While I’ve always enjoyed the Accessories Resource Team (ART)  Conference, this year’s 20th anniversary edition in May will hold a special place in my memory. Taking a cue from its location in New Orleans, where the “rebuilding” process still doesn’t appear to have a finish line, the group replaced its popular retail makeover afternoon with a service project to help the Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative, a nonprofit homebuilder that aims to create communities of affordable homes for families.
Dann Foley of DANN Inc. , Cody Hutcheson of CODARUS , Doug Self of J. Douglas  and Paul Thompson of Paul Thompson Signature  led four teams of top talent to decorate and furnish key rooms in newly built homes. The furnishings had all been generously donated based on cohesive selections solicited by the designers. Fixtures came courtesy of Troy-CSL , Capital Lighting  and San Antonio, TX, retailer Light by Design  (who also had Vanessa Turney and Mariana Loya on hand volunteering, along with Eric Lebersfeld from Capitol Lighting , and Daniella and Jack Fleischer from Hermitage Lighting Gallery ). Lamp philanthropy came from Barbara Cosgrove , Cyan Design , Emissary , Gallery Designs  and a particularly significant portable contribution from Feiss , plus Visual Comfort  lamps that were donated by Taylors on Ten . Special thanks to all who supplied lighting merchandise — you did our industry proud.
All products were sorted, assembled and lovingly placed by team members working as a well-oiled (euphemism for “sweaty”) machine. On the exterior, other Conference attendees planted trees and installed flags alongside Conference speaker, designer and HGTV personality John Gidding.
As if the shared hugs and high fives weren’t enough, when we returned via bus to our host site, The Ritz-Carlton, hotel staff lined up to welcome us with roaring applause. The entire experience is one that none of us will ever forget. And if it meant this much to each of us to give, imagine how much it will mean to the recipients.
Of course, this is not the only occasion when our industry has channeled its resources to help others, and it certainly won’t be the last. It’s just a recent example that resonated with me because I had the honor of witnessing it firsthand. It was a whole lot of hard labor backed by a whole lot of heart. When we play to our passions, such as making homes comfortable and enjoyable for others, the results can be incredibly powerful. More powerful, I would say, than a Category 5 hurricane.