Dreaming Big, Giving Big

By Kate Riley March 13, 2011

I’ve been meaning to share this with all of you for some time, and wasn’t quite sure how to say it.  This project is a little different, but it is one that means a lot to me. 

Whenever someone asks me where I see myself in five years, the first answer that I give is ‘fixing up spaces for those who really need it, not those who can afford it’.  I feel in my heart that I want to spend part of my time giving back some of what’s been given to me.   The mantra I have heard over and over in my head for months now is ‘there are real people with real needs who need real solutions.’  I talked it over with my hub, and we came to an agreement months ago that we were going to reach out into our own community and find somewhere to help. 

We called the Committee on the Shelterless (or COTS) to offer our services, and as with all non-profits, they welcome all the help they can get.  We gave them some information, and told them what we had to offer.  They ran a background check, and a week later, we adopted a house.  The Alma House. 

Historically, the act of almsgiving is a material donation to the needy.  ‘Alma’ in Spanish means ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’.  The name of the street where our adopted house is located is Alma Drive.  We deemed it a sign, and The Alma Project was born. 

alma project button

What is The Alma Project

The Alma Project is the transformation of a fixer upper house into a comfortable functional home for women who desperately need it.  Living inside the Alma House are three single mothers, previously homeless, who reside for free on the condition that they are learning skills, stabilizing their lives, attending counseling, and remain drug and alcohol free.  These mothers are saving their money from their part time jobs and raising their children as best as they can.  They have no time or money to fix up this house.  They are real women with real needs who need real solutions. 


This is our adopted Alma House. 

adopted house


We have a lot of plans in the works to help it become a harmonious and functional home.  To start, we’d like to upgrade the entry to add storage for shoes, coats, school backpacks, etc. 

better use of wall space


The community living space is lacking real storage solutions, this wall has a lot of potential for greater practicality in the household. 

media solution


The great room also needs a more functional design to serve both the adults and the six children. 

more functional


The garage and laundry area is in desperate need of cabinets, a small folding station, and rows of shelving for storage for seasonal clothing, and overflow belongings.   

laundry room help


The bedrooms also need help since the mothers are sharing the sleeping space with their two children, and some are even sleeping on the floor.  If we can raise extra money, we will update the kitchen too, more pictures and updates to follow! 

All of our time is donated, and even some of our income, plus I’m also actively seeking donations from local businesses to donate paint and supplies.

But this is where you come in ~ I need your help

I have a huge list of needs including beds and mattresses and linens, cabinets, bookshelves, dressers, and storage containers, just to name a few.  I also need to hire some carpenters and contractors to assist with a few construction related problems. 

I truly hope you’ll help, even if it’s only a $5 dollar donation.

Click on the button in the sidebar to donate through PayPal.*

If you wish to donate by check, please click here for the mailing address.

alma project button

I’m having difficulty getting PayPal to recognize the embedded button link here, but I’m working on it!

We will be updating our progress throughout the year, and if we can finish The Alma Project, our goal and our big dream is to adopt one house just like this one each year.  This is just the beginning!  

Thanks for listening today, and thank you for your support in this new venture. 


cg kate signature

*Full accounting for all expenditures available to all sponsors on request at the end of the year.



  1. What a wonderful project to help others that need all the help the can get. It it ofen unnoticed or not done anything with the needs that aren´t primary needs, but in reality those things make a big difference for people´s lives. More power to you!

  2. Good Morning Kate,

    I knew the Lord woke me up extra early for a reason! Happy to donate and I wish you and your husband much luck with your new endeavor. I know you will create a warm and loving place for these women and their children. I look forward to following your progress. Hugs to your man for having such a full and loving heart for others. You both inspire!

    Your friend,
    The Empty Nest

  3. Absolutely wonderful!!! I am so glad you are sharing your talent with others that need it so much. I was going to ask for you to come visit me and redo my humble abode because I love your creations but I suppose this is a much better place to give your time!!! :) How exciting for you. Will be praying for you and the women that are being blessed by you!

