Designs For Dignity Celebrates 20 Years Of Empowering Lives Through Design

By Lauren Gruber | September 18, 2020 | Home & Real Estate National

For 20 years, Designs for Dignity has harnessed the power of design to create pro bono spaces for nonprofits across the country. Ahead of its anniversary, we catch up with CEO Jennifer Sobecki as she rings in two decades of community enrichment.

Apna Ghar

Where did the idea for Designs for Dignity come from?
Designs for Dignity was founded by interior designer Susan Fredman in 2000. She assisted a local nonprofit organization with pro bono design services and realized the need is tremendous. We can meet that need through a permanent recycling program for the design industry—designers give back their time and talent, manufacturers and vendors provide materials and nonprofits apply for grants for D4D’s services annually. It’s a win-win from a sustainability perspective, and lives are transformed for the greater good.

What nonprofits have you designed spaces for?
We’ve designed spaces for myriad organizations over the past two decades throughout greater Chicago and in satellite locations, including countless counseling centers and housing shelters for survivors of sexual abuse or domestic violence. Apna Ghar provides interim housing for women and children fleeing gender-based violence. Aspire provides services to adults and kids living with developmental disabilities. We’ve designed several of its sites, truly changing the culture of their workforce and environment. Our work knows no bounds. We are here to leverage the talent in Chicago to create change.


How does design relate to helping these nonprofits grow?
Our design services enable many nonprofits to achieve their goals for growth—be it serving more clients or offering expanded services to existing client base. Spaces and lives are transformed, not only for clients but for the staff as well. They feel valued and have a space to continue important work.

What are some of your favorite projects?
Each organization we work with has a unique set of goals and visions for their space. The common denominator is our impact. We leverage our talent and resources to truly empower lives through design. If we had to pick a few favorite projects, it would have to be our first, Zacharias Center in Gurnee. Creating an environment that allows a person to feel safe is why we do what we do.

The 2019 Spirit of Design gala

How are you celebrating your 20th anniversary?
We will host a silent auction and raffle online, as well as debut our 20th anniversary video across social media channels. We have sponsors and donors hosting intimate gatherings to toast 20 years of impact across Chicago and throughout the country. We’re looking forward to seeing folks raise a glass to celebrate the tremendous impact our little nonprofit has made.

What are your goals for Designs for Dignity in the coming years?
Our goals are rather simple: to continue to impact greater Chicago’s nonprofit community through pro bono design. We look forward to the next 20 years!

Photography by: From top, photos by: Jill Buckner Photography; Jill Buckner Photography; Eva Ho Photography