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Project Becomes Rewarding Experience For Student Designers

Aug. 2, 2010
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

Jamie Blinn, Shannon Mathias, Natalie Kelly and Nathanael Cook, with Sgt. Scott and Heather Worswick (center), stand in the livingroom designed by the SHSU students from scratch as part of a community service endeavor. The four (some of whom are now alumni), along with Aimee Wetzel, were recognized by the American Society of Interior Designers earlier this year for their work.

Marine Sgt. Scott Worswick returned from his second tour of Afghanistan with injuries that would change his way of living.

“He had a wall come down and crush his neck, and he’s had several surgeries working to repair that,” said Sam Houston State interior design alumna Natalie Kelly. “He’s able to walk, but he uses a cane and a neck brace. A lot of the surgeries he’s had are kind of experimental, so they’re concerned that in the future that he may not be able to walk.”

When Kelly and four other members of the student chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers offered their services last summer to Dan Wallrath, president of Bay Area Builders Association and founder of Operation Finally Home, they embarked on a service project that they hoped would make everyday activities easier for Worswick.

“The builder’s son went to Sam Houston and they’re very associated with the university, so they were all on board with us helping,” said Kelly, who was the ASID president at the time. “The chapter was asked to design the interiors for the veteran’s home to help improve the function of the house with respect to the needs of a wounded veteran, as well as to help maximize the available funds for the building projects.”

Kelly, Aimee Wetzel, Shannon Mathias, Jamie Blinn and Nathanael Cook went to work, meeting with Worswick and his family to get a handle on their style, what they were looking for in a home, and what his disabilities were in order to accommodate them in their design.

“We then contacted different companies to find out who would donate items,” she said. "Everything was donated in the house. The family didn’t pay for anything; even the mortgage was taken care of. This was the fifth home, I think, the builder had done for vets.”

The home was in the framing stage when the ASID students got involved with the project, and they were able to make decisions on every aspect of the home from cabinets and countertops to flooring and lighting and even furniture and paint.

“We designed the whole home that would look good and function for him,” Kelly said. “We made countertops higher for him, we chose faucets with levers and handles on the door that were easier to open, and created a shower instead of a bathtub.”

Because of the possibility that Worswick may one day be wheelchair bound because of his injuries, Kelley said the group made choices that would also be accessible to the veteran under those circumstances.

“The group worked with the contractor to make sure the home was ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible, the doors were adequately altered for wheelchair accessibility and that the bathtubs were removed to allow the showers to be larger,” she said. “Throughout the building process, we visited the home to check on the process and to make sure everything was in its proper location.”

The project, which began in June of last year, culminated in November when the Worswick family, including his wife Heather and their two children, Rylan and Lexie, were able to move into the home.

“Once construction was complete the furniture was brought in and a ceremony was held at the home with several notable guests, including Gov. Rick Perry,” Kelly said. “The Worswicks are a wonderful, deserving family, and despite Scott’s unfortunate injury in Afghanistan, he now works with the organization that helped him receive his home.”

For their work, the chapter was recognized in July when the national association recognized the venture as the “Community Service Project of the Year,” accompanied by a $500 prize.

“Service projects like this certainly benefit those students who were involved through the gaining of real world design experiences which they are able to include on their resumes,” said Laura Burleson, program director for interior design and ASID chapter adviser.

“It was a fantastic opportunity for the interior design students to truly do what designers do best, which was for them to use their design knowledge and skills to help individuals and families by creating functional, as well as beautiful spaces in a home while at the same time enhancing their learning and design experience,” she said. “So it was a win-win situation.”

For more information on Dan Wallrath or his Operation Finally Home, which has been nominated for CNN’s Hero of the Year award, visit http://www.babasupport.org/.


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