Nothing seems more daunting than solving the homeless problem, but there’s a special San Diego organization making a real and meaningful impact.
On this episode we spotlight Humble Design, which serves individuals, families, and veterans emerging from homelessness by transforming empty houses into welcoming homes using donated furniture and household goods.
LJC Podcast guest hostess Marie Olesen shares the surprising ways that working with Humble Design has transformed the relationships on their team while volunteering to transform homes, with special guests Treger Strasberg of Humble Design and Elise Joseph of Frank Motors.
To honor the 2000th Humble Design home furnished, if you donate any amount to Humble Design using this link and show your email confirmation to us at the time you schedule an appointment, LJC will give you $50 off any purchase of $100 or more.
During the annual Subaru Share the Love event starting in November, if you purchase or lease a new Subaru you can donate $250 to the charity of your choice, including Humble Design.
Get involved! Volunteer or donate.
Read the story “The Star Thrower”
Speaker 1 (00:07):
You’re listening to the La Jolla Cosmetic podcast.
Marie Olesen (00:15):
Today we have a very special episode of the La Jolla Cosmetic podcast for you. I’m Marie Olesen, and I’m standing in for our wonderful hostess, Monique Ramsey. And I want to introduce you today to Humble Design, an organization that’s making a real difference for the homeless and which we proudly support. Homelessness is an overwhelming social problem and it’s hard to know how to help. If you’re like us, you’ll be happy to learn about Humble Design. And we feel very fortunate at La Jolla Cosmetic to be helping them. I have always believed that the environment around us has a tremendous impact on our happiness and our productivity. So if we think about our homes and what impact they have on us, you can begin to understand what Humble Design is doing for the homeless. We have a special announcement to make also today, but before we do, I’d like to introduce to you my lovely guests, Elise Joseph from Frank Motors, and Treger Strasberg from Humble Design. Will you each introduce yourselves?
Elise Fornaca Joseph (01:37):
Hi, I am Elise Joseph and I am proud to serve on the advisory board for Humble Design, San Diego. I am the digital marketing manager at Frank Motors. It’s a dealership group made up of Frank Toyota, Frank Subaru and Frank Hyundai on the Mile of Cars in National City. I’m born and raised in San Diego. Frank Motors is my family’s business that my grandfather Frank started in 1965. But prior to that, my family was in the bakery business and my great-grandfather started that business in 1912. My family has been in business in San Diego for over a hundred years. One thing that my grandfather always said was, take care of your customers, take care of your employees and take care of your community and you will be successful.
Elise Fornaca Joseph (02:21):
My family members and I have been following in his footsteps and have some amazing community partners that we work with on a daily basis. When Humble Design, San Diego first opened the doors in San Diego County. We were working with Big Brothers Big Sisters Of San Diego and a mutual friend, family, friend of Treger was working with Big Brothers Big Sisters at the time. She told us about this amazing new organization that was coming to San Diego. So we met up with the team at Humble Design and instantly fell in love with the mission and everything that they fulfill. So we’re very proud to be here. Very proud to serve and support Humble Design San Diego.
Marie Olesen (03:10):
Oh it’s interesting, Elise, because I would say we at La Jolla Cosmetic have that exact parallel to your grandfather’s vision, which is take good care, in our case, of patients, have a wonderful work family and then helping the community. And it’s a winning formula and I’m so glad to hear that you have 100 years of history. We have 33. And, so that’s great to hear. So, Treger talk to us.
Treger Strasberg (03:43):
I’m going to start off my introduction by just saying how grateful I am to know both of you and have watched these two kind, powerful, beautiful women make such a difference and make sure that the people around them and the company that they keep, knows that it is important to them to give back to their community. And, at Humble Design we love what we do, and we believe that beauty makes a difference and everyone deserves beauty and both of you embody that vision. And so I’m very grateful for you. But, my name is Treger Strasberg. In 2008, I had moved to Detroit and had made a friend with a woman who confided in me that she was sleeping in a homeless shelter with her two children. And from that need to help my friend and that overwhelming empathy that I had for her situation, was born an idea that we all have so much excess in our houses.
