lost both his legs from the knee down is a man of strength, honor and courage. On top of that, he has chosen to carry on in life, go to school, and become a doctor. To me, that is just so amazing. The question really is, why shouldn't I be part of this cause? Why shouldn't anybody?
"Interior design is not just about making a place look beautiful. The interior of an environment can provoke an emotion and help people spiritually, emotionally and physically. What better use of these skills than to help our veterans return to civilian life where the need is so great and the help so well deserving. As our initial project Cameron represents someone who has triumphed over tradegy and is truly an inspiration. When you hear the stories of our veterans it makes you want to be part of something bigger than yourself."