A Delightful Mix of Past and Present
Make-A-Wish Orange County and the Inland Empire (MAWOCIE) spent the last 10 years with offices