Building Furniture to Make a Difference
Nearly 20 years ago, some Damar colleagues were chatting with Mike Smith about how difficult it was to find sturdy furniture that would last. Children and adults with behavioral issues are often hard on things like beds, tables and chairs. Mike had been working on various construction projects for the Damar campus and came to know a lot of the kids. He saw the needs. A master carpenter with a degree in architecture, he was the project manager for the development of the campus for seven years before becoming a Damar employee.
During the BASE 1 construction project, Mike was able to save enough on the construction process to furnish the units with store-bought furniture. Soon thereafter, Mike helped develop a durable furniture model that was tested in the units. It proved to be both durable and affordable enough to warrant its use across the entire campus. “If we can save Damar money, they can spend the money for clients elsewhere,” said Mike.
Mike’s been making furniture for the last 18 years. For years ago, his wife Cathy joined him and now they work as a team. They take work orders and fill them with standard items, as well as custom pieces. When they received a work order for 25 computer stations for Damar Charter Academy, they were told the monitors had to be protected. So they built Plexi-Glass that house the monitors. Their furniture can be found on campus, at Damar Charter Academy and in group homes all over Indianapolis.
All of the furniture is made on the Smith’s 85-acre farm in southern Indiana and Mike makes regular trips to Indianapolis for deliveries and construction management meetings. One of their favorite projects was a request from Damar’s dietician. She wanted a grow station at the Charter Academy. Complete with grow lights and wheels, the station was a big hit with students the day Mike and Cathy delivered it. Each year, they plant seeds that are eventually transplanted to the garden on campus.
Besides building the needed furniture, Mike and Cathy provide construction management for Damar’s continued growth, including facilities such as the Charter Academy, ABA clinics and Adult Day Center… and they do it all with the awareness that it makes a difference.