Joli Sanders moved to Oklahoma after taking one semester of classes at the University of Texas (UT) for a second bachelor’s degree. UT didn’t offer a master’s in Interior Design, but Sanders knew that was an area she wanted to explore.
The move put her close enough to the University of Central Oklahoma that she enrolled for a master’s degree in Interior Design, as well as taking on an internship with Vicki Van Stavern at the Van Stavern Design Group.
Once she reached 40 hours of work experience and courses, Sanders sat for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification exam, which she passed. The internship turned into a fulltime job and her passion turned into a career.
After 11 years at Van Stavern, Sanders took a job as a sales representative to allow herself more flexibility, wanting to focus on raising her children.
Sanders wanted to give back to the community, and after watching a television show with her son about homelessness in Detroit and the transition process, she was inspired.
“I wanted to get involved and give back,” Sanders said. “But I couldn’t find the right fit for my skill set.”
Sanders spent a year preparing herself, along with her family, for the work to come. She didn’t have any experience in non-profits, but Sanders didn’t let that stop her. In August 2014, Focus on Home was launched.
“Don’t be scared if you think you don’t know anything about it,” Sanders explained. “I’m learning as I go. You can’t keep waiting for it to come to you.”
Today, Focus on Home has helped more than 56 families furnish new homes. Most of them are transitioning out of homelessness. Sanders finds the families by partnering with referral agencies like Hope House, ReMerge and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
Focus on Home is 100 percent volunteer-run, and most of the families they help don’t have the resources to do much more than feed themselves once all the bills are paid, let alone furnish a new home.
Sanders partnered with Nicole at EpicEvents to create a fundraising event, noting that non-profits need to grab people’s attention in order to thrive. From this partnership came Design Appetit, a multi-day event that combines architecture, interiors, art and food for a unique dining experience. (To learn more about Design Appetit, visit designappetitokc.org.)
Sanders knows that UCO was a vital part of her journey, and she’s proud to have attended OKC’s metropolitan university.
“There’s a lot of resources in OKC and people want to help others succeed,” Sanders said. “UCO in particular helped me realize that interior design truly was my passion. I still use the skills UCO started and instilled in me. It helped me find that niche of what I enjoyed.”
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