Stephanie Engelerdt first discovered Room Redux as she was checking her daily recommended news stories on her phone. One headline caught her attention.
The nonprofit she read about was unlike anything she had heard of before. The group works to renovate and transform bedrooms for children who have faced physical, sexual or emotional abuse. The article said renovating a room in the child’s home where the abuse often occurs gives the child a new space to feel safe.
Engelerdt knew she wanted to bring this unique organization to Forsyth County where she and her family live.
She got together with her best friend, Lisa Lepkofker, and they reached out to organization leaders and created Room Redux Atlanta. They began the organization nearly a year ago, but as they started planning, the global COVID-19 pandemic began and progress came to sudden halt.
But now, they have picked up the pace after heading out on Saturday, Feb. 6, and renovating their first room for a 13-year-old boy in Forsyth County.
“We’re extremely excited and hoping that this will just be the beginning of something that will be constant,” said Natalie Winegar, Engelerdt’s sister and a board member for the organization.
Winegar said a counselor had reached out to refer the boy to them after hearing that Room Redux moved to the area. She said this is typical for them as school counselors or representatives from the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office usually have contact with or know children who may need a change or safe space in their home.
While they receive referrals for kids in the area, Winegar said that the counselor and child’s family have to go through a set of steps before the team is able to help.
“[The children] actually have to go through counseling for some time, normally for about a year,” Winegar said. “The person who was abusing the child has to be out of the house and out of the picture. And then they have to be in a permanent home, whether some of the kids end up having to move [in with] another family member or maybe a friend …. But a lot of the time, they’re stuck in the home where the incident happened, so that bedroom is a constant reminder of what they went through. Our goal is to make it a happy place.”
Winegar said that children sometimes do not have their own space. They may be sleeping in more of a closet, kitchen or living room. Fortunately, the 13-year-old boy has his own bedroom where he now lives with his grandmother.
On Saturday, the boy’s grandmother took him out of the house for the day, giving the Room Redux team time to come in at 8:30 a.m., and immediately get to work putting down new flooring, painting and decorating. His grandmother said that he loves the University of Georgia and hopes to attend the college one day, so they decided on a dog house theme for the room.
With a complete room renovation, Winegar said that each room usually costs somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000, and each one is completely paid for through sponsorships, grants or donations from members of the community.
The organization makes sure to keep their Facebook page updated with new referrals and projects that they are working on, and during renovations, they also post Amazon wishlists tailored to the child and family they are currently working with to give community members a chance to donate specific items.
Those interested can also leave monetary donations through a link on the Room Redux Atlanta website at www.georgia.roomredux.org.
After the team finished the work on Saturday, the boy came back home to find that his room had been completely transformed, and the Room Redux team was nowhere in sight. Winegar said they always give the child’s parent or guardian the option to either tell their child about the renovations or take credit for the transformation themselves.
“If that brings them closer to the child and builds that relationship, they are able to say that it was completely them,” Winegar said. “We’re OK with that. We don’t want any credit in that form.”
At the end of the day, they just want the boy and any of the children they help to have a safe and comfortable space in their home.
“It’s supposed to be an act of love [to show] that they’re really cared about and they really do matter,” Winegar said. “Because a lot of these kids have insecurity issues, and that’s why they’re in counseling because with sexual, emotional or physical abuse, that makes them feel very small and that they’re not worth it. And so we’re creating this space so that they can feel safe and feel happy and want to come home and want to go to their room. We want them to feel that.”
Going forward, Engelerdt and her team want to grow Room Redux and create different branches to serve kids and families throughout Georgia, continuing the effort to bring the unique organization to more communities.
To find out more about Room Redux Atlanta, visit its website at www.georgia.roomredux.org.