BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A local organization is dedicated to transforming empty spaces into homes and changing Western New Yorkers’ lives along the way.

UPward Design for Life is a nonprofit that fully furnishes empty homes for community members who cannot afford furniture. The organization’s clients include people transitioning out of homelessness, survivors of domestic violence, veterans, refugees, children and adults who have aged out of the foster care system.

“The whole purpose is to uplift our community through this work to give people a sense of home as they’re starting over and rebuilding their lives,” said Dionne Williamson, UPward Design for Life’s founder.

Williams said while everyone’s definition of home is different, a home should have all the essentials needed to live a healthy and productive life, and many in the community do not have those resources.

Lamy Lee is one of the clients who Willamson’s organization has served.

“It was a lot like being on one of those home design TV shows,” Lee said. “I left my home for a couple hours and I came back, it was just beautiful. It helped me a lot … I feel motivated, inspired to do better.”

Now, Williamson is inviting the community to help. The need for UPward Design for Life’s services, Sweet Buffalo’s Kimberly LaRussa said, is overwhelming and there is currently a six-month waiting list.

Community members can help by donating gently used furniture, donating funds or volunteering with the organization.

You can learn more about Williamson’s work at UPward Design for Life’s website here.

Williamson, Lee and LaRussa joined News 4 at 7 Monday to talk about the organization’s mission and how you can help on this week’s Sweet Buffalo Monday segment. Watch the full interview in the video player above.

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Justin McMullen is a Western New York native who joined the News 4 team in 2023. You can read more of his work here.