The "after" picture of a living room at BOSS furnished with Ikea furniture.
The “after” picture of the living room of McKinley House furnished with Ikea furniture.

The families living in the McKinley Family Transitional House in Berkeley now have a lovely space from which to plot their move out from homelessness.

IKEA, the Scandinavian furniture store with an outlet in Emeryville, recently donated $10,000 worth of furniture and design services to McKinley House, located at 2111 McKinley Ave. in central Berkeley. The home, which is operated by BOSS, or Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, won the IKEA Life Improvement Challenge.

Now the living room has a comfortable blue plaid couch, lamps, a desk and shelving area, and new art on the wall. The bedrooms have wood dressers, beds and throw rugs. There is also new outdoor furniture on the lawn.

McKinley House is hosting an open house today from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to show off the redecorated facility. 

This is the “before” picture of the living room at McKinley House. Photo: BOSS
The living room after the IKEA makeover. Photo: BOSS

What makes the award so much more meaningful is that it came as the result of a nomination by an Ikea employee in Emeryville. Jamarr, who has worked for Ikea for nine years, nominated McKinley House because he thought it could help young children from entering the foster care system.

“I nominated theMcKinley House because I was a foster child,” said Jamarr, whose last name was not provided. “If my parents had an opportunity like the residents at the McKinley House, I might not have ended up in the foster care system.”

A “before” photo of one of the bedrooms in McKinley House. Photo: BOSS
An “after” photo of the newly refurbished bedroom at McKinley House. Photo: BOSS

IKEA has been running the IKEA Life Improvement Challenge since 2011 and has donated more than $1 million in products, design expertise, and people hours to more than 120 local charities, according to a press release. McKinley House was nominated for the award in January, along with two other organizations, Compass Clara House in San Francisco and George Mark Children’s House in San Leandro. BOSS, which manages the house, launched an extensive social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook encouraging its supporters to vote daily for McKinley House, according to Jennie Swafford, the communications manager for BOSS.

“It was the community that made it happen,” said Swafford.

McKinley House learned it had won in March. The two finalists were given IKEA gift cards, according to a press release.

“We are so appreciative, not just for this gift from IKEA, which is significant, but also the employee of IKEA who nominated BOSS, and all the individuals who voted for our organization,” said Donald Frazier, the executive director at BOSS. “This gift is helping our community and turning lives around.”

BOSS helps about 1,500 individuals and families each year in a network of houses, shelters, and programs in Alameda County, according to Swafford. The families currently living in McKinley House range from single mothers and single fathers raising their children to one grandmother raising her two grandchildren, she said.

The families typically stay for about two years, said Swafford. BOSS provides them with a range of services to help them return to self-sufficiency, including assistance with government benefits, medical assistance, and employment help. BOSS runs a downtown Oakland employment center that helps people write their resumes, update their resumes, acquire interview-appropriate clothing, and more said Swafford. Many of the families at McKinley House are using those services, she said.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...