Treger Strasberg (04:35):
And when people move out of the homeless shelters and into their, sometimes their first home, sometimes the home after leaving an abusive relationship, sometimes their home after being homeless for decades or generational homelessness, they move into their first home, it should feel good. It should feel like home. It should feel safe. It should feel warm and it shouldn’t feel a sacrifice. It should feel joyful. And so I like to say that we deliver Christmas to our families, but really what we do is we deliver beauty and dignity and pride in your home. And that means everything. That means computers. That means furniture. That means dishware. That means extra linen. That means soft towels. That means seeing the colors that you wanted and designers who help you envision what your space is going to do.
Treger Strasberg (05:18):
Since 2008 we’ve furnished homes for over 7,000 individuals, just like we did that very first one for my friend, with dignity and pride and input from the client. And we’re working on our 2000th home coming up. I’m very proud of that. We’re in five cities nationwide, including San Diego. And we have amazing partners like La Jolla Cosmetic and Frank Subaru and all of our individual and corporate sponsors that make this happen.
Marie Olesen (05:47):
Treger, how did you decide to expand to San Diego?
Treger Strasberg (05:51):
Well, I grew up here and I have a huge soft spot in my heart for San Diego. I also know that there’s a lot of veteran homelessness here, and San Diego you would think is such a wealthy community, such a tourist town, but anybody who lives here knows that homelessness is a real issue and that wasn’t lost on me when I would come home to visit. So when my husband and I decided to move from Michigan, we had the opportunity to move anywhere and we decided to move back home to really make an investment in San Diego and make sure that we were part of the solution to what is going on here.
Marie Olesen (06:23):
For those of you who are unaware of how this works, what happens is a homeless family, graduates from some kind of system and they are nominated to have a home installed by Humble Design. The designers call them and there’s a process that they go through to find out what they want in their home. And then there’s an installation day and both Elise and Frank Motors and I through La Jolla Cosmetic, and actually each of us individually, which we should talk about too, Elise, have sponsored what are called days of service. And so a team of people from your organization or among your friends go and work together to help take the furniture off the trucks, get it installed, and then to create this very welcoming environment for the family. We actually get to meet the family and see their reactions.
Marie Olesen (07:25):
And it’s actually one of the greatest team building experiences that I’ve had in our organization, because so much of our charity is just done with money, you know, not with our personal effort. And so Elise, can you tell me how your coworkers have responded? Is there any story that you want to share with us?
Elise Fornaca Joseph (07:50):
Yes. Well, I have a few because I don’t know anybody that has come to a day of service that hasn’t been deeply touched by the whole experience. It’s the most amazing thing you could ever do. I have experienced six days of service and each one are just unique and beautiful in every single way. First, our general manager at Frank Subaru, Michael Wilkes, he has latched on to Humble Design and will support it in every single way. The Amazon wishlist, he constantly, I think buys it out every time there’s something new because he’s just feels so passionate about the organization and what Humble is doing for members of our community. Additionally, family friend, who also has been working with Frank Motors for 40 years, her and her husband, recently just did a home. Her daughter sponsored a home that she did I believe last week.
Elise Fornaca Joseph (08:55):
And, she…ever since her first home that she did with us two years ago has been so involved and invested in Humble Design. I don’t know anybody who could come to a day of service that isn’t moved beyond anything they could have ever imagined.
Marie Olesen (09:13):
Well, I had a funny story on our first day of service and the boyfriend of one of our team came along and he was this handsome dude. We had this little group at the beginning to say what we’re going to do, and he was silent during that group. And then at the end, we all got together and said, what did this mean to you? He said, I have to tell you that I did not want to come today. In fact I wanted to stay home and sleep. But he said, what I’ve learned today is I need to get a life. What I think have thought was a problem is nothing. These people have real problems. And he said, this will change my life. It makes me want to cry really, because homelessness is so overwhelming. And at an individual level we just don’t know what we can do. And the idea that you and a group of your friends or family or coworkers can go together and know that you have helped a family get on a path to a better future, it’s just amazing feeling.
Marie Olesen (10:29):
And, I’m like you Elise, and I’m sure you’ve seen it many, many times over the years Treger, which is once you do it, you’re like hooked. Okay, pretty soon we’re going to do two houses. Pretty soon I’m going to go on the board. It just keeps escalating because of the meaningful impact that Humble is having. And I do want to quote a statistic, which is that the average homeless person going through and being placed in basically an empty apartment is back on the street in six months, because an empty room with sleeping bags is not a home. And so when Humble is involved, then over 90% of those people are still in their homes a year later. And it tells you what an incredible intervention this has been, to get them back to a normal life. And I’m honored to participate as I said. And so do you have any stories Treger that, I’m sure you have tons, but just give us some examples and maybe talk to us about what national support you have as well.
