May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a tradition dating to 1949, and we wanted to honor the occasion by highlighting one of the most fulfilling projects we’ve been involved in recently.
Our introduction to Roberta’s House came via a business networking group where we met one of the owners and founders of Penza Bailey Architects, who had been asked to work on a new project there. Roberta’s House is a community grieving center offering programs for children and families. According to their Mission Statement:
“We believe all children and families suffering the loss or death of a loved one should have support and a safe place to heal and recover. Roberta’s House addresses grief as a public health preventive service.”
Our early involvement brought us into contact with Annette March-Grier, RN, Founder and President of Roberta’s House and, more to the point, a force of nature whose sheer willpower and drive provided the fundraising momentum for the new project. (Roberta’s House is named for Annette’s mother, Julia Roberta March.)
That project was the construction of a new 22,000-square-foot facility on North Avenue in Baltimore, Roberta’s House Grief Support Center, a Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Building. This was an undertaking that broke new ground both literally and figuratively, becoming the first newly-constructed bereavement center providing mental health services in an urban community by an African-American nonprofit organization.
We were called in to provide design services, furniture and labor throughout all three floors of the new facility, including offices, conference rooms, intake areas, a nourishment center, theatre area and the Rays of Hope Center. We were initially taken aback by the request that the facility feature bright colors throughout, which seemed counterintuitive for a grieving center. Roberta’s House, however, is focused on celebrating life with color and bright, open and welcoming spaces.
We worked side by side with Annette for two years, designing layouts and selecting furniture and finishes. Our team found ways to stay within budget by combining rich-looking patterns and fixtures with lower-cost options, even coming up with a different look and feel for each therapy room; each has its own color scheme and different types of furniture from the others.
The gratifying result is a bright and welcoming facility carefully designed to meet the needs of staff and clients alike as they work through the bereavement process and rebuild family dynamics. We’re honored to have participated in such an important project.
To see more of the new Roberta’s House Grief Support Center, and learn more about the history and mission of Roberta’s House, see the video on this page.