In The Beginning
In 2003, Houstonians Ann Cummins and Janet Ely completed a leadership program which issued a challenge to all its graduates: go out into your community and do something to improve the lives of other people. Dream big. Be unreasonable. As volunteers at a local housing project for battered women, they had longed to do more for the residents at the center, but didn’t know what they could offer. Searching for inspiration, they considered their own talents and interests. Their hobby of refurbishing household castoffs from garage and estate sales hardly seemed useful. Yet, the tiny duplexes which provided housing at the center were drab and haphazardly furnished.
Cummins and Ely recruited some friends who shard their enthusiasm for turning trash into treasure and paired them with residents at the shelter. The volunteers vaulted into action, scouting thrift stores and yard sales, sprucing up shabby furnishings and knocking on doors to raise money. When the weekend for makeovers arrived, Cummins, Ely, and friends came early with husbands, boyfriends, relatives, and neighbors to turn their visions into reality. With extraordinary ingenuity and lively team spirit, the volunteers created award worthy makeovers.
The benefits for these families extended beyond that exciting weekend. Many were inspired to paint bedrooms, tidy their small yards, and keep their homes cleaner. One resident left a note of gratitude for the volunteers who decorated her small house. She spoke little English, so her young daughter translated the message and printed it carefully inside a card: “thank you so much for making my house look so beautiful I really do appreciate it.”
It was after that weekend the D.I.V.A.S. were officially born. Several months after that first miracle-making weekend, the divas repeated their efforts, decorating a total of 23 living spaces at the shelter. Then in 2004 the divas branched out and joined forces with the Houston Furniture Bank to provide free decorating services to more than 85 non-profit assistance agencies throughout the city.