Valley Partnership, the Valley of the Sun’s premier advocacy group for responsible development, has been giving back to the community for over 30 years with the Annual Community Project. This year’s project benefitted The House of Refuge in Southeast Mesa, Arizona. A faith-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, The House of Refuge is a 22-acre community that includes 88 two-bedroom homes that are rented to families experiencing homelessness. By providing a home and comprehensive, wrap-around supportive services, House of Refuge helps families overcome homelessness, become self-sufficient and move to sustainable housing.

For months leading up to Community Project Action Day, which was held on Saturday, November 5th, volunteers from the A/E/C industry teamed up to imagine a space within the community that would inspire residents to come together, enjoy the company of one another, celebrate holidays and other special occasions, and provide a safe play area for children. It also contains a large mural and a community garden for residents to spend time in and to grow produce for the families living in the community. As the muralist for the Valley Partnership Community Project since 2019, I’ve been gifted with the opportunity to watch the awe-inspiring collaboration of teams connecting to transform spaces that strengthen communities. But this year provided an even greater reward. I was able to collaborate directly with the Landscape Architecture team, led by RVi’s Mark Bailor, who, upon learning about the project, was instantly “all in.”

“The moment I found out that the 2022 project needed a landscape architect “visionary” to design a welcoming community space, I jumped at the chance. I have experienced the hardships of homelessness. I’ve felt, firsthand, what it’s like to have nothing. When the opportunity presented, it was a way for me to give back,” explains Mark. “While assessing the area that we had to work with, I thought about the kids, their families, and the bonds and friendships that could be formed if we were to create a shared space that felt inviting and comforting…like home.”

The RVi design team visited the site and met with The House of Refuge staff to better understand how to provide an area that would suit their needs. Recognizing the transitional nature of the community, the team was inspired by the idea of the journey on the “river of life.” The team realized that everyone experiences rough waters, crossroads in the journey, and twists and turns along the way. A path was created to represent “The River” that leads through the entire site and terminates at the large open space which serves as the community gathering area next to the garden. Along the path, raised circular planters were installed to provide interest and color throughout. Additional trees were installed to provide shade in the future. The design included ample room for community events, picnic tables, canopies, an oversized board game area and artificial turf.

Mark’s design was the perfect starting point for the mural concept. I was given a 93’ x 11’ blank canvas on which to create a design to complement the landscape design elements. The painting also had to be comfortably completed within three to four hours by volunteers on Community Action Day. That’s no small task! The mural includes a zesty, lime twist background with multi-colored spheres. Outstretched branches on either side envelope the flocks of birds and the word “Thrive.” The lines within the painting replicate the flowing, river-like pattern in the landscape architecture elements that Mark created, all of which are enhanced and cohered by RVi Landscape Architect, Sergio Yamada’s bold, playful wooden flowers scattered throughout the area.

On Community Action Day, over 300 volunteers converged on the community to bring the vision to life. By noon, the sparse area that had only a few aged clotheslines was transformed into an inviting, useable, and engaging space that functions as a community gathering area and a passive and active space for the residents.

Valley Partnership also raised funds for The House of Refuge, with a goal to raise $25,000, which Valley Partnership will match, to be given to the House of Refuge, during Valley Partnership’s next monthly breakfast on December 16. Please check our December newsletter to find out if the goal was met!