Dream Nest is still a young organization, but they are ready to start applying what they learned with their first room to their future projects.
The group is hoping to do four rooms a year while working off each other’s strengths to serve the Muncie community.
“We’re trying to make life better for these kids and their families because they live in the tyranny of the moment every day just trying to stay focused on what they need to do for the child,” Byrnes said. “If we can help one family at a time that’s our goal.”
Due to the varied amount of space that is given with each room that they will be working on, they don’t have a need for more volunteers for the actual makeover process. They do, however, want the community to know about their service and know that even a small donation to their cause is helpful.
“The community of Muncie has a huge demographic of special needs children and some of those come from low income homes,” Mishler said. “It would be incredible to see Muncie recognize that and kind of just want to cater to them and realize that they just you know they’re just like us they just live in a world that does not cater to their needs.”
Creating Dream Nest
Peggy Fisher was watching the news when she was inspired to do something new for a part of the community.
The assistant professor in communication studies at Ball State University is involved in outreach programs with her church and the Muncie community. She recently stepped off the board of directors for an organization called Feed My Sheep, which gives food to those in need.
“I knew I was going to step off of that because I had done what I could and it was time for new people to step in,” Fisher said. “I was just, you know, wondering and praying about where do I go? What do i do next? Because I’m not one to just sit at home. I’ve gotta be doing something all the time, I just have to be doing something.”
That something came after she heard about an organization called Cecelia’s Closet. She first heard of the California based organization, which provides food and clothing for those in need, after watching a feature on it.
Hearing about it got her thinking about starting her own organization in Muncie.
Considering her own interests and strengths along with the needs of the Muncie community, Fisher came up with the idea to start Dream Nest. Her husband, Mathew Fisher was just as excited as her after Peggy Fisher discussed the idea with him. Next, the two decided to see if any of their friends would be willing to help.
Dina Byrnes, event manager at Emens Auditorium, had just finished a project with her church and was also looking for a new way to help the community, so Peggy Fisher’s email came at the perfect time. Byrnes joined the Fishers in brainstorming to make sure they had a clear idea before moving forward.
They decided that community members with disabilities and their families needed their help. Peggy Fisher and Byrnes’ love for DIY projects led them to doing room makeovers.
They wanted to make sure that children had a space to themselves and that there was a place in their home to accommodate any special sensory needs the child had.
“These kids don’t ask for it, these families don’t ask for it, it just is and so you know they get caught up, the families, and from what we learned, painting Susie's bedroom is the last thing on their mind,” Peggy Fisher said. “You think about your home and your bedroom and how special that is to you, that’s your haven right? And so why shouldn’t these kids have that?”
As the group continued planning, Peggy Fisher presented Dream Nest to her nonverbal communications class. She was teaching them about how colors communicate feelings and meanings, asking for suggestions on colors for the Dream Nest logo.
At the end of that class, recent Ball State graduate Olivia Mishler, who was in need of an internship, approached Peggy and asked if she could help with the creation of Dream Nest.
Mishler graduated this year with a degree in interpersonal communication and has always had a heart for helping people. She’s been involved with nonprofit organizations, so when she heard about Dream Nest she thought it would be a good experience to be part of the beginning stages of a nonprofit instead of helping an already established group.
“Coming to Indianapolis it kind of opened my eyes and I saw the need for someone to just help people up when they’ve been down,” Mishler said. “I’ve never encountered that in my 18 years of living in my town, so seeing it had just sparked a fire in me.”
The group continued to meet, discussing their vision and were presented with a decision that would take a lot of consideration: should they be a stand-alone nonprofit or partner with another organization?
They were advised to partner with an organization to lower costs and so that Dream Nest could have a better chance of remaining a service even when the founding group had moved on. After contacting a wide range of Muncie non-profits, the group decided to partner with Hillcroft.
Hillcroft, founded in 1953, provides services for a wide range of clients with different types and severity levels of disabilities.
“I just think the stars lined up with that because just as we were looking for somebody to take us under their wing, they were looking for something new that they could do for this community,” Peggy Fisher said. “The nice thing about Hillcroft is that they are one organization, but they deal with a variety of special needs.”