Treger Strasberg (11:48):
Sure. So, I have such a connection with the feeling of getting outside yourself and feeling like you’re overwhelmed with problems and then going out and volunteering or giving of yourself, and then realizing what framework you’re working within, right? Tucking your kids into bed at night. And when I first started the organization, I just felt so humbled by it, which is where the name came from. I just felt so humbled to tuck my children into their warm bed, knowing that there were hundreds of kids out there that were sleeping on the floor that night. And when we found out that it wasn’t a band-aid, that it was actually helping people stay out of homelessness, it gave me all that much more drive, but the addicting part is being able to see where your money and your hard work and your sweat equity actually does. It is so lovely that people volunteer and give and pack up food and boxes.
Treger Strasberg (12:34):
But there’s is so…It’s such a rare opportunity to come face to face with somebody who you’ve changed their life forever one afternoon, and to watch the relief. Over and over again here’s what I see, a mom walking and she’s carrying the world on her shoulders. She has left a dangerous situation and she takes all of her strength and energy to get the kids out in the middle of the night. And then the kids have to go to a homeless shelter, which is the worst, I’m so grateful that they exist, but it’s the worst place that you want to be. It’s the last place you want to be. And then the place that they left has the furniture and the computers and the games and everything. So she has to find the courage to start again. And then when she walks into this house and it’s fully furnished and everything that the kids want and they’re excited and they climb into their beds and she sees them have joy. You can watch the weight of the world fall off of that.
Treger Strasberg (13:27):
That’s the moment I look for. You’ll see me in videos. I’m an ugly crier, so I’m easy to spot. But in all of our videos, I watch the mom and I watch the moment she walks not into her room, not into the living room, but she walks into the kids room. You can see it. If you look closely enough it happens and every time there’s a mother involved with children, she has a wash of relief. And I am overwhelmed by that moment every single time. I’ve seen veterans have that moment of I think things are going to be okay. It’s a shift when you’re surrounded by things that you’re proud of, your mentality about it shifts and you start to have a little bit of hope and kids cry at the side of their bed. So for me, if I always have to pick one humble family that sticks out above all humble families.
Treger Strasberg (14:16):
There’s a little boy, and his mom and they’d been homeless for, gosh, four years, I think. And when we came in, it was around Christmas time and we said to him, we’re going to give you a tree and presents. What do you want? He said, I want a bed. I haven’t ever had a bed and I don’t think my mom’s ever had a bed and I just want a bed. He thought he was going to share it with his mom. So he asked for one bed for the two of them. So he is just this cute little eight year old kid. And he walks into his room and we set up art supplies and toys and a bed and everything he could possibly want. And he just burst into tears. It’s not unusual. We’ve seen kids that young person burst into tears, but what is he carrying around that the sight of the bed makes him burst into tears? My kids don’t burst into tears beside their bed.
Treger Strasberg (15:06):
What has his last couple of years been like, that just a safe space and a bed and makes him cry? So, I agree with you that it’s addicting. And I would also to point out that our tagline is, togetherness to end homelessness, because we understand how important it is that the people come down and volunteer, as well as the people who are getting the service. It is equally important to me and to my wellbeing and health to come and volunteer for Humble as it is for the people who is receiving the services. I need to feel I’m doing something and making a difference.
Marie Olesen (15:36):
One of the things that we hope to do with this podcast is to encourage more local businesses, to support Humble and to get their teams involved. So, Treger, tell us about the national organizations that are supporting Humble.
Treger Strasberg (15:56):
Great question. So our first large national sponsor was U-Haul, which is kind of a no-brainer because we need a lot of warehouse and a lot of trucking. And they were able to give us a space in Chicago and trucks for all of our locations. So, immediately we were able to expand to Chicago. Then when we got to Chicago, CB2 came on board, which is amazing because CB2 is such a lovely design furniture company. We have organizations like Progressive, who only use us as an HR function. Basically what they do is they decorate with their employees. Our volunteers in Cleveland are all Progressive employees. So Progressive has said, we really want to get involved in the community. We want our employees to get involved in the community. We are going to sponsor every home and every home is going to be filled with Progressive employees.
