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a safe and stylish haven
Story by Audrey Hanes, Photo by Amy Long

As of March, The Women’s Crisis Center of Northeast Arkansas has a new home. There, the women’s shelter will be better able to continue what it first began doing in 1993 – giving women and children who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault a fresh start and a safe haven.

Since its start, there has been a growing demand for the shelter, so when a home recently became available, the shelter knew that after a few interior changes, it would be a perfect fit. Coincidentally, when local interior designer MG Meyering of Interiors by Design caught wind of the shelter’s new location, he immediately contacted Executive Director Vicki Crego about designing the home’s interior, pro bono. The end result is a functional, safe and incredibly inviting space for women and children in Northeast Arkansas who are victims of abuse.

“I knew that the Women’s Crisis Center was looking for a new way to expand their housing and their services,” said Meyering. “I had tried to help them with design issues in the old house, and when I found out a new location had been secured, something inside told me they needed assistance with this endeavor.

“This is a mission that is close to my heart. I have never been around or known (abuse) firsthand, but I have close friends in my life this has affected, and I have seen the negative impact it has had on them, their children and the community. I cannot even imagine the trauma these women, and even some men, go through with spousal abuse. Once I approached them about helping them get into this facility, everyone was on board.”

Crego and the rest of the Women’s Crisis Center’s (WCC) staff, not to mention the hundreds of women and children that the shelter aids each year, greatly appreciate the effort that Meyering put into making the shelter feel like a home.

“MG has always supported the work we do here at WCC,” said Crego. “I don’t think either of us realized just how specifically his talents and creativity could so literally change the way our residents responded to their new environment until he saw the old building. I knew immediately that he would plan an intervention, and that is exactly what he did.”

The WCC will retain its old building for storage and offices, while the new location will house as many as 15 women and children seeking the nonprofit United Way agency’s assistance. Last year alone, the WCC responded to more than 2,000 crisis calls; 242 women and children resided at the shelter facility for a period of time, and more than 300 non-resident clients received services as well.

Crego says that Meyering helped the WCC better use the home’s existing space – whether a storage closet or a bedroom – which was a critical component of being able to help the most women and children as possible. The organizational aspect of the house was a priority for the WCC, and Meyering helped them attain their goals in style.

“(Another) thing that was really important to all of us here at WCC in terms of the new building was that we wanted it to be a calming, pleasant environment and not something that would add to the depression many of our residents experience,” said Crego. “It is so hard for people to leave what they are accustomed to, even if it is not a healthy situation. I think most people can agree that environment plays a big role in how we feel about a room, a house or anywhere we go to live, learn, work or relax. I’ve never seen any reason why Jonesboro couldn’t provide such a place for one of our most vulnerable populations. I know that the more comfortable and safe people feel, the more likely they are to stick with the program and truly implement change.”

Because of the nature of the project, Meyering says he had to evaluate everything in a commercial way. When making each design decision, he had to take the function, the versatility and the spatial planning into consideration.
“It had to be warm and inviting but not overtly accessorized,” he said. “It had to allow for plenty of human traffic patterning and interaction without feeling too full or too empty. ... It is a fantastic space that is flooded with natural light. I chose colors in a pallet that will be energizing and emotionally uplifting.”

Meyering worked a lot with the home’s impressive staircase. He wanted it to really make a statement, so he worked with Bob’s Carpet to secure a colorful, vivid tiger print staircase runner; the carpet was a must, because he didn’t want sound traveling up the hardwood staircase and disturbing residents. He then worked with Laws Abby Flooring Center to serge the edges of the staircase. Some of Meyering’s own artwork was the final touch to make the home’s color pallet tie in with the entry.

He then worked with Board President Jennifer Smith to make sure that rugs would be utilized throughout the home to serve as important sounds and emotional warming methods. Among other things, Meyering took a large walk-in closet that was just going to be used as storage in the media room and by taking off the doors and shelving, made it a part of the rest of the room. He designed a play center for small children with bins for toys and games neatly organized in cubicles, a colorful rug for lying on and a small table and chairs for coloring and crafts. Meyering wanted small children to be able to play close to their mothers during their time of emotional crisis.

Crego says the house is so welcoming that it really feels like and looks like home. Although the institutional aspect of the WCC is present, the residents don’t see it. The house is so cheery that residents don’t realize all the behind-the-scenes business that takes place there.

The nonprofit’s limited budget was also a factor that affected Meyering’s design. Ultimately, he was able to stretch the existing funds to create a homey space that looks anything but inexpensive.

“This whole house needed furniture – I mean a boatload of furniture,” said Meyering. “I needed furniture that was going to give me the most floor space in every bedroom, without overcrowding, but still keep them warm and inviting. The same for the dining room and other common areas; seating was crucial, (and so was) space for staff to work and for traffic to navigate.

“I worked with some of my vendors through the design markets I visit and was able to purchase the volumes we needed at wholesale pricing. What this really means is the money donated for this cause was spent in the most careful and conservative way so it can stretch farther into other areas.”

Safety also played a part in Meyering’s overall vision for the new WCC shelter. All of the window treatments were designed to comply with specific fire codes, and all of the fabric Meyering used is fire retardant.

Now that the home is completed and women and children are already calling the new address home, Meyering is thankful that he was able to be involved with a milestone in such a wonderful and much-needed organization.

“I grew up seeing my own parents giving to their church and their community; they instilled in me the importance of giving back,” said Meyering. “Too many don’t do this. They have no idea what they are missing out on. I have been so blessed. This is a way I can give back and make an abundant contribution with my talent and my drive.”

Meyering aided the shelter in a way that will have longstanding effects on the women and children who call it home, but Crego says the shelter still needs help from the community. It relies on the support of the community to be able to operate the facility.

“MG wanted to help us, and he used his connections, talents and abilities to do that,” said Crego. “Others can help as well, and it doesn’t have to be something as elaborate as designing the interior of our building. Everyone has something they can contribute. We do depend on our community to operate this facility. It is something every community needs, and even the smallest contributions are important.

“We are always in need of household items, monetary donations, various items for babies and children and a host of other things. Our main focus right now is to get our new building paid for.”

For more information about the WCC, which also specializes in preventative education and counseling, visit keepneawomensafe.org, or for 24-hour assistance, call 1-866-982-9575.