Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill - Friends Who Think Big

Bright Spaces

It's a fact that our friends at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM) never do anything in a small way.

There's this.

And this.

And of course, this.

So nobody was surprised that when the esteemed architects got the idea to create a Bright Space in a center for homeless families...well let's just say they did it in a big way. The Virginia Williams Family Resource Center (VWFRC) - a place that provides critical services to Washington D.C.-area families who are or are about to become homeless -- is now home to one awesome playroom for children.

"It was a lot of work," says SOM's Assistant Benefits Manager Ally Delgado with a big smile, "but it was great work."

A Bright Light During Difficult Days

The "aha" moment for the project came two years ago when Ally was at our Solutions at Work LIVE conference listening to Bright Horizons Foundation for Children President Mark Mendel talk about Bright Spaces. They're so important, he explained. They give kids in homeless shelters and other organizations a bright light during some otherwise difficult days.

"Right after the presentation," said Ally, "we walked out and we were like, ‘We need to do this immediately!'" So they planned, mapped out, and got approval. And with the finesse only a team of architects could bring, they transformed the WVFRC room from what Ally called a DMV-ish office into a cozy Bright Space with activity carts and bean bag chairs.

"It was a great celebration," the Foundation's Debi Hart said of the March opening day.

The VWFRC space now sees about 70 children a day. And the SOM folks aren't done. "We knew when we started this that we didn't just want to write a check and walk away," said Ally. "We want to have this long-term relationship with the Virginia Center. So we're going to do...maybe back-to-school drives, and Christmas drives, and we're definitely going to keep that relationship."

And wait...there's more! SOM already has another location in their sights. "I'm excited to announce that New York is next," she said.

Officials called the VWFRC transformation a warm and inviting change.

As for us? We'll call it SOMething else.

In honor of National Volunteer Week, we just want to say...thanks, SOM! Can't wait to see what you do next.

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.