Partnerships Lead to Expanded Impact

Melissa Vernon

As the African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child”.

As one company, we have learned we can have an influence on others.  But add additional partners and our collective influence grows exponentially.

The mission of the Center for Green Schools at the USGBC is to create green schools for all within this generation.  The Green Apple Day of Service is the action step to mobilize volunteers around the world to “transform our schools into healthy, safe, and productive learning places.” At the heart of Green Apple is the need to redesign our learning environments.  Who better to lead this effort than interior design professionals?

During planning for the 2013 Green Apple Day of Service, Interface approached the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) executive staff to discuss a partnership.  With IIDA’s existing commitment to community service and its members’ expertise in design, the association was a natural fit.  For IIDA, “design is about humanity and improving the human condition through interior environments that are effective, efficient and exceptional.” IIDA’s nearly 6,000 members were invited to join Interface on Green Apple projects, and as a result, we worked together in a number of creative and collaborative Green Apple projects across the country.

In Minneapolis, Ariane Laxo, IIDA Northland board member and designer at HGA Architects, had identified the Day of Service as a potential company volunteer event.  After being contacted by Interface, she expanded their scope and invited more partners.  HGA chose the Lighthouse Academy of Nations, a college-prep charter school in Minneapolis where nearly all students will be the first in their families to attempt post-secondary education and 100% qualify for free or reduced cost lunch.  Day of Service projects included helping classroom teachers organize their classrooms, installing carpet, building shelving, painting and more, with teachers, architects, interior designers, Interface employees, and others contributing time and talent.  Donations were collected for ceiling tiles, light bulbs, paint, carpet tiles and desks for classrooms.  While volunteering, Interface employee Ann Martin’s husband noticed that the bathroom countertops were in poor condition.  He is a millworker and recently had some countertops returned that were a great solution for the school.  He arranged for a future installation.  The cascade of good deeds spurred by the Day of Service has been inspiring.


In Portland, OR, Denise Durell, IIDA Oregon president-elect, contacted local Interface Account Executive Karen Gilroy as soon as she heard about the partnership.  Denise had a project in mind for daVinci Arts Middle School, a magnet school focused on the arts.  This Portland public school was chosen because of its tie in to the arts—young designers and artists in the making attend this highly creative school.  The goal of the Day of Service was to transform the Counseling office.  This is a space where students come to get guidance, hang out with peers, and find resources for real “teen” world issues.

More than 30 people participated and the day looked like a ‘while you were out’ design TV show.  The imagination and professional design vision from the team, utilizing donated furniture, carpet, paint, and fabric, led to a beautiful and highly functional new space.  Check out the before and after pictures in the slide show.  You will not recognize the space.


The talent, passion, and professionalism of IIDA members brought a deeper dimension to our Green Apple projects.  We thank IIDA for partnering and look forward to collaborating again in the future.

To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.  ~Thomas Watson, Sr.

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