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August 23, 2017

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Design firm owner’s Good Deed Project connects the dots for those in need

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Mikayla Whitmore

Doris Mejia and Mandy Telleria outside a Lowe’s in Las Vegas, Nev. on December 27, 2016.

Mandy Telleria remembers watching her mother, a Mexican immigrant, work two jobs to provide for her and her half-brother. She remembers the winter the fridge broke, when what little food they had went into a cooler until Telleria’s mother could scrape together the money for repairs. At the same time, a teenage cousin reached out for a place to stay, and there wasn’t a moment of hesitation.

How to help: The Good Deed Project

• Contact Mandy Telleria at 702-885-8690 to donate or volunteer

• Check out renovations on Facebook @TheGOODDEEDproject100

How to help: Safe House

• Donate: gently used books, clothes and small household items, canned food, appliances, gift cards for gas and groceries, bus passes, personal hygiene products, toys and school supplies

• Shop: thrift stores like the Giving Store and Lootique, which donate profits (once overhead is paid) to SAFE House

• Volunteer: safehousenv.org/volunteer

“One of her biggest goals was to make sure we had, obviously, food on the table and a place to live, but a decent place to live,” Telleria said, adding that her mom’s kindness extended to anyone in need.

Now, 33-year-old Telleria is paying it forward through her nearly 2-year-old nonprofit organization, the Good Deed Project, which renovates other nonprofit organizations pro bono. Its first beneficiary was Living Grace, a shelter for homeless teenage mothers. Telleria said that while construction was ongoing, one of the young women living there peeked at the overhaul of the antiquated, leaking bathroom and said, “I’ve never had such a nice bathroom in my entire life.”

“I understand that when you see something, then you see possibility,” Telleria said. “And when she saw that bathroom, she saw that something else was possible.”

Telleria, who manages her own design firm, Voi (pronounced voy), and teaches architectural design technologies at College of Southern Nevada, is focused now on remodeling Safe House, a shelter for victims of domestic abuse. Work on the 8,000-square-foot structure and its nine suites began in 2016, but it wasn’t as easy as just wanting to help.

Given the sensitivity around the safety of its tenants, the shelter’s location is not disclosed, so volunteers had to be thoroughly vetted, and construction had to be done around the women, children and families.

On a visit to Lowe’s, Telleria asked a manager for a donation of new blinds. She got the blinds, and a meeting with human resources manager Doris Mejia, who explained the Heroes project: Each Lowe’s store has a budget to help nonprofits. Mejia realized her store couldn’t cover all nine suites, so she recruited seven others.

Lowe’s Heroes donated supplies, and store employees volunteered to do the labor.

“It has touched my heart to know that a renovation has such an impact on them and how they live, and how they receive hope from living in a space that was designed just for them,” Telleria said.

The shelter houses up to 55 people at a time. Last year, it served about 800 survivors — often near capacity — and it has been a decade since its last renovation.

“You can imagine the wear and tear,” said Annette Scott, director of advocacy and outreach.

One suite’s subfloor was rotting and another wasn’t level, and there was mold, Mejia said. The windows had to be covered for the survivors’ privacy, but some had sheets pinned up. Safe House depends on donations, and Scott said sometimes, there just wasn’t money for blinds.

The passion project was founded by Julie and the late Ken Proctor. She was a survivor of an abusive first marriage, and he was a Henderson municipal court judge who witnessed the revolving door of families entering his courtroom.

“When the abuse was happening to me in the ’70s, there were no facilities, there were no services, and it was very frightening. I was young; I had a child,” said Proctor, executive director of Safe House. “It has been my desire not to have anyone who comes through our doors feel that way. … When we built the shelter in 1997, we wanted it to be homey. … That’s what Mandy has done.”

In addition to shelter, Safe House provides counseling and training for work and life in the hope that survivors can move past their abuse.

“Some victims choose to go back,” Proctor said. “If that’s what they want, we give them case plans, we give them safety planning; our doors are always open to them to return. But there are a few who we’ve lost over the years.”

Proctor said that in cases of domestic abuse, help frequently doesn’t come even when friends and neighbors see or hear things, mostly because they assume someone else is stepping in.

“I think the community needs to be more involved,” she said.

Telleria is. Her background in the design world helps her network to do good deeds. The Safe House project included a $5,000 grant from NV Energy for an LED lamp and a reduction in the facility’s energy bill; Lowe’s Heroes helped with supplies and installation; landscaping company Silver Lands Inc. redid the yards with plants donated by Star Nursery.

“The name of the Good Deed Project came through knowing that I wouldn’t be able to do this by myself,” Telleria said, “one good deed at a time.”

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