A while back we had an idea. To highlight the charities and charitable work of people in the design industry. While a designers “day job” may entail making the world a more beautiful place, they also give back to those who are so deserving of living a beautiful life. From supporting children in need to food banks and traveling the world to bring awareness to poverty. Designers are making a difference.
So several times a month we decided to highlight the “good works” of people in our industry, from all around the globe. Our hope is to shine more light on the charities that designers support increasing awareness while providing an additional platform for exposure.
It is with great pleasure that we introduce the first designers in our ongoing Series- the beloved duo of Joann Kandrac and Kelly Kole. This powerhouse team was voted one of Atlanta’s Top 20 Residential Interior Designers in 2014 by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. They have also been featured on HGTV as well as The New York Times, House Beautiful, Southern Lady Magazine, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Better Homes & Gardens and Atlanta Magazine. Undoubtedly, Kandrac & Kole have established a reputation well known for their “approachable, spirited personalities, use of color, one of a kind, custom designs,” and their big hearts.
“It feels good to do good.”- Joann Kandrac
Outside of Kandrac & Kole’s incredible portfolio of work, they journey to Guatemala yearly to change the lives of the extremely poor building houses and bringing lifesaving water purifiers and stoves to the struggling families of this third world country. We caught up with Joann and Kelly recently to talk about their charity and hope you will be as inspired as we are to help support future trips…
Vicki Gladle Bolick: How did you both get involved with Guatemala?
Joann Kandrac: Kelly initially visited Guatemala with her church back in 2011.
Kelly Kole: While I was there I met Paula and Fontaine Greene, Americans who run Catalyst Resources International. We became fast friends and I decided to start leading teams of my own. Since then, I have visited 9 times and changed a lot of lives!
VGB: What would you like people to know about the charity?
KK: Catalyst Resources International is a registered 501 (c) (3) founded by Fontaine and Paula Greene who hail from Kentucky. They have 5 children, 3 Guatemalan and foster 2 more in their home. CRI is a Christian organization that partners with pastors and other Christian organizations in Guatemala to help the poorest of the poor by building houses and churches, establishing feeding programs and supporting medical, dental and veterinary clinics.
Vicki Gladle Bolick: How has your work in Guatemala changed your lives?
JK: It feels good to do good. Seeing the difference you can make to a family that completely betters the quality of their life and that of the next generation is very powerful. I have always been grateful for the things I have but these trips make me appreciate not only what I have, but what I can give as well.
KK: I don’t sweat the small stuff as much as I used to. Seeing entire families hungry, without a single pair of shoes and sleeping on dirt floors immediately put my life in perspective. Being personally able to alter another human being’s life for the better by building them a protecting, comfortable house to live in has been an honor and a blessing beyond anything I have ever done in my life.
VGB: What were some defining moments you both had when you were working in Guatemala?
JK: There are so many defining moments that happen on a daily basis! On our trip in the Summer of 2015, our team of 11 got to the work site (when it was just a concrete pad). We held hands in a circle praying for the family, strength for building, and thanking God for the opportunity to do this work. When we finished, a huge circular rainbow was above us. To say that something like that doesn’t make you believe in a higher power is an understatement. Seeing the way the Guatemalan people look into your eyes that say “thank you” – there is a connection that doesn’t require words.
KK: At the age of 44, Fontaine baptized me and my daughter Riley in a small, cold dirty pool of water. I didn’t have a strong relationship with God when I first came to Guatemala, and it was a very humbling experience for me. Four years later on my 25th wedding anniversary, my husband Mike and I renewed our vows with Fontaine (who’s a pastor) on a beautifully sunny morning looking over Lake Atitlan in the village of Panajachel. Another defining moment happened when I went to visit a family my team had built a house for the year prior. The mother Candelaria, brought her 2-year old baby to me because her stomach was very swollen and she was worried. I was able to connect Candelaria and her little girl Paola to my friends at CRI. It turned out that Paola had Leukemia. With the help of CRI and donations from myself and my team, we were able to get her the best care that Guatemala had to offer but unfortunately she lived only another six months. I still visit that family every year and bring them food and money. Of course, I receive far more from them than they receive from me.
VGB: What would you like people to know about Guatemala?
JK: I think people are afraid of the unknown in a Third World Country. I can say that I have never felt uncomfortable or unsafe with the group that leads us. Taking the time to get away from your day to day life and outside of your comfort zone is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. You come back feeling like a different, better person. I think there is a misconception that mission trips are only for the “very spiritual” – they are for anyone who wants to help others. Your life will never be the same.
KK: I agree with Joann 100%. Making life changing improvements for these people that are so very poor doesn’t cost a lot of money. The homes we build cost $3000. A water purifier is only $40. and a stove $150. The love and gratitude that transfers back and forth between our teams and the Guatemalan people is palpable. Giving back is a two-way street.
Many thanks to Kelly & Joann for sharing their incredible experiences, and if you’d like to get involved visit CRI’s website http://www.catalystresources.net or contact Kelly and Joann directly firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also give to their outreach by donating via their GoFundMe account here. All images courtesy of Kandrac & Kole.
If you are a designer, architect, company or trade in the design industry and would like your charity highlighted in our Series, please contact Vicki@theaceofspaceblog.com.
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