Sweet Home Pennsylvania
by Cate Murway
Making a statement: with a charming sense and feel that this place matters!
"Deserving Décor" makes it so much more.
Homelessness, "the precariously housed or unhoused population", continues to be a growing problem in America.
Even though Bucks County is an affluent county, behind the façade of spacious homes and sprawling lawns, lies a deep-rooted problem: the hidden homeless. Homelessness, poverty and hunger are very real issues for many of our neighbors. Each is unique.
It is a matter of simple human dignity to have an acceptable clean, comfortable and safe place to call home, food to eat and hope for the future.
Elizabeth Ann “Beth “ Baker, formerly of Beth Baker Interiors, partners with the Bucks County Housing Group to provide places to call home and so much more!
She is the founder and executive director of Deserving Décor, a generous woman of action, who is not content to sit on the sidelines, with a visible determination to help shape the world around her.
“The BCHG Supportive Housing Program provides temporary apartment housing and the Bridge/Transitional Program provides long term subsidized apartment housing for families receiving education and employment training. The programs provide housing that bridges the gap between a traditional homeless shelter and a rental property.”
The Bucks County Housing Group owns and operates 80 supportive rental units scattered throughout Bucks County in Bensalem (a partnership with St. Mary Medical Center, Langhorne providing Continuum of Care Internet to help find jobs), Doylestown, Milford Square, (formerly the EQPP shelter), Morrisville and Penndel, all designated low-income housing.
Beth and her incredible totally unpaid, dedicated, imaginative and caring volunteers improve upon the traditional functional “nothing fancy” model by providing a warm, welcoming more home-like atmosphere with donated additions, including furnishings, cleaning and decorating services. With a little bit of eclecticism, using refinished and repaired furniture, lamps and lighting, decorative artwork coordinated with the space, stylish window treatments, comfortable bed linens and other donated furnishings/house wares, they revamp lackluster apartments that appear cold into inspired, appealing living spaces for homeless families in Bucks County. Their combined efforts to magically transform, even when resources are extremely limited, never go unnoticed or unappreciated.
The gratitude the clients express over something that may appear as ordinary to us as a supply of books or magazines is by far one of the most rewarding parts of Beth’s experiences.
She and the Deserving Décor volunteers contribute time, talent, passion and their own money to make a difference in the lives of the families. They unselfishly serve.
“I’ve met some amazing, caring, giving people and made some close friends.”
Their first male volunteer was a foster child who grew up in group homes and state care facilities. Jesse Adam Raphial has worked for Habitat for Humanity, built them a retail store to sell items and Goodwill, helping their stores become more profitable. As an entrepreneur, he bought smaller businesses and made them lucrative with his “Two Thumbs Up!” until 2004. He “caught the charity bug” working at the Benjamin H. Wilson Senior Community Center in Warminster and the Briarleaf Nursing and Convalescent Care in Doylestown. Jesse also volunteers his help monitoring the Freecycle.org site, the nonprofit movement of people giving and getting stuff for free.
“I want to actually be out there touching people in a grassroots mission helping the people in our own backyards”.
He attentively fundraises and handles Deserving Décor donation transportation/ delivery in his F150 pickup with a trailer.
“No political views or limitations. Go to bed knowing we’ve done something!”
Amy Elizabeth Manning, Arcadia ’03, is an accomplished Channel 6 helicopter camera operator. She learned of Deserving Décor from her mom who had read an article in the newspaper. Since Amy has a friend who was in a similar loss of home situation she shared “I am very honored that Beth allows me to be part of this venture. This is very near and dear to my heart.”
Amy refurbishes the oftentimes sturdy, but not very attractive, furniture. One of her toughest assignments was an intricately carved side table with layers upon layers of paint. Amy provides this service with her own “out of pocket” monies.
It would be great to have additional volunteers to assist with this.
How about Beth?
“I don’t get paid. It started with a little snowball and became a giant mound of rolling snow that keeps rolling. More and more people were hearing about it and asked to volunteer.”
This is totally philanthropic.
“My life partner, Andrew Joseph Schwartzberg is my catalyst to allow me to do this. I couldn’t do what I do without him!”
She and Andy, the Vice President of Global Administration Services for Dow Jones & Company, Inc. met at a computer meeting almost 20 years ago.
She had additional help from her son Specialist Jared Henry Baker who has suffered a head injury when the U.S. Army helicopter he was riding in was shot down over Fallujah. He was on board a Chinook helicopter November 2, 2003 when it was hit by a surface-to-air missile. Nineteen people on board survived the attack; 16 were killed. Jared woke up six days later at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., with almost no memory of what happened. His progress has been excellent.
Beth is a member of Martha Stewart’s “Dreamers into Doers” a group of women who have turned their passion into their profession, including some nonprofits.
On January 19th and 20th she will be in the group of 40 women traveling from all over the country to Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in NYC as one of 6 speakers at the event.
She is also involved in the Bucks County women’s networking group “Network Now” that gives back to the community by raising awareness and funds for its local nonprofit partners.
Beth shares her birthday with Charles Monroe Schulz (1922 - 2000), creator of the enormously popular fictional characters and the "Peanuts" comic strip.
She is a pioneering, original person initiating action with a creative approach to problem solving.
“In the book of life, the answers aren't in the back.” protagonist Charlie Brown quote.
She originally launched this non-profit, charitable organization in March 2008 of interior decorators, home stagers and volunteers with the help of Beth Allen, Laura Olejniczak, and Sharon McConnell. They mainly had stored decorative items, but really had no furniture.
“In my naive mind, I thought I was just going to go in and decorate.”
They go to work when one family moves out and the first step is that the apartment is cleaned. They needed to “clean, clean, clean” the transitional sheltered apartments.
The furniture donated from thrift stores or individuals is arranged, artwork is placed, curtains are hung and then they add "all the soft furnishings that make it more homey," she said. Beth and her volunteers decorate according to the needs of the incoming tenants and color coordinate bedding, bathroom and kitchen accessories for the family who will typically reside there for six months before relocating to more permanent housing.
At the start, they diligently worked on one residence every couple of months, now they are committed to one every couple of weeks.
Recently, the administration from the American Red Cross Homeless Shelter in Levittown called and asked Beth and her volunteer group to help with the families going into their own subsidized housing.
“I like doing it. It’s a way for me to express myself creatively. You have to be very frugal and think of ways to do things that you ordinarily wouldn’t do it. We repurpose things.”
Extra donations, not designated for “use only” are toted in her Ford F-250 Super Duty pickup truck for sale at the cooperative indoor flea market in Pipersville.
Yesterdays Treasures (formerly Bux-Mont Garden Center)
Saturdays 9:00 a.m.-3 p.m.
6719 Easton Road
Pipersville, PA 18947-9750
The money is put right back to buy what they need to make everything work!
“We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” Mother Teresa
Deserving Décor is a green organization. They recycle furnishings, linens, and home decor items when they makeover transitional apartment housing. Nothing more green than that!
They are looking for lamps with shades, décor, pictures/paintings for the walls, window valances and treatments, bed linens and a box truck to transport these donations.
“A 14’ box truck would be great!”
Monetary donations and donations of gas cards are truly appreciated!
Beth remains dedicated to finding any means of invoking public awareness for the organization and its needs.
Community members are welcomed and encouraged to participate.
The organization is always looking for volunteers, particularly males to help move the furniture. They do need more men. “It's very difficult to move couches and things that are very heavy. We lug a lot of stuff around."
Beth has been quoted as saying, "We need a few good men!"
P.O. Box 1055
Doylestown, PA 18901