  4. You have such a big heart, and you guys are a wonderful example not only to readers, but your peers as well. I love that you are passing some blessings on. :) Can’t wait to see how your Alma House comes along!

  5. Who knew there was such a place and opportunity to use your fabulous skills? Kate I have admired you in the past but my admiration has reached a new level. What a wonderful way to contribute. I will be assisting you the best I can from here in Australia.

  6. Kate- I wonder how many soul sisters you have out there?! Yours was the first blog I started reading that inspired me to take on creative projects and gave me the tools I needed to get started. And after reading this I just know we must have been good friends in a previous life ;). I would love to do something this one day – you are amazing. I just made my first donation and hope to make a few more a long the way. Good Luck!

  7. what a wonderful idea Kate (and hubs!). you are going to make that house a HOME…excited to follow along with the project!

  8. Good Morning,

    I’ve been following your blog for a few weeks now, and I have to say I’ve enjoyed it very much. And this morning, when I read your post, it made me feel so glad that I decided to read it! This is something I’ve been wanting to do myself, and I applaud your efforts into helping others have a better life. It’s truly wonderful!. Please keep us posted!

  9. What a wonderful, inspiring read to wake up to with my cup of coffee this morning! I will be donating as well. You are transforming not only this house for these families but also their lives! Thank you!

  10. great project, what a wonderful way to give back, congratulations, I am sure you will transform those people’s lives!

  11. Wow, Kate! I can’t think of a better way to use your incredibly creative talents. Can’t wait to see the progress. God Bless!

  12. Kate,

    What a wonderful way to use your talents to give back to those in need. I’m sure you will make this space a beautiful, functional “home” to those who live there. I look forward to seeing what you do and am more than happy to contribute to your big hearted project.


  13. We had a similar housing arrangement for single moms where i grew up and it too was in need of a lot of TLC. I pray that the needs are met and the finances do come through. IF we can contribute we certainly will!

  14. I’m having some difficulty with the link to paypal. Would it be possible for you to email me the details? This is a fantastic cause. You are an inspiration!

  15. What a wonderful project! Not only will this bless the women and their children tremendously, but I believe God will bless you and your family.

  16. What a wonderful, wonderful thing for you to do… good luck with this house, I can’t wait to follow along and see how you transform the space to help these mothers work to transform their lives and that of their kids in a safe, comfortable environment.

  17. What an awesome project! I so wish I were able to do something like that right now. I will try to donate as soon as I am able and I’d love to do a post about this, if you don’t mind (or if you’d like to guest post, that would be awesome too!).


  18. What an incredible gift you are giving to your community. I have been doing charity work my whole life: some in big ways but most in small ways and it is still amazing what even the littlest bit of help can do. I will definitly donate to your cause and will link this to my blog. I have been trying to think of ways I could use my design skills to truly help others and you have inspired me to look for something like this in my community. Thanks so much and good luck!!

  19. Hi Kate-

    Giving back with your talents to me is the best way to give. We take it for granted that we have the means and the skills to create beauty and comfort for ourselves. Helping others make their houses truly into homes is a wonderful idea!!!

    I just went to your Paypal site – very easy. I was done in less than 2 minutes. Good Luck on your endeavor. I look forward to seeing your progress and photos.

    My best- Diane

  20. YOU. ARE. AWESOME!!! I wish I were close enough to pick up a paint brush or hammer to help – I’ll donate instead.

  21. Thanks so much everyone! All of your donations are helping and I assure you they will go to such good use!

    I’ll be sharing more of these mother’s backstory as we progress, and with their permission. Truth is, they don’t even know about my website, they just think we’re some nice couple from the area. I like it that way for now. Keep us in your prayers that we are able to accomplish as much as we can.


  22. This is exactly like a goal that I have – to put my thrifty design skills (That I’ve learned from blogland) to use helping create a warm and inviting home for those less fortunate. Wish I could donate my mattresses, but I’m in DC. . . probably not very feasible. Off to donate some moolah!

