Mimi’s Room, which is run by the nonprofit Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA), is a waiting area for children who are testifying in cases at the Williamson County Juvenile Court. Often these cases are related to domestic abuse, custody or other juvenile related issues. The problem? The 8 foot by 8 foot area is a converted jail cell and looked more like a doctor’s office waiting room than a welcoming environment for kids in a high-stress situation.
Let’s go back in time to the fall of last year when the idea to renovate Mimi’s Room first came about. Shikhar Shukla, a project engineer on my team, approached Bryan Hay, vice president of business development, and myself about a renovation opportunity after touring the Williamson County Juvenile Court with his young professionals group. Shikhar had seen the state of Mimi’s Room and realized that, with a new look, the space could be a more positive experience for children. He explained that volunteering our time to renovate this room for the local community fell right in line with our values at Skanska and who we are—we “Build for a Better Society” and this project was the perfect way to be intentional about our values.
After learning about the layout and specifics of Mimi’s Room, we knew that we could make a difference for the care and wellbeing of the children in our community. The children who wait in Mimi’s Room are in a difficult situation, and in most cases, did nothing wrong. We saw this renovation as an opportunity to support CASA’s efforts by creating a welcoming and comforting space for children during these difficult times.
Bryan and I strategized together to create a schematic design for Mimi’s Room that included elevations, drawings and images of the layout. After several months of perfecting the schematic design, coordinating resources and meeting with stakeholders to review design and material selections, we finally received the green light from Williamson County to move forward.
After talking with Bryan about the materials and services we needed to make this renovation happen, we partnered with two local firms that volunteered their time to help us out: 906 Studio Architects, an architecture firm, donated their interior design services, and subcontractor Steve Ward & Associates donated cabinets, benches, flooring and counters. Danny Lehman, a Skanska superintendent, also donated his time to help us complete this project.
A lot of thought went into figuring out how the different materials would fit into the small space. We wanted to make the room more organized while considering the needs of the children and CASA representatives. We ended up going with a Finding Nemo theme to not only tie together the materials in the room, but to give children a sense of familiarity and comfort when they are feeling anxious about being put on the stand.
While the actual time it took to transform the space was fairly short—two Saturdays on back-to-back weekends—the impact it will have on the children and families in Williamson County will be long-lasting. When we revealed the renovated space to Williamson County Juvenile Court, they were so thrilled with it that they decided to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate this momentous occasion.
Building What Matters not only means building safe, sustainable projects for our communities, it also means investing in the communities in which we live and work. I’m so proud of the Skanska team members—Shikhar, Bryan and Danny—who went above and beyond to make this community project a reality. They are truly living our values and supporting their communities both inside and outside of work.