Treger Strasberg (16:44):
So, it’s such a great model because it is a team building exercise, and it’s a fun day. It’s quick, it’s fun, it’s easy and it’s so fulfilling. So we have built this model of Humble Design, basically as that experience, as a day for corporations or individuals with groups to come down, sponsor this day and have an amazing time and want to do it again and again and again.
Marie Olesen (17:09):
I heard the other day that a young girl did her bat mitzvah as an installation, which I thought was what a lovely, charming, aware thing to do. And Elise, I know you used your own birthday. Tell us about that.
Elise Fornaca Joseph (17:27):
Yeah. So, my son and I are both born in June. He’s June 6th, I’m June 14th, and it was his first birthday. So, this past year has been a hard one I think on everyone. And we wanted to use his birthday and celebrate the best way we possibly could and that was by sponsoring a home with Humble Design and doing a day of service. But instead of us just donating the funds, I took it as an opportunity to do a fundraiser and spread awareness through my whole network, family, friends, personal, professional, and throughout that whole month long campaign that I ran, I think every single conversation I had with somebody was about Humble Design and telling them about the mission and educating people on what we’re actually doing. Then I got, my husband has never done a home with us before, so it was really important for me to have him experience that and really understand everything I’ve been talking about these last couple of years.
Elise Fornaca Joseph (18:30):
Him, my brother-in-law, my two best friends, we all got together and did a home. And like I said, they’ve all heard me talk and rave about this experience. But at the end of the day, they were blown away just like everybody else. Listening to what Treger said earlier about the mom in this situation, I’ve been privileged enough to do homes with Frank Subaru. But this home I felt was my personal, you know, gathering my group of people rather than just corporate. And so I felt like it had my touch on it and it was my first year of motherhood. And here I got to watch a mom, mother of four, the weight off her shoulders when she walked in. She has gone through so much in this life and her 13 year old daughter saw her bed for the first time and just collapsed into her mom’s arms. And, I got to go home to my son. He has his crib. Oh gosh, I mean, it’s just the best gift I could have given my friends, the best way we could have ever celebrated his first birthday.
Elise Fornaca Joseph (19:47):
And I can’t wait until he gets older, so I can tell him about that experience and have him be involved and have him realize that even though he’s so tiny right now, he was able to make a huge impact in somebody’s life and change their life forever. It was the most amazing experience. I was able to open the door for them when they walked in and we welcomed them home. And it was one of the greatest moments ever. I mean, just, you just feel like you did something for somebody. Sorry, it’s hard to put into words.
Marie Olesen (20:25):
No. I’m over here on the other both sobbing my eyes out. This is my little story I’m about to tell you, by the level of intensity of what you just said is very benign. But, I’m a huge believer in servant leadership. And so I think that as the leader leads, you demonstrate, if I say, I want you to take, or you say I want you to take really good care of our customers, but then I’m rude or unavailable or whatever. I really value teamwork, but I’m not kind, or I’m very judgmental with the team. So, it has to be do as I do. And so when we go to do the installs, because now I’ve been on several of them, what I’ve figured out that really nobody particularly wants to do, is do all the cleaning. And all of this furniture, everything has been in a warehouse. And so every single surface has to be wiped.
Marie Olesen (21:28):
And so I thought, you know, I want everyone else to really have this experience. And so I’m just going to be the cleaner. And one of our new staff that I really didn’t even know said, I never knew that I was going to get to know you while we were cleaning the bathroom, but it has a humanity to it and says, we’re all just fellow citizens, fellow walkers in life together in this. And someone then told me, Treger, that you always clean the toilet. Is this true?
Treger Strasberg (22:02):
My job, that’s what I do. And I do it for the same reason that you do, is that it’s not the most popular job, but it’s so important. And you know what it is to come home to a clean house. Clorox is one of our major sponsors, you know, nationwide and the power of coming home to feeling clean. And even if you’ve been living in this empty apartment for a year and it smells good and it feels good and it’s furnished. And I think as moms, we know what that is and what the gift that is. So not only are you giving a gift to your employees to show them that you’re not above cleaning a toilet with them and getting out of your space, but also you’re giving a gift to somebody who it’s one less thing, right? It just feels so much better. So, I love cleaning the toilets, listen I don’t love cleaning the toilets, but I love the message that it sends not only to the people who are volunteering but for the people who come home.