It was in a meeting with LeAnne Cole, vice president of therapy services at Hillcroft, where they talked about sustainability of Dream Nest to ensure the group was on their way to making a real difference.
“When we leave this community, we want Dream Nest to continue, and LeAnn looked at us and said, ‘Well what are you guys thinking what will happen to this when you leave?” Byrnes said. “She said, ‘Well we want it to remain a Hillcroft service, we want this to outlive you,’ and Peggy and I just gave each other a hug.”
Finally, Dream Nest was ready to make steps toward its first renovation. Mishler was in charge of “millennial things,” creating the group’s Facebook page and website while the rest of the group reached out to their contacts in search of donations of time, money and supplies.
Byrnes says so many people helped Dream Nest prepare for their first room that listing names wouldn’t give everyone the recognition they deserve. Some of the biggest contributors in the first room design, however, included Angie Carmichael, owner of Color Pallette by Angie, and Diane Kern, president of CS Kern.
The First Room
Joey Stover is a 12-year-old with a passion for performing and has been a recipient of Hillcroft services for several years. After one of his visits to Hillcroft, his mother, Janet Easterly, was asked if she would be willing to be the first served by Hillcroft’s new program, Dream Nest.
After years of sharing a room with Joey, his older brother Sam, 15, was ready for his own space and Easterly didn’t know how or when to start the process, so she agreed.
“I said sure, not knowing what to expect, so it was kind of a big leap of faith, but it helped get me moving,” Easterly said. “I had just been dragging my feet on doing anything about it and so it kicked me in gear that I had to get the room ready for them to do their makeover in it.”
Easterly was nervous to let people come into her home and make changes, with her husband working full time, various family illnesses and having to keep up with her two boys she hasn’t had time to do the home improvement projects she knows are needed.
When she met with the Dream Nest team, she was put at ease by their kindness and excitement to help. The group met with Hillcroft, Easterly and Joey to get a sense of his personality and needs before making specific plans for his room.
“We thought we would be overwhelming to him, but not to Joey,” Byrnes said. “He loved the crowd, he was performing for us.”
Joey would often start a song during a conversation, whether it was one he had made up or one he had listened to recently. The group had already been told that he’d like a music theme, but after meeting Joey they were convinced.
Easterly took all but a dresser out of his room, and the team began work. Dream Nest’s goal is to finish each project in one weekend, so once they scheduled a time and had all of the supplies they began working immediately.
“It really didn’t hit us until we showed up on Friday,” Mishler said. “Once the pieces started falling into place and we were there working on stuff it was like ‘Wow, this is it, we’re doing this.’”
With the first swipe of charcoal gray paint, Easterly was taken back by the bold color that was chosen, but as work continued she began to see the vision come together. Working on Joey’s room gave Easterly more pride in her own home and inspired her to continue work throughout the house after Dream Nest had finished Joey’s room.
It was hard to keep Joey out of his room due to his excitement, but he kept the crew entertained by serenading them and making them smile while they worked.
Throughout the group’s time at the house, they met Sam and were touched by how excited he was for Joey.
“We were standing and talking to his brother Sam, who we got out of bed at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and we were kind of feeling him out and asking him what it was like to have this done for Joey and he said ‘this is great because Joey never asks for anything,’” Peggy Fisher said. “Gosh it made you tear up.”
The Dream Nest team created a stage in Joey’s room for him to perform on, complete with a microphone stand and a guitar which Sam is teaching him how to play. They gave Joey his own television so that he could watch his favorite show “Steven Universe” and a white board to keep him from writing on the walls.
When Joey was allowed to see his finished room, he was thrilled at all of the changes. Easterly was impressed by the little details that had been paid attention to, like hanging records of Joey’s favorite bands over his window.
Everyone involved was proud of how the first room makeover went and the experience.
“I learned that a group of passionate friends really can make a difference in ways that you did not expect,” Byrnes said. “I think the impact that we made on the family is going to be deeper than the impact we made on Joey.”