Dionne Williamson takes donations of gently used furniture and household items, and transforms the homes – and lives – of people in need of a fresh start.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Dionne Williamson is a National Sales Director for Visit Buffalo Niagara full-time, but in her spare time, she wanted to use her passion and talents to help people.

“I have a passion for interior design and I love helping people so this was the perfect combination,” said Williamson, who is also a Certified Interior Design Consultant.

Four years ago, Williamson established UPward Design for Life, with the goal of “furnishing homes and transforming lives for those in need.” She collects donations of gently used furniture, décor and household items from the community. Once a member agency refers a client, Williamson and her volunteers get to work, turning a living space into a home. 

 “We actually go in and place the furniture, we hang the pictures and curtains, and lay down areas rugs and accent pieces just to make it feel complete and like a home,” said Williamson.

They serve anyone transitioning from a shelter, domestic violence survivors, refugees, veterans, young people aging out of foster care, and individuals looking for a fresh start. 

“So it’s a perfect opportunity to take other people’s used items and repurpose them for a greater good for another family who needs them,” she said. 

Mettra Thompson of Cheektowaga escaped a dangerous relationship and recently transitioned out of a shelter for abused women. She’s trying to get back on her feet but she doesn’t have the means to furnish her new apartment.

“My abuser messed up a lot of my things, and I didn’t have a bed and was sleeping on my couch,” Thompson said.

The shelter referred Thompson to UPward Design for Life, and last weekend Williamson and her children delivered a couch, bed, mattress, dresser, linens, curtains, décor, and hand-painted artwork. They set it all up and transformed Williamson’s apartment.

“There’s a caring heart out there. And Dionne is one of them. She’s an angel. I’ve got a bed to sleep in. It’s just a blessing for me.”

What the recipients get is much more than just a home makeover- it’s dignity, worthiness, and the confidence to start anew.

“You want to feel good about the place that you call home and it’s wonderful to be able to give people that feeling,” said Williamson.

If you’re interested in donating items, making a monetary donation, volunteering or helping in other ways, please visit UpwardDesignForLife.org or email [email protected]

Follow UPward Design for Life on Facebook here.