If you’ve ever built a home with interior designers, you’ll know the relationship between the two professions can be adversarial. Construction and esthetics don’t always come together seamlessly. But for 23 years, Tom Andrews, Bonnie Walters and Al Black, have delivered stunning homes for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Dream Home Lottery.
With their teams and their arsenal of friends, vendors and partners – who often gave up more lucrative jobs and charged only their cost for materials in order to help – Avanti Homes, Walters & Walters Design Consultants, and Above the Bank Interiors, became our Big Brothers and Sisters in the most important annual fundraiser for our organization and the services we deliver in support of healthy kids.
We met Tom and Bruce Andrews in 1991 through their brother Larry, who the year prior, assisted us in securing land for our lottery campaign. Tom and Bruce agreed to build us a house. And they agreed the next year, and the next year, and the next, building 29 of the most beautifully crafted homes over the next 23 years. With the array of construction booms, land shortages, weather and natural disasters we face in Alberta, remarkably, only one home was not ready when the doors were set to open. One year Tom’s wife Karen shared with us that he was on site at five o’clock every morning to make sure every detail was right. Something Tom himself, the most humble, caring and committed of men, would never have shared.
Bonnie Walters and Al Black came into our lives at the same time as Avanti. Through a chance encounter when Executive Director, Liz O’Neill was shopping for staff Christmas gifts, these two gifted designers agreed to work with us on that first Avanti Dream Home. They harnessed their creative minds to design a house that anyone could see themselves calling home. They kept coming back too, with a year round process of planning finishes, colour palettes, furniture and draperies to last minute dressing of the house right down to photos in the frames, wine in the racks and definitely no fingerprints on the fridge.
Avanti, Above the Bank, and Walters & Walters became so much more than our builder and designers. It has been a true family affair. Each year everyone came together as a ‘family’ in order that we might help other families in the community. Our Dream Home fundraiser was the vehicle to make that happen and the focus that united us.
Our ‘family’s’ involvement did not end with Dream Home. When Riverdale needed a new pantry, Avanti built it for us. When we needed to put in carpets or repaint our walls, Above the Bank and Walters & Walters helped us choose colours.
Al remembers a time when a young man came up to them and thanked them for helping out with the Dream Home. He said that his family was into drugs and that without Big Brothers Big Sisters he probably would have gone down that same path.
“It was heartwarming to hear those stories and to watch some of these kids grow up over the years.” Bonnie adds. “It has really allowed all of us to dedicate a piece of our lives to the kids and given us the opportunity to donate our talent to create so that they can succeed in life.”
“People often say that in the business community, you should plan for relationships to last between three and five years,” says Liz. “Our 23-year relationship with our builders and designers truly demonstrates their commitment to our cause and our community.”
Bonnie, Al, Tom, as well as their teams, believe in building and decorating homes for communities today and for our futures generations. Year after year, they have turned that belief into concrete results for our kids and families. We count ourselves blessed to have had these incredible organizations and individuals walking beside us all these years.
It is for all these reasons and many more that we were honoured to present Avanti Homes, Above the Bank Interiors, and Walters & Walters Design Consultants with the 2014 President’s Award of Merit at our Annual General Meeting and Recognition Event on September 8. On behalf of the children and families we serve, we thank you all sincerely for your support an d friendship. We look forward to new ways to continue to support our community’s kids together.