First Annual Volunteer Appreciation Event

On Thursday, October 17, 2019, UPward Design For Life Founder/President, Dionne Williamson, and the Board of Directors hosted its first Annual Volunteer Appreciation Event to thank all the volunteers who have worked tirelessly over the first year and ten months of the organizations’ existence, to help furnish homes and transform lives for those in need.

Volunteering with UDFL consists of picking up donations from donors, organizing inventory at the warehouse, taking dishware home to wash, refurbishing donated items when needed and of course furnishing homes for individuals and families. To all the 30 volunteers who have helped change the lives of the roughly 30 families we’ve served, we THANK YOU! A very special thank recognition goes out to Sufana Wajed, Frank Movalli and the Williamson Family: Andre Sr., Imani, Malia and Andre Jr., for going above and beyond with extensive volunteer time and efforts to make the work we do so meaningful.

Thank you, to the UDFL Board Members, for your wonderful contributions toward making our volunteers feel special and appreciated. We look forward to celebrating our volunteers again next year!

Child & Family Services - Annual Celebration of Friends

On June 19th, Dionne Williamson, President & Founder of UPward Design For Life, Corp., was the humble recipient of the William B. Hoyt Memorial Advocacy Award. Special thanks to the Child & Family Services staff and Board, for this wonderful honor and for being one of UDFL’s most active partner agencies. Looking forward to many more years of collaboration, to continue to help improvement the lives, of those in need in our community.

Spreading Hope by Transforming Living Spaces


By Matthew Biddle | December 28, 2018 - Buffalo Magazine

Dionne Williamson has seen, time and time again, the power and joy that a safe, comfortable home can give to those who need it the most. A woman, who finally feels at home, is moved to tears by seeing her kitchen cabinets stocked with dishes and glassware. A child beams from ear to ear because she finally has her own bedroom after living in a homeless shelter. Less stressed, a mother can focus on her children because her house is well-furnished and secure.

“Everyone deserves a nice home,” Williamson said. “When you come home, your place should welcome you—it should say, ‘Welcome home. You’ve had a rough day, now you can kick your feet up for a while.’”

Williamson is the founder of Upward Design for Life, a nonprofit that provides new and gently used furnishings to individuals and families who are transitioning into their own residence and need assistance with basic essentials. All of her clients are referred by partner agencies, including the Family Justice Center, Child & Family Services, Erie County Social Services and Buffalo City Mission. Often, they have been recently homeless or are domestic violence survivors.

“We all need help from time to time,” said Williamson, a certified interior design consultant who spends her day as the national sales director for Visit Buffalo Niagara. “This is not going to answer all of their prayers or solve all of their problems, but it’s one piece to say, ‘Hey, you don’t have to worry about this. Let us do this for you.’”

Upward Design for Life launched in January 2018 and, as of October, had completed 13 projects, relying solely on volunteers, monetary contributions and donations of furniture, decor or other services. In-kind partners, like the Buffalo Museum of Science and Hyatt Regency, have also stepped up by donating complimentary admission and hotel stays for the family to enjoy during their installation.

This fall, the organization moved into a 2,000-square-foot warehouse space that will allow it to support more clients—a huge boost from its previous 12-by-10-foot storage unit.

“It’s not just giving them a table and a sofa,” Williamson said. “When you have those extra things donated—pictures on the wall, flowers and plants, things that make it inviting—and we can put it all together, it gives people a new sense of dignity.”

Story topics: BufFYI

UPward Design For Life's First Warehouse Fundraiser

Special thanks to all who attended our first fundraiser in our new warehouse space! Because of your contributions we were able to raise $715! Not bad for a fundraiser planned in just three weeks.

A very special thanks to Premiere Gourmet for providing the sparking cider, Hale Northeastern for the red carpet treatment and Maureen’s Wholesale Flower shop for the beautiful floral arrangements. Last but not least Will Holton, saxophone extraordinaire, for providing the space with smooth sounds that we would have otherwise not be able to create on our own.

All of your contributions and the assistance from volunteers and family helped make this a very special evening. Thank you!

Brightening Living Spaces And Days To Come

Spectrum News Buffalo Report by Maura Christie | September 1, 2018

Since 2010, Elizabeth Barnes was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, forced into early retirement and became homeless. Barnes fought to get back on her feet and moved into a new apartement with her daughter in June, but something was still missing.

"We haven't had a couch to sit on or anything so this is such a blessing," she said.

That blessing, UPward Design For Life, a non-profit that helps furnish and decorate spaces for those trying to start over.

After launching in January, the non-profit has collected enough donations to be able to help twelve families, including Barnes'.

"She's putting curtains up, she's putting pictures up, I mean it's incredible, I had no idea this is what it was going to be like," Barnes said.

Dionne Williamson who started UPward design for life, says she's happy to be able to play a role in helping these families.

