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