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From homeless to home – cozy decorating tips on a shoestring budget

Imagine you and your spouse and children have no place to live. You have bounced around between friends, family and even slept in your car. Your spouse is disabled and you are doing all you can to simply feed your children and live another day.

Then MUST Ministries hears of your plight and offers you a place to live. It’s a beautiful two-bedroom apartment, fully furnished with a walk-in closet, washer and dryer, fireplace and even a little patio near a playground.

Thanks to a Housing and Urban Development grant, MUST is opening 10 apartments this spring to house three families and 14 individuals. The challenge was how to make these sterile, empty apartments feel like home. That’s when Rachel Castillo, MUST VP of Programs, teamed up with Marcie Millholland, a designer and youth minister, to change everything.

Marcie Millholland

Marcie Millholland

“We started at the MUST Donation Center and found artwork, mirrors and bedding. We found lamps at the MUST Marketplace thrift store and started searching for furniture. The grant covered some furniture and some was given to MUST.”

Marcie took donated sheets and made them into bright, white curtains with teal stamps. She covered pillows and spray-painted picture and mirror frames for the mantle. Candles added ambiance and plants, fruit and other accents made the apartment smell inviting.

“Being creative with what you find is the key to decorating on a budget, but it’s so satisfying to design with a frugal spending budget. When you see the finished work, it’s amazing what you can do from thrift store finds!”

She spray painted an old metal typewriter table, perfect for outdoor living, to add a pop of color on the patio. She used a bowl of oranges for the dining room table, adding the color with fruit to create an inviting place to dine.

A throw pillow at the desk chair and a wall of artwork in the living room all gave the environment a welcoming feel. Marcie’s Bachelor of Visual Art degree from Georgia State University and experience as a designer certainly helped her find unique ways to upgrade the space.

This project was a ministry of love, she said. “If I can use my gifts and talents to help others, I want to do that.” She’s already planning to help others in the MUST housing program to make their environments more comfortable and inviting. “It adds a sense of dignity,” she said.

Can you imagine walking into a fully designed apartment after not having a place to call home in more than a year? “This place will quickly become home and be a life-changing second chance.”

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