  23. That is wonderful. I would donate if I could, I will definitely follow along with you on your journey. If you have a button for us financially challenged bloggers to support the effort by helping to get the word out, I can add it to my sidebar on my little blog (:

  24. This is a great cause Kate (and Mr. CG) and I’m sure these women and children are going to benefit greatly from your giving spirit. They sure are going to have a rockin house when you are finished! I can’t donate much but I am more than happy to give what I can in order to make The Alma Project succeed. Good luck!

  25. This is an amazing cause. I would love to help you. You’re a bit north of me so I’ll give through Paypal. Thank you for doing this for these women and children. I love to quilt and would love to donate quilts for their beds. Knowing their likes would be nice but not necessary. Good luck with this project and I know it’ll be a worthwhile success. I will love seeing the updates that you do.

  26. Such an inspiring cause! These women are truly blessed with your time and generosity.

  27. Wow, you truly are a living inspiration! The picture of using your talents to fulfill a calling and help others :) Praying for this wonderful endeavor!

  28. I am so moved by you and your husbands kindness. I think that is incredible what you are doing and I hope that one day I will be able to do the same thing for someone else. I cannot wait to see how it all turns out. xoxo

  29. I can’t describe how much it warms my heart that you and your family have taken on this project. I hope to someday be able to make such a huge positive change in someone’s life.

  30. I’ve been following your blog among others over the last few weeks (just started getting into blog-land). I’ve never been moved to comment on any project before this one. This is truely a very special goal and I am really looking forward to seeing how the projects in the house develop. This is going to make a huge change in the mother’s lives who live there – and those changes will pay it forward for the many women who continue to habitate there. Good luck!

  31. Giving back is THE MOST rewarding thing!- especially in a world of blogging and home design (Im not a home designer but I read a lot of HD blogs)- I sometimes find myself wondering where the purpose (for lack of a better word) is in this type of work- besides of course, making pretty things…but this, this is totally awesome- what a great cause and idea- I am so excited for you! What an inspiration you are:)

  32. I love this!! Brings tears to my eyes!! I know you will make it lovely! <3

  33. What a beautiful effort you’re launching here, Kate! There are so many needs in our communities and I love that you’ve found a way to use your gifts for those deserving women and children. Bless you! You can count on me.

  34. This is a wonderful cause! Life is not worth it if you can’t give back :) God bless you, Kate. You have a heart of gold!

  35. I think this is an amazing thing you’re doing. What a lucky family to have you helping them! Can’t wait to see the progress. :)

  36. Kate,
    This is an amazing idea! You are generous to donate your time and talents to a project that I can see already holds a special place in your heart. I’m sure it’s going to take a lot of work, both fundraising and labor, to get this done but you were so smart to pick a project that involves doing something you love. The fact that you truly care about decorating and have a sincere desire to make this house a beautiful home for the women and children who live there is going to shine through in every step of the process.
    Best of luck! Of course, I’m exciting to see progress pictures throughout the year :)
    Mary Catherine

  37. What a big heart you have Kate and a fabulous plan to help these women. I wish you and your husband good success in these ventures. I hope to donate soon! One question. Are these financial gifts tax-deductible?

  38. I’ve been following your blog and your work for a little while and this is just amazing! you have a wonderful gift and its so great that you’re giving back! :)

  39. oh Kate, this is just beautiful! I love love love what you and your hubby are doing! Wish I was on your side of the country to help out!

  40. How nice of you and your husband to reach out to others who can use your help. I wish you all the best as you take on this project. God bless you.

  41. What a awesome place! Please make sure that someone straps that TV to the wall since it appears to be a heavier TV. I don’t mean to be negative but know that this can be a huge safety issue with little ones around.

  42. I not only donated, but posted the link on my facebook so my friends could read about the Alma Project! I love it you are following your passion and helping families in need at the same time. I look forward to seeing the progress!

