CARLSBAD — This summer, Pacific Ridge School seniors Meghan Grogan, of Encinitas, and Margaret Zhao, of Carlsbad, used their love of aesthetics and design to help residents at the San Diego Rescue Mission (SDRM) feel more at home.
Grogan and Zhao, along with seven Pacific Ridge classmates, spent four days of their summer vacation painting, assembling furniture and hanging artwork as part of a redesign of the SDRM Recuperative Care Unit common room. According to Zhao, the common room – an area of the non-profit homeless shelter where residents socialize, play games, read books and watch TV – was not previously a welcoming environment.
“The room felt sterile and lifeless,” Zhao said. “At home, you usually don’t leave the walls white and blank. You decorate and accessorize. We wanted this to be a place where people would feel comfortable and at home – where they would want to spend time.”
The redesign project, deemed “Operation Color” by Grogan, was developed as part of a school social entrepreneurship initiative. Students are asked to think of a community in need, and to design a social action project that can positively impact that community. Students who are passionate about their ideas can apply for funding in their junior year to help see the projects to completion.
Last fall, Grogan and Zhao presented their plan to a panel of judges at Pacific Ridge and were awarded $700 for the project. They also applied for, and received, a “Community Impact Grant” from Home Depot that helped offset the cost of paint and supplies. Creative classmates donated handmade artwork to bring life to the common room walls.
“The result is a much more cheerful shared space for SDRM residents, many of whom poked their heads in the room throughout the transformation process to thank the students for their work. Several of our residents have commented about how the color of our redesigned community room adds life to our unit,” said Chris Cessna, director of Recuperative Care at San Diego Rescue Mission. “The improvements have provided a safe, comfortable place for our residents to feel at home.”