Stephanie Laughlin has gone above and beyond the call of duty to transform lives for years to come.
What began as a residence hall renovation project has quickly become a life-changing experience for countless individuals in the Lubbock community, and it's all thanks to the hard work of one dedicated staff member.
In early 2022, Texas Tech University's University Student Housing made the decision to close the 75-year-old Bledsoe Residence Hall for renovations. While taking a residence hall out of commission for upgrades is a fairly common occurrence, one thing about this particular renovation was different.
“This is the first time that we've taken a building offline for this length of time,” said Stephanie Laughlin, Assistant Managing Director at University Student Housing and the interior designer and project manager of the Bledsoe renovation. “We thought it would be nice to have new furniture in the rooms when we reopen.”
But the problem with buying all new furniture for a three story, 122,840 square foot residence hall is figuring out what to do with the existing furniture. A task which fell squarely on the shoulders of the project manager.
“At first, thinking like an interior designer, I thought ‘Okay, I need to get this furniture out of here, but what are we going to do with all of it?'” Laughlin said.
“It's older stuff and maybe doesn't look as good as something brand new, but it's built really well, so I didn't want to put it in the landfill.”
Then the idea struck.
With the help of a friend who works with local non-profits, Laughlin arranged for the donation of the furniture to seven service organizations in the Lubbock community, including Malta Farms, Grace Campus, Open Door Lubbock, Texas Girls & Boys Ranch, St. Francis Ministries, Love Thy Neighbor Baptist Ministries and 4 All of Us Transitional Improvements.
From fostering children to addiction recovery, these organizations provide essential services to members of our community every day, relying on support from donors to continue their mission. And it is donations like these that have the potential to change lives for years to come.
“It's important that this furniture is actually helping people who might be in the foster care system, who might be homeless, or who have been in the prison system and have nothing when they get out,” Laughlin said. “It makes all the difference in the world if you're in these situations to be able to get back on your feet.”
In total, Laughlin coordinated the donation of 332 beds, 360 dressers, 360 desks and 114 mattresses to support the operations of these non-profits and expand their ability to provide care to individuals in need.
“I think the quantities we were able to provide have been really impactful,” Laughlin explained. “If you think about it, where else are you going to get a donation of 70 beds? It's going to come from an organization like Texas Tech. We can really make a difference with that much furniture.”
And the implications of such a life-changing donation are not lost on Laughlin. In fact, she says she's been impacted by this process more than she ever imagined possible.
“With Texas Tech being such a large presence in the Lubbock community, giving back just makes sense. It's the right thing to do. But above all, this experience makes me truly appreciate what I have, it really does.”
One recipient of furniture from the Bledsoe renovation project was Malta Farms, a faith-based organization that provides a safe place for men struggling with addiction. The sober living facility has been serving the community since 2001.
“We run a 12-month program that provides our students with housing and the necessities they need to re-enter society with a better heading,” said Chadd Everett, director of Malta Farms.
“Our dormitory is a 20-man unit. The furniture allowed us to add to and update some of our existing furniture to better serve our students.
In total, Malta Farms received 50 beds and 50 dressers from the Bledsoe renovation.
“The furniture donation has been a huge blessing, not only to our organization but also to one of our partnering agencies,” Everett said. “With the extra furniture, we were able to donate some to another nonprofit in Lubbock with a similar mission; Kingdom Towers was able to use the furniture to fill some of their rooms so they could house more men.”
Kingdom Towers is a parole-approved, residential transition program which offers a safe, sober environment to help men exiting the prison system re-enter society.
Texas Girls & Boys Ranch
Another recipient was the Texas Girls & Boys Ranch, which received 15 beds, 15 dressers and 64 mattresses. Lacy Farris, manager of the organization's commissary, handles all the food, supplies, clothing and other resources necessary to serve the children in their care.
“The generous donations of furniture we have received from Texas Tech are a real blessing and will be used to serve our current youth at the Emergency Children's Shelter, on our residential campus and in foster homes throughout the community,” Farris said.
Texas Girls & Boys Ranch cares for youth of all ages and genders who have been referred by Child Protective Services and is one of the few childcare facilities in the region that can inclusively accommodate youth in need of emergency shelter, foster and adoption services, as well as residential care and treatment. Since its inception, Texas Girls & Boys Ranch has served more than 2,000 children in the state of Texas.
“We have kiddos come into care at all hours of the day and night,” Farris explained. “Sometimes our foster homes only have a matter of hours to prepare for a child to come live with them. Sometimes we don't even know how old the children are until they arrive. This donation will be so helpful because it will allow us to be prepared to accommodate the needs of the kids and families we serve.”
In her role, Farris' commissary is one of the first stops for these children, so she has seen first-hand how big of an impact a donation like this can make.
“I see kids as soon as they come into care. They visit me in the commissary for clothing and other items they don't have, and sometimes have never had,” Farris elaborated. “Their eyes will light up when they see things they can pick out and take home for themselves. A bed is something that is taken for granted by most people, but for some of the kids who come to the Ranch, the floor has usually been their bed. Having a bed they can call their own is a pretty big deal.”
To Laughlin and the university, these non-profits have a simple message: Thank you.
“Your generous donation helps to ensure these children are getting the care they deserve,” Farris said. “Thank you, Texas Tech, for your generosity and for helping us help precious children.”
“This donation is a sign of Gods faithfulness and of the goodness of man,” Everett adds. “So many times when there is a need, I find that there is a person with the means to provide for that need. We are so thankful to Texas Tech for reaching out to us and making this happen.”