Restore Decor looks like Santa’s workshop two nights a week, except the elves are giving new life to old and broken furniture and raising money for charity.
Paint is their main tool. They lean toward bright colors that say, “Look at me!” or more to the point, “Buy me!”
Carol Clevenger got involved two years ago, after spotting a yellow armoire advertised on Facebook.
“They called it Big Bird — lovingly,” said Carol, 47, of Edwardsville, who bought it for $200 and put it in her computer room.
Today, Carol serves as assistant manager of the store, which is operated by the non-profit Faith Coalition. It’s housed in an 800-square-foot former chapel at Newsong Fellowship in Edwardsville, across from Madison County Courthouse.
People donate furniture, wall hangings, lamps and other decorative items, so volunteers can make their magic with low overhead.
“We never know what we’re going to get,” said Dana Adams, 47, of Edwardsville, who serves as store manager.
Some furniture is just painted or distressed while other pieces are repaired, redesigned or repurposed. Occasionally, volunteers get really creative.
“My husband (Chris Clevenger) took piano keys and made a coffee table out of them,” Carol said. “He put a glass top on it. It was really cool.”
Store profits are being used to renovate a Grand Avenue home, which will be sold to raise money for Habitat for Humanity.
The coalition’s other goal is promoting interdenominational cooperation and understanding.
“The idea is to just get everyone working together and focusing on what we have in common instead of our differences, and to be the hands and feet of Christ in our community,” Dana said.
Painting parties are held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Restore Decor. Volunteers Trent Moore and Brycen Brown, both 14 of Edwardsville, move tagged merchandise off to the side to make way for drop cloths.
On a recent Tuesday, finished pieces included a robin’s egg blue table and chairs with a round glass top for $300, a small teal bookcase for $40 and a black entertainment center that had been turned into a wardrobe for $250.
About 20 volunteers showed up for the painting party, wearing old clothes and, in some cases, carrying take-out food.
“I’ve been on tons of mission trips, and that’s where I learned to paint,” said Jean Nunnally, 76, of Glen Carbon, a retired accountant. “But mostly, we used rollers. It’s a little harder with a brush. You cover less ground.”
Jean was using off-white paint to brighten up a wooden TV console that had been converted into a shelving unit.
A few feet away, three teen-age girls were putting a coat of indigo blue on a massive old chest.
“You just have to focus, but not over-think it, and have fun,” said Rachel Buckley, 18, a college student from Moro and a member of the Chosen to Shine youth service group.
Work often spills outside. On this night, several volunteers were kneeling on the sidewalk and painting six matching chairs.
Inside, Lauren Stewart sat at the dining room table that goes with the chairs, using a special tool to pull out staples and removing faded upholstery from seat cushions.
“I think that what they’re doing here is really cool, and it’s a good creative outlet for me,” said Lauren, 54, a nanny in Edwardsville.
While most people were painting, Joe Russo was replacing tracks on a sticky drawer to a dresser, which had been custom-painted white and hot pink for a little girl.
Joe founded Faith Coalition four years ago after helping church groups with post-tornado relief efforts in Joplin, Mo. Today, the board includes members of several denominations.
“There are great things we can do as individuals in the community,” said Joe, 44, an Edwardsville contractor and Newsong member. “But there are even greater things we can do when we work together.”
Restore Decor technically isn’t open for business during painting parties, but people tend to stop by when they see the door open.
Before volunteers arrived Tuesday, Nick Feco arrived to pick up a 1950s silver dresser that his wife, Cari, had bought for $225 the week before.
“She’s going to put it in the dining room,” said Nick, 43, of Edwardsville. “We just bought a new house, and we’re filling it up with furniture.”
A few minutes later, Edie and Rich Harris came to drop off some antique milk cans and Mason jars. They are regular donors.
“This is just a place that we like, and we know that they will do something special with (the milk cans),” said Edie, a retired music teacher. “We have too much stuff, and we’re happy to share with the community. It’s also fun to come in here and see all the people giving of their time.”
On Friday nights, Dana rearranges tagged merchandise for display. She takes photos and posts them on Facebook so potential customers can see what’s available.
Saturdays are big business, particularly when Land of Goshen Community Market is bustling with activity. The store also is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays or by appointment.
Dana keeps a list of people looking for certain items that could be custom-painted.
“Sometimes it’s crazy with the market, and other times, it’s kind of slow,” she said. “We just go with the flow.”
With all Dana does for Faith Coalition, many people are surprised that she also works full time as assistant director of the Illinois State Police Forensic Science Lab in Belleville.
The store is her passion. She likes the fact that it is creative, environmentally friendly, faith-based, inclusive and charitable.
“It’s so nice to see a mother and her children come in and find something beautiful that’s actually affordable,” Dana said. “It fits into their budget.”
Board members are searching for a second location so volunteers don’t have to keep painting in the store showroom. Until then, they’ll keep doing their thing in the former chapel.
“We invite anyone to come and volunteer,” Dana said. “You don’t have to sign up. You just show up in paint clothes. It’s a great way to meet people and give back to the community.”
At a glance
What: Restore Decor
Where: 111 N. Second St. in Edwardsville (across from Madison County Courthouse)
Painting parties: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays
Retail hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays (or by appointment)
Information: Call Dana Adams at 618-980-2018, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.restoredecoredwardsville.com or the Facebook page