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Marin County woman helps young adults who age out of foster care by decorating homes

Marin County woman turns living spaces into homes for those who age out of foster care
Marin County woman turns living spaces into homes for those who age out of foster care 03:26

On this National Foster Care Month, the Marin Foster Care Association says 35 percent of foster children are placed outside of Marin County because there aren't enough foster families to care for them.

Once they age out of the system, it doesn't get any easier. But there are people who try to help.

Carolyn Flannery helped one young adult unlock a new start in life by decorating that person's one-bedroom studio with love.  

"We try to make it as homey and pretty as possible," she said.

Flannery and her volunteers are furnishing two units of an apartment building in Novato that the Marin Foster Care Association purchased.

The people who will move in need a place of their own. She knows they'd already been through a lot in foster care.

She felt so deeply for the young people that she gave up her interior design business in 2020 to start the nonprofit Make It Home.

She began by furnishing homes for people 18 to 21 years old who've aged out of foster care.

"I want them to know that someone cared enough to put this together for them. I want them to feel safe," Flannery explained.

Gently used and donated furniture come from Make It Home's three warehouses in San Rafael, Walnut Creek and Union City. 

So far, the nonprofit's decorated nearly 2,000 households in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Solano and Sonoma counties.

In the process, its saved 2,000 tons of furniture from the landfill. People can shop at the San Rafael warehouse by appointment only; profits go back into the program to fund necessities like mattresses and pillows.

Make It Home's 100 volunteers turn empty spaces into comforting places.

"A bed is somebody's own space and to get that for themselves is really exciting. Sometimes there's tears of joy," Flannery said.   

"They're truly blown away. Some of their feeling is, 'This is really all mine? This belongs to me and only me?!' A lot of time they haven't had that. They haven't had space to call their own," said Ashley Hurd of the Marin Foster Care Association.

Flannery and her nonprofit have partnered with social service agencies to serve more than 4,600 people. Half of them are children.

Besides foster youth, the recipients include military veterans, domestic abuse survivors, immigrants, seniors who had experienced homelessness, and displaced farmworkers.

"It's the only superpower I have to collect furniture and put it together so it makes me feel good to do that to people who really honestly need it," she said.

So for creating warm, safe spaces for people getting a fresh start, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Carolyn Flannery.

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