  43. Kate, this is such a vital thing that you are doing. I am involved with Room Service Atlanta, which was just started late last year. A group of 13 designers, we are donating our time to fix up the Nicholas House homeless shelter. We hope to do many more after this one. It is some of the most rewarding work I have ever done. To hear that you are doing it too, just makes my heart so full.

    Congrats on starting it, glad to make a donation and good luck!



  44. Kate, this is such a vital thing that you are doing. I am involved with Room Service Atlanta, which was just started late last year. A group of 13 designers, we are donating our time to fix up the Nicholas House homeless shelter. We hope to do many more after this one. It is some of the most rewarding work I have ever done. To hear that you are doing it too, just makes my heart so full.

    Congrats on starting it, glad to make a donation and good luck!



  45. What an amazing new project, Kate! I know you will help this women have a house that feels like a home. One of the most worthy things I have donated to in quite some time. Make it great!

  46. Kate–
    You are onto something great here. I was going to email you and ask what your long term goals were when you started your blog and where you wanted to be after celebrating two years of blogging and appearing on Nate. I think you found it and wish you nothing but the best!!
    Continued success…

  47. That will be a wonderful project for you. 5 years ago we (my sister and I) decided the kids in our community needed a better playground and got to work. A year later, with the help of 50 committee members and 6,000 community volunteers, and 100 businesses who donated money, food and expertise, our committee donated a $1.2 million playground to the City.

    One of the hardest and best things I’ve ever experienced. What you are doing now will change their lives AND yours! Let me know if you need any tips about fundraising, getting donations etc. When we started that was the one part I thought I couldn’t do. By the end, I could look a big corporation in the eye and ask for $50,000. Amazing growth for EVERYONE when we stretch beyond what WE think we are capable of and do what HE thinks we are capable of!

  48. Kate,

    I love that you are doing this, I also have been looking for more ways to give back in my community. You are going to be such a blessing to these women, but in the end, you’ll be the one who feels blessed!

  49. Kate, what a wonderful thing to do for these families! So great when we can help those in our own communities and cities. Will be keeping you in my prayers as you work your magic.

  50. What a great thing to do!!! If I were near you, I’d love to come help. Since I’m not though, I donated! Hope it helps! I can’t wait to see what you do.

  51. Wow! As a single mother of three this truly touches my heart. I think it is amazing what you and your husband are doing. I hope you know that this will be more than just fixing up a home…but I’m sure you do. Being a single parent can be very lonely and you feel like no one gets it or understands how hard it is. My budget is obviously VERY tight but I would love to donate goods…maybe artwork for the kids rooms or something. Contact me if you have a need….Can’t wait to see the progress!

  52. I think what you are doing is so worthwhile and I commend you for taking on such a big project. Bless you.

  53. This is a wonderful thing that you are doing. I just sent a donation, I wish I could give more.

  54. I’m super excited to watch this unfold. I’ll send a check in the mail.

  55. This warms my heart and makes me want to find a project in my community. Donation coming your way!!!

  56. Kate, it’s awesome what you’re doing with this house! This weekend I did some work on houses that had been damaged in floods. It was great getting to help but it was even cooler meeting some of the people who work on projects like this (or habitat for humanity) all the time. Some of the older guys were retired and this is all they do! Those guys, along with this post, have been super inspiring! Thanks :)

  57. This is an incredible idea. Way to go! I love it.

    Have you thought about building some of the furniture they’ll need (a’ la Ana-White.com)? It’s really simple construction, and you can get so much more out of your furnishing dollar. (A PB farmhouse-style bed for less than $150, anyone?)

    I can’t wait to see what you’ll do with this space.

    And can I just say that I love how incredibly clean it is? Even if there were toys spread everywhere, you could tell that this space is kept really clean underneath.

    Once my husband has work, you can bet I’ll be coming back to make a donation. :)

  58. Are there any projects we could complete for you? I was looking at the Enchanted Makeover link somebody left and they were talking about handmade contributions. I would be happy to make some fleece blankets or quilts to donate for the kids to be able to snuggle up with!