"The reactions are incredible and everyone, every single person has been super grateful so, and like I always, always say, it's not a handout, it's a hand upward. So these are individuals who are already doing what they need to do to create a better life for themselves and their families and getting themselves out of situations that may not have been healthy, to start anew," said Williamson.

As simple as the gesture may be, it can make all the difference.

"If you can give someone a table, a sofa to sit on, a bed to sleep on, even if it is an air mattress, it's not sleeping on the floor," Williamson said.

"Living in this place with nothing  was very hard on me and my daughter, she's 14, it's already making me feel like I have a real home," Barnes said.

By the end of the year, Williamson hopes to help at least five more families. But to fill those spaces properly she needs more furniture and other home items donated, as well as funds.

"The donations we receive are fantastic, we always need furnishings, however we do need financial assistance because with each install, there's money that goes into doing each install, so financial contributions are so needed," Williamson said.

For more information on how to donate, visit


UPward Design For Life Acquires its First Hotel In-Kind Sponsor

UPward Design For Life Corporation is thrilled to have acquired the Holiday Inn Express & Suites, owned by Visions Hotels, as its first hotel in-kind sponsor all thanks to General Manager, Matt Spencer.  The hotel is located at 601 Main Street in downtown Buffalo and is currently undergoing renovations.  Matt suggested to hotel owners that all furnishings and accessories no longer being used should be donated to our organization.  

There are approximately 120 of EACH item being donated!  This is such a big deal for UDFL! We are so excited about the families that will benefit from this thanks to Matt and the generosity of Visions Hotels.  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  

Buffalo Niagara Travel Professionals Supports UPward Design For Life

Dionne Williamson, Founder, was overjoyed to learn that UPward Design For Life Corp. was selected as the non-profit organization the Buffalo Niagara Travel Professionals will be sponsoring this year.  The first donation collection, by BNTP members, proved to be a success!   

Dionne Williamson with BNTPs' President, Verity Folan, as she receives generous donations from members of the organization.

Dionne Williamson with BNTPs' President, Verity Folan, as she receives generous donations from members of the organization.

Much needed cleaning supplies that will be used by volunteers to help clean and spruce up donated furnishings and residences.  Additionally cleaning supplies are also donated to the families being served so they can continue the process of keeping their home clean. 

Much needed cleaning supplies that will be used by volunteers to help clean and spruce up donated furnishings and residences.  Additionally cleaning supplies are also donated to the families being served so they can continue the process of keeping their home clean. 

Non-Profit Helps Family Displaced by Hurricane Maria

Spectrum NewS Buffalo Report

Buffalo is feeling a lot more like home for a family forced to relocate here after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. This, thanks to the the generosity of one organization and lots of volunteers. Spectrum News Reporter Kevin Jolly has their story.

Living room before and after

Living room before and after

Spectrum News Buffalo Report


By Maura Christie  |  February 17, 2018 @5:02 PM

Nadine Mastroleo grew up in Buffalo. After her parents passed away, she wanted to follow their wishes and donate their belongings. 

"I think the main reason is because my parents literally have always wanted to do good things to help other people that maybe needed a little bit of extra help at a time. So one of the things we decided was let's find a group, an organization that can really benefit from all the efforts my parents put into kind of establishing a really good life for me and my sister," she said.

And with a little help from the city of good neighbors, she found UPward Design For Life.

"UPward Design For Life is a non-profit organization that basically furnishes homes and transforms lives for those in need. So if people are transitioning from homeless shelters, domestic violence situations, people who just need help, refugees reestablishing themselves here, veterans and children. That's the type of client that we serve," said founder Dionne Williamson.

Williamson wants to use her love of interior design to show people you don't need a lot of money to create a comfortable and safe place. 

"So our goal is not to provide a hand out, it's not a hand out I always say it's a hand upward. So we're here to help those who are already trying to help themselves but just need a little extra help," she said.

Gently used furniture and other household items are donated from people who no longer have use for them. 

Williamson said, "For those who are donating, it's really something special to them because they see the value and what, what this can bring to someone in need."

For Mastroleo, she wants other families to cherish traditions like her family did.

"My family was really big on having dinners together and so I have this vision of our dining room table being set up, and having a family meal and talking about their day and learning from each other and that's what we used to do. And so to me, I'm paying it forward in some ways."  

Nadine Mastroleo-Donor

Nadine Mastroleo-Donor

Dionne Williamson with team of vounteers.

Dionne Williamson with team of vounteers.

Anything that was needed was available to take.

Anything that was needed was available to take.

Free truck rental from Life Storage.

Free truck rental from Life Storage.

Blueprint Design Studio

It was a pleasure to meet Founder/Designer, Leslie McManus of Blueprint Design Studio which is a full service interior design company located right in Buffalo's lower west side neighborhood!  They have brought creative Artistic Tile to Buffalo.  Blueprint also works with other local companies that offer not only beautiful products but quality and environmentally friendly products as well.  Thanks for introducing UPward Design For Life to C2 Paint and becoming one of our sponsors!  Looking forward to collaborating soon! 

C2 Color Deck.jpg