Marie Olesen (22:53):
Right. I agree with you obviously. So, let’s go off here for a second. And, Treger, what do you think that people don’t know about the homeless problem that maybe they can learn in this discussion?
Treger Strasberg (23:09):
So I was very unaware of what was going on in the homeless sector when I started. I had never, I had volunteered for one nonprofit. I knew nothing of nonprofit work when I started this, so it’s been a huge learning curve. But what I’ve really come to learn is I get the opportunity to sit down with thousands of families and do that first interview. And I get to sit down and look at them in the eye and say, what has your last year been like? Tell me how this got to this point and share with me who you are and who your children are? And we are all in this country so close. These are not families that have struggled with drug addiction like we think. Or, that, some of the parents that we deal with have one or two college degrees. Some of them have three jobs and are still homeless.
Treger Strasberg (23:56):
The amount of hurdles that we have to climb in this country right now, also how close everyone is one paycheck, one medical emergency away, one family tragedy away from being in this situation. I have had a huge sense of there, but for the grace of God, go, I over and over and over again. And these are families who have worked really hard to get into this housing. So we tend to come across families who are really, really hard workers. And the fact that we have hundreds of people on our waiting list, it’s not like we’re servicing everybody who needs to be serviced, we have so many more families that we need to get to, is just astounding and it’s heartbreaking but it also feels wonderful to move the needle. There’s so many programs in this country that are band-aids and I was really intent when we started this, that we are going to be a solution and not part of the problem.
Marie Olesen (24:47):
Well, I heard this statistic that 40 people a week graduate from the various preparation programs in San Diego. Humble is doing two installs. So every week 38 families are not able to experience what Humble is able to provide and really to completely change the trajectory of their future.
Treger Strasberg (25:16):
And they’re sleeping on the floor. They’re sleeping on the floor, let’s just be clear.
Marie Olesen (25:20):
So, Elise and I really have made a commitment to try and increase the corporate support for Humble, because ideally we’d like to say, couldn’t we be big enough to go to three and then four and then five and more, because the need is here in this community. And I also heard this statistic that the city of San Diego pays $40,000 a year per homeless person. So, if you look and just say, five years is the time that the Humble residents stays and goes forward. That’s you know, what? $200,000 per home installed in save cost to the community. And so just again, getting more people aware of it and really it is, it’s addicting. Elise and I can tell you, once you do it, you can’t stop.
Treger Strasberg (26:17):
This is an investment that pays dividends. The rate of recidivism nationwide is 50%. So people who go into a home, go back on the streets, 50% of the time within the first calendar year. If we can get that number down, our numbers indicate it’s a one to 2%. We’re at 99, 98%. Do you know how many people you would see the actual results of that within the first three years, you would see 50% of the homeless family stay in their homes and not go back into that revolving door of homelessness. Alpha Project and all these ETCLs, they are tired of seeing the same families over and over again. It exhausts them, it exhausts our social workers, it exhausts our resources. And I’ll be honest with you it exhaust our tax dollars. So if we can just do the small things, the small things that make people stay in their homes and give them the successful wraparound services that they need, in the end it’s a good investment.
Marie Olesen (27:10):
Thank you. Thank you. Elise, is there any other stories that you can think of about coworkers? How have they reacted, your staff to Frank Motor’s support of Humble?
Elise Fornaca Joseph (27:24):
They love it. Anytime we have a day of service, we have a list longer than we can provide for everybody to come. So we are proud to be a part of the pilot program, getting Humble Design to two homes a week, because our staff loves it. It’s an incredible team bonding experience. I think that every single organization should be a part of a day of service, because it will change the path of their organization. It will change how their team members view each other and view the world around them. It’s an investment and it’s an investment in your city, in your community, but it’s also an investment in your corporation, because it will change your corporation.
Marie Olesen (28:13):
Talk to us also, because I know you designated Humble for the Subaru Share the Love campaign, which is a, you know, a national campaign. So talk to us about that.
Elise Fornaca Joseph (28:25):
So with Frank Subaru, Subaru has what’s called the Share the Love campaign and it’s from the middle of November through the beginning of January, the holidays. Subaru has what’s called their love promise, which is a promise and a commitment to do right by your customers and your community. Subaru has four national charities and then each dealership or retailer is set to pick two hometown charities. And so we have chosen Humble Design as our hometown charity, which means that the funds raised through Share the Love, go directly to Humble Design San Diego. So during the Subaru Share the Love event, any new Subaru purchased or leased, Subaru will donate $250 to the charity of the customer’s choice. So Humble Design, being our hometown charity, any customer that buys or lease a new Subaru from us during that time has the opportunity to choose Humble Design as the place where they want Subaru’s investment to go to.
