Stories of the Spirit: Gracing Spaces & Helping to end Homelessness

Group 236

 Gracing Spaces is an all-volunteer non-profit organization that furnishes homes to help neighbors transition from homelessness. We grace each space, enabling volunteers to provide hope and caring service to the community.

Picture this:

You’ve just moved to the US with your newborn with extremely limited resources. You learn about Gracing Spaces, which provides home goods to those in need, through your social worker. She has told Gracing Spaces what needs you have, and volunteers have assembled the furniture and household items for your new home.

You ask a volunteer, “How much do I need to pay for all these items?” You’re so taken aback when the reply is, “You don’t owe anything.”

Linda Aufderhaar, a devoted volunteer of Gracing Spaces and member of the Board of Directors, vividly recounted this personal story during one of her shifts in the Gracing Spaces “depot”. Linda stated, “The woman burst into tears. She just couldn’t believe what she had received.”

Gracing Spaces is all about transforming the lives of individuals. The organization’s vision statement is “Until everyone has a home, Gracing Spaces will furnish houses to turn them into homes to bring hope to the people we serve.” Gracing Spaces furnishes apartments for families and people who are refugees and those transitioning out of homeless shelters—gracing spaces with furniture, beds, and other furnishings to make a place a home. With a unique mission start story, Gracing Spaces provides much more than just household items.

Gracing Spaces celebrates 20 years of ministry this year, and it all started when a mom was met with a challenge from her daughter. The daughter didn’t want a typical bridal shower, she wanted one that gave back to the community. So, the mom rallied up the bride’s friends and family and did what was described as “an extreme makeover” of a community room at a halfway house. The group returned three more times that year and refurbished the entire home. This inspiration led to the creation of Gracing Spaces.

However, with multiple requests for assistance and an ever-growing collection of on-hand items, storage space was desperately needed. Lord of Life Lutheran Church offered some of their basement space at their Clifton Campus 15 years ago which became the Gracing Spaces headquarters and “depot”. On the left-hand side of the depot was the kitchen area, past that was the children’s area filled with toys, clothes and educational materials, and further down is furniture, pictures and decorative items needed to make a space feel like a home.

The word spread, the volunteer crew grew larger, and donations were rapidly coming in to be stored and kept on hand in Lord of Life’s basement. Dorothy Sorrell, the secretary on Gracing Spaces’ Board of Directors, reported between 800-900 families were served annually in recent years. Ruth Hansen, one of the Gracing Spaces founders, managed all this with joy and lots of prayer. But, in 2022, it became necessary for Gracing Spaces to leave the Lord of Life basement because the area could not meet the needs and growth of Gracing Spaces. And as Dorothy said, “Even though it created challenges, it also created opportunities.” And when this group is met with challenges, “They rally,” Linda added.

Looking to the Future

Now, there’s a dedicated team of 80 volunteers, some of which have offered space within their own garages or homes to store on-hand items, in addition to four storage units, and an Executive Board that runs the day-to-day of Gracing Spaces. Linda said what sets this organization apart from others in the area is that this is the “kind of boots on the ground so to speak. It quickly mobilizes resources to meet immediate needs.”

You see, joy goes both ways. Dorothy depicts that the volunteers “feel as though they get more than what they’re giving. It’s not just helping the individuals that the ministry is serving.” Additionally, the stories of inspiration that radiate from this ministry reach even further, just as an email subscriber wrote that “reading all the effort that was expended to help neighbors fills me with joy and gratitude.” 

Gracing Spaces is looking for a long-term warehouse space. Even though this group is unable to assist the same number of families as in years past, Gracing Spaces still “gives people a sense of worth, initiates a spark of giving, and responds to the immediate needs that are there on a daily basis,” shares Dorothy. 

If you’ve felt inspired by this story, get connected by volunteering, donating, or keeping up with recent news at
Thank you to Dorothy Sorrell and Linda Aufderhaar for sharing how the spirit is at work through the ministry of Gracing Spaces.