Creating a Better Community: The Zaban Couples Center
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank
When the Zaban Couples Center opened nearly 30 years ago as a project of The Temple Synagogue in midtown Atlanta, its purpose was to create a safe community where homeless couples could receive the guidance and support they needed to improve their lives. Twelve years ago, the facility was relocated to the donated Selig Center building on Peachtree Street, which was a former insurance company office. At this point, Zaban Couples Center became a stand-alone non-profit entity. The initial focus was on making the center a safe place by repairing roof leaks, servicing HVAC, and taking care of other bare necessities.
A few years ago, the collaboration began to turn former office space into a warm and inviting environment. The Georgia chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) reached out to their partners and requested donations of design talents and ideas. A group of students at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta, led by Professor Liset Robinson, contributed their gifts of creativity and youthful energy as part of a final design project for group living spaces. Among the many resources of the IIDA were their industry partners, such as Mohawk Industries and Cresa Atlanta. Numerous contractors, companies and organizations donated equal amounts of talent, materials and manpower to the project, and together they transformed an anonymous office space into a haven of comfort and healing.
Cresa Atlanta Vice President-Project Management, Michael Rice, a volunteer and member of The Temple, was gratified to see the academic and business community come together. As a member of the SCAD Atlanta Advisory Council Board (AAC), he was especially proud of the school’s involvement, as SCAD Atlanta sits directly across the street from the Zaban Couples Center. He cited the project as a “living example of the SCAD students’ collaborative design talents.” The SCAD students designed the living quarters for the couples and donated manpower to make the living spaces a reality. The student’s work produced private rooms for the young couples, a dining area, classrooms, computer lab and other common areas that now foster learning and provide a home for displaced men and women.
In the latest phase of work, Michael Rice reached out further to the real estate and construction industries to make the latest visions come true. One contributor, the Mohawk Group, a leading producer and distributor of flooring products, donated flooring to the project. They also connected the Zaban Center to an installer who donated labor for the installation. Keli Lauric, an Account Executive with the Mohawk Group, was glad to partner with a project that was compatible with Mohawk’s mission statement of conducting business in a socially, economically and environmentally responsible manner. “This project goes beyond the professional relationships and created a common thread of community,” Lauric said.
Since the bulk of the project has been completed, several of the vendors have visited the center and had dinner with the residents. Others are continuing work on various design projects, including 25 unique pieces of art created by volunteers. One significant contribution was a painting donated by project sponsor Steelcase Atlanta. According to Michael Rice, it was themed and built upon “what the Zaban Couples Center does for couples under severe stress—pulling them into a sheltered environment.”
Linda Davis, a member of the Board of Directors of the Zaban Couples Center, said that it was “humbling to have the design, construction, real estate and business community come together to lend a hand. In fact, the more we worked together on the project and realized the impact it was going to have, the more we realized the relationships are instrumental to the evolution of the center.” Because of the good business practices, collaborative atmosphere and dedication of the companies and organizations involved, the Zaban Couples Center will be able to offer struggling couples support for years to come.
Blog contributed by Michael Rice, Vice President-Project Management, Cresa Atlanta. Michael is a Georgia registered Interior Designer, LEED AP and a member of IIDA and IFMA.
For more information on the Zaban Couples Center, visit their website and learn how you can become a part of the collaborative process.
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