  59. This is a great idea! You were my number one favourite blogger already for your unpretentious and thrifty approach to making things beautiful and reading about this project just makes me so happy. Its nice to know that there are people who do care.

  60. What an amazing project!! Those women are so blessed that you are sharing your time and talents with them…and I’m sure you’ll be so full of blessings in return!

  61. I’d love to be involved in something like this! I wish there was something in my area! Is there anything else that people from far away can send to help out?

  62. WOW!!! This is so nice of you all! Coming from a single mom, you have no idea how much better this will make them feel!
    I really wish I had the money to donate, since I dont, I will donate my prayers. I will pray that lots of businesses donate money to help all of you who are doing this kind of stuff and that those contractors you hire will not charge you (lol)!
    I think it is wonderful. It would be nice if there were places like that in my area. I dont have much time to donate either but I would like to see other single parents get that kind of boost who have it rough right now. I do all that stuff in my own home that I am getting ready to buy as I save a little here and there each month to do some remodeling things that desperately need done.
    Keep up the good work everyone!!!

  63. Go to ana-white.com for DIY projects for the entry way storage, media wall, kids bunks, etc. Ana is a GREAT designer of easy-to-make furniture.

    And learning that you can make things, and help mom make things, is empowering.

  64. What a great cause! I have my own business selling decorative lettering for walls. I would love to donate some expressions for the home that you can use to inspire and uplift these ladies. Contact me and we can figure out what I can help with.

  65. As a single mother of two, this really touched me. Our bedrooms are atleast painted, but work on the rest of the house will begin this spring. The inspiration and education that can be found in blogs such as yours, and Centsationalgirl is at the top of my list, gives us what we need to make our homes more livable, homier, and happier. I can’t wait to see my home after we go from the builder’s white everything to a HOME.

    My donation of $10 is small, but it’s what I can do for now. I wish you all the best of luck!

    Thank you for helping these families!

  66. Oh Kate. I would give my left arm to be there to help you-your heart is one of a kind. What an amazing ministry you have been given. I would be so blessed to make the bedding for these mothers and sweet children. You let me know what colors you have in mind and I will design and hand sew something beautiful. Email me when you have time and we can discuss.



  67. Kate,
    What a wonderful idea and a fun way to give back. So often people help others in the way of food and money, but I have never seen anyone do something of this nature. Everyone woman wants a pretty home with lots of storage. Nothing can lift the spirits more than a pretty place to put your feet up. I bet you will see these ladies pay it forward someday. I have given a helpful hand to friends who just were lost on what to do in their homes and had very small budgets. It was a ton of fun and hearing her say she feels like she got a new home was wonderful. May this venture reward your heart in many way.

  68. Thank goodness for people like you! (and your husband)
    I believe this truly is the greatest country and it’s because of people like you. Doing something for others, with out expecting anything in return. I would love to help out and I will be talking with my husband to see what we can donate to the cause.
    God bless you both, and these Mom’s for all their handwork too.

  69. That is an incredible project. I’m happy to see someone dreaming big and then going for it! What an incredible ministry to start!
    Blessings on your ministry and this house!

  70. You have a gift, Kate, and your willingness to share it with others is inspirational. God blessed you with generosity as well as talent and tenacity!

    Our family will definitely be making a donation to the Alma Project.

    Keep those pictures coming!

  71. I just saw this posting today and I just wanted to write to tell you what a wonderful thing you are doing! You are inspiring me to dream big dreams. I am in the process of starting a blog and I’d love to dream big as you have done. Great job and thank you for doing such an awesome thing!

  72. Wow! It’s people like you and your “hub” that make this world a bit more of a beautiful place. And more than just in a material way! Imagine if all designers did this in their community? When its all said and done, what will you be most proud of? Your gorgeous living room or the difference you made in someone’s life? That’s the question we all have to ask ourselves.
    God Bless your project!

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