Elise Fornaca Joseph (29:28):
During the 2020 Subaru Share the Love event, Frank Subaru was able to raise $20,000 for Humble Design San Diego, which paid for five houses, five families getting services.
Marie Olesen (29:39):
Perfect. We don’t have that national support because we’re a local organization, but a couple of years ago, we started a radiothon at Christmas to raise money for Humble. And the first year we participated with some other charities and we got a small amount of it. And then the next two years we’ve done it on our own. And so the amount has grown. And last year we raised $22,000. So that’s in that same period when people, it’s the holidays, people feel so grateful about their blessings and they want to reach out and help their community in some way. And so it is lovely Treger to think about it in terms of families rather than dollars and a wonderful way to phrase it.
Treger Strasberg (30:31):
20 kid’s no longer on the floor, you know? And when we think about 7,000 individuals who are no longer in that cycle of homelessness. Marie told me a story about a starfish that I feel like kind of embodies how we feel about every family. Marie, do you want to share that story? I can’t paraphrase it as well as you.
Marie Olesen (30:51):
That’s okay. You can find it on the internet. It’s called, The Star Thrower. And we have starfish all over our practice because of this story. And so an old man is coming to a beach and he’s watching a young figure and the person is leaning down and picking up something and throwing it, leaning down, picking up something and throwing it. He can’t understand what the young man is doing. And so he walks over to him and says, what are you doing? And the young man said, well, the tide’s gone out and the starfish are all are on the beach. And if I don’t throw them back in the water, they’re going to die. And so the old man said, there’s thousands of starfish on this beach and they’re miles and miles of beach. How do you think you’re going to make a difference? And the young man leaned down and he picked up a starfish and he threw it in the water.
Marie Olesen (31:48):
And he said, I made a difference for that one. I told Treger this story, because it’s that homelessness is all those starfish on the beach that can seem overwhelming. But one at a time you can make a difference and make a difference that’s going to be impactful for years to come. The other point I wanted to make is for the volunteers, I think we’ve made the point that the volunteers are very touched by this. But one of the things that I’ve noticed among the families is, it’s almost here they’re surrounded by this group of strangers, maybe eight, 10 people, different ages, different colors, it doesn’t matter. And here it’s like, you who don’t know me came to help me? It sort of says, I’m not as isolated in this community as I thought I was, we’re not as different as we think we are. And talk about Share the Love, it is that sense that there’s a greater whole, that all of us are a part of.
Marie Olesen (33:03):
And I have felt that so strongly because they’re almost in shock, like, who are you? And why are you here to help me? How did this happen? And it’s a blessing on both sides.
Treger Strasberg (33:16):
A lot of our families don’t feel like the community sees them. They don’t feel loved. They don’t feel seen. When our designers go and ask them, what do you like? What colors do you like? You know, what did you envision for your children’s room and for your room? It takes them by surprise. A lot of times people get very shy. They don’t know what to say. Just bring me anything I’ll be fine with that. It has been such a long time, or maybe never at all, that they feel that they have a voice in their community and that people care about them. And so even more important than the furniture is surrounding them with love and understanding and empathy. I just had a quick question for both of you, have you seen any of your clients, you know, the people who you service in your community, the people who you actually sell to have a reaction to your community involvement and has it helped your business?
Marie Olesen (33:59):
I will say definitely. And you too, Elise, you’re shaking your head.
Elise Fornaca Joseph (34:03):
Marie Olesen (34:04):
I think particularly in our end of things, which can be seen as very self-absorbed, to know that some benefit is coming out of this and really people come to us with a dream about how they can change themselves, how they can enjoy their life more. We’ve had many patient’s say and write in comments, how much they value us for being community minded. So it’s just like you Elise, it’s part of our DNA and it makes us proud of who we are too and what our values are.
