It Takes A Village
Three years ago, the Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO) decided to get into charity in a big way. It launched the ROI Initiative – short for “Renew, Originate, Implement” – intended to bring design into the lives of people who need it the most.
The endeavour is 100 per cent volunteer driven. ARIDO members, led by executive director and registrar Sharon Portelli, form a planning committee that conducts site visits to decide which proposed project would make the best fit for the year. They then ask for volunteers to fill a design committee, which plans the project, and as well contact suppliers for donations of goods and services. ROI’s first venture was the renovation of Toronto’s CAMH Archway Clinic, which assists people experiencing mental health issues. In 2014, it was Fife House, a service portal for housing and support for people living with HIV/AIDS in the Greater Toronto Area. Last year, just in time to welcome Parapan Am athletes to its training facility, it was Variety Village’s turn. Located in Toronto’s east end, Variety Village has been providing fitness, recreation and life-skills training for both the able-bodied and people with physical and mental challenges, since 1948.
Elaine Teo-Mak, interior designer, planning and design at Sun Life Financial, and a member of the design committee that also included Deborah Sperry, Teresa Sorksa and Sabrina Carinci, describes the experience: “We had a really old space to work with that hadn’t changed for about 30 years. There wasn’t enough room to move around in main reception, where wheelchairs and walkers could create real congestion. The waiting area was full of old, donated furniture that was breaking down, the floor needed to be replaced, and their coffee kiosk was in terrible shape.”
Suppliers came through with the necessary elements: Armstrong and Division 9 donated durable, non-skid flooring, installed by Sands Limited. Haworth/Brigholme, Teknion and Steelcase, along with Spec, Schoolhouse Products, Human Scale and Envirotech, provided the furnishings. PS Agencies and Clarus Glassboards gave the reception desk its back glass, lighting came courtesy of TPL, Benjamin Moore supplied the paint, and millwork installation for the coffee kiosk was by Salsburg Interiors. The kiosk was not a part of the original plans but, realizing it too required serious upgrading and extra funding, ARIDO sponsored a charity baseball game in the summer that amassed a generous $17,000 from the local design community.
The most significant contribution to the Variety Village venture, says Sharon Portelli, was DPI Construction’s project and construction management. Elvio DiSimone, a DPI principal, says he and his partners readily agreed to assist (having worked on ROI’s Fife House refit, this was their second time around with the Initiative). “We thought it a very good way to give back. From a business perspective, I liked that ARIDO allows people the opportunity to put their daily working relationships towards something so worthwhile.”
DPI’s Alexander Mossman, was most deeply involved in the endeavour, both as project construction manager and because he grew up using the facility, along with his sister, who has Down’s Syndrome. “It was dear to my heart – kind of a full-circle experience. When you’re young and just starting out in this business, you sometimes wonder if you’re in the right profession. When this kind of thing lands in your lap, you realize you are in exactly the right place.”
Sharon Portelli says ROI’s planning committee has already picked this year’s project, and it is SKETCH, a downtown Toronto centre offering arts programs and training to homeless and marginalized youth. ARIDO members are encouraged visit www.arido.ca for more information on how to join their confreres in helping prove what a difference great design can make in everyone’s lives.