Treger Strasberg (34:45):
When you say Subaru to me, especially Frank Subaru, immediately I know that Subaru gives back. I know that, it’s their tagline. It’s basically who they are. And when people talk about La Jolla Cosmetic, they just know that Marie is in the community being charitable and helping the community. It’s just part of their DNA. And honestly, I feel like people, and we’ve seen statistics in that we’ve taken classes and pick this apart of corporate responsibility. People now want to know, they want to know what your brand is about and who you’re servicing as well as being a great product or having great service. I just feel so connected to the brands that do good in their community. I feel like I’m rooting for them, and it’s weird to say that as a consumer.
Marie Olesen (35:27):
I agree. And I look for it. I bought something the other day and I got an email. Why did you buy from us? And I said, because I really admire the things that you do in the community. And it was truly, I had a choice of vendors for whatever I was buying and I thought I’m going to look for somebody who has values and demonstrates them. And so I know we’re not alone in that, it’s more common than ever I think.
Elise Fornaca Joseph (35:55):
People want to do business with good people. Especially in the car business, you have a lot of choices. You have a lot of different dealers, retailers that you could go to, but at the end of the day, vast majority of our customers purchase cars from us and continue servicing with us because of what we do for our community.
Marie Olesen (36:15):
Yes. I think they can’t quite know that how you treat your people is an important part of how they bond. Because you cannot fake an organization where staff are unhappy and feel disrespected or anything. So it’s all part of a whole. Treger, talk to us. So, obviously we’re going to give people an opportunity to make a contribution at the end of this podcast, but also in other ways they can help. So their company can support it. They individually within their company or privately can support it. And because it’s stuff that’s being gathered and put into these homes, there’s an element where they may have actual things they want to contribute. And so can you talk a little bit about that?
Treger Strasberg (37:11):
Yes, of course. So basically the premise of our company is that we collect furniture and home goods from the community and then curate them and distribute to those in need. So the majority of our furniture, although we have a couple furniture partners, the majority of our furniture comes from the community. I will say, in San Diego, our biggest need right now, like you said, is space. If we could do more families, what we would need would be more space. And right now, so we do do pickups and we do have drop offs and it’s so controlled and it’s tight in there because we have such a small space. So if you’re going to donate to us, we would absolutely love it. Please be patient with us, with our pickup and our drop offs and understand that we’re very limited in the space. As we grow and as we have more space, we are going to take in everything that we possibly can and use it.
Treger Strasberg (37:57):
And even if you think, oh, I’m not sure anybody would want this. Really, we repurpose things. We paint over things. We have Dave in the warehouse. Shout out to Dave, our volunteer who fixes things. And we just love it when the community gets involved and donating your special items is a way to get involved. Also getting to see where they go. I don’t know if any of you have visited our social media, but you get to see that little boy that I talked about crying at the side of his bed. You get to see where your desk went, that you held onto for 20 years because you thought your daughter’s kids might want it. You get to see the Thanksgiving table that you set out, have another family who is in need sit there. There’s a special way to connect. So donating your goods, going on Amazon to get the stuff like you said, that we don’t always have access to.
Treger Strasberg (38:39):
And coming down, if it’s not a day of service and you just want to volunteer for the day and come down and either work in the warehouse or get to go down to a house, it is such an incredible experience to see the whole warehouse buzzing and the way that this happened and the way the swiftness and the designers work. I encourage everybody just to get involved where they can and at their comfort level.
Marie Olesen (39:03):
I will say, you’re very kind in terms of how open you are to receiving things. But I think that people need to vet what they want to give to Humble, and is this in good condition, ready to be used, because it’s going to have to be processed. And so there’s an intense effort of the volunteers to receive this stuff, get it organized, store it, get it placed in the right home. And if fixing it is also, I mean I think it’s wonderful that Dave does what he does, but I think that people need to be a little careful because this is going to someone home.
Treger Strasberg (39:46):
Let me tell you a story. You’re absolutely right, 100%. I am a little lenient with the stuff that comes in, but let me tell you why. So in Detroit, this is where we started, in Detroit and we had a woman pull up in her car. She must’ve been 80 years old. She opened up the back and it was stuff that was 40 years old, half broken, half tubes of Bengay. It was not stuff that we would place in a home with dignity or pride. Now she’s unloading all this stuff, telling me the story of each piece that comes out of her car. This was my son’s changing table and I didn’t have the heart to give it away. He passed away three years ago and I can’t see it sitting around in the house. She had a story for every single thing, everything had meaning to her and she wanted it to be used. She wanted it to go to a family who needed it rather than just throwing it away or throwing it into a hole.
Treger Strasberg (40:33):
So while we, yes, probably couldn’t use some of this stuff, then she became involved in the organization because she really had a heart for what we did. And then she got to see our warehouse. And then she started bringing her friends who then brought us better stuff. And then who did a day of service. And so I feel like sometimes people just want to see their stuff go to an organization that’s doing right by the community and they know where it is and they know where it’s going. And so it’s very hard for me to turn it down, but in a space this small that we’re in, we’re in a postage stamp in San Diego, you know what the rent is here, it’s insane. It’s very hard for us to take all that stuff. You’re right. I should be more discerning.
Elise Fornaca Joseph (41:12):
I will say that the first home I ever did with Humble Design was, myself, my dad and my cousin, we all participated and my mom. We all participated in this day of service and it was shortly after my grandfather passed away. And he did have things in good condition that we were able to use, but it was so cool being able to unload his things off of the U-Haul and place them in this home for this family to start their new future. So it was awesome to be able to see his stuff repurposed in that way.
Marie Olesen (41:43):
I saw some pillows that I donated, made into the backdrop to a little teepee in a child’s room. I went, oh, there my pillows. Yeah, so, it is fun to see.
Treger Strasberg (41:55):
Have either of you cried when a piece of furniture has left your house?
Marie Olesen (41:58):
Yes, no. I can’t say that.
Treger Strasberg (42:00):
I gave my crib to my son and then I gave it to my daughter. And when the crib, I finally let go to the crib because I realize I wasn’t going to have any more kids. When the crib was leaving the house, I bawled like a baby. And honestly the sight of it in another kid’s room enjoying it, made it so much better for me. People have these connections with their stuff, it’s so weird, but watch any designers show and you’ll see how hard it is for people to give up their stuff. We want to make sure that there’s a place that they know that it will be going to a family who really could use it.
Marie Olesen (42:28):
That’s true. That’s so true. So anything that either of you would like to add before we make our big announcement here?
Treger Strasberg (42:38):
I just want to say thank you. This community in general, the two of you are an embodiment of what is all that is good about San Diego. But this community has been an incredible gift to Humble Design. And I have always been a volunteer. I’ve never been an employee. So, I know what it is to give of your time and to give of your energy. And you walk into our warehouse and there’s 20 people there every day, volunteering their time. And it blows me away at how wonderful and giving and how many people want to help. And I hope that if you’re listening to this right now, you’ve gotten all the way to the end and you want to hear the big deal that Marie is going to give you that you’ll be inspired to come down and be part of our group and figure out a way, like that man said, who the boyfriend who visited, just to get out of your own head space and help someone else and how beneficial that is for everyone.
Marie Olesen (43:29):
Elise Fornaca Joseph (43:30):
From a corporate standpoint, if you have a business or corporation that you’re looking to get more involved with the community, Humble Design is where you need to go and you need to sponsor a day of service, you will not regret it and you will get hooked and you will continue sponsoring days of service over and over and over again. And your team will love it. Your customers will love it. It’s the best thing you could do for your business.
Marie Olesen (43:57):
Great. Thank you very much. I loved being with both of you and we will send this out onto the airwaves. We promised to make a special announcement. And so in honor of the 2000th home, we usually have a promo with our podcasts and we’re going to double it. So rather than $25, we’ll give you $50 off on a purchase of $100 or more at La Jolla Cosmetic. And this is if you donate any amount to Humble Design, and that will also be in the show notes, that link, how to go to that page. And, Elise and I hope that we’ve been a good marketing team for corporate sponsors and that if anyone listening has interest in being a corporate sponsor, we obviously strongly encourage you to do that. To give to Humble Design, go to the Give Lively page in the link in the show notes, it’s just like GoFundMe, so you’ll be very familiar with how to use it. Thank you ladies.
Elise Fornaca Joseph (45:12):
Thank you. Thank you so much.
Speaker 1 (45:19):
Take a screenshot of this podcast episode with your phone and show it at your consultation or appointment or mention the promo code PODCAST to receive $25 off any service or product a $50 or more at La Jolla Cosmetic. La Jolla Cosmetic is located just off the I-5/San Diego Freeway, in the XIMED building on the Scripps Memorial Hospital Campus. To learn more, go to ljcsc.com or follow the team on Instagram at ljcsc. The La Jolla Cosmetic podcast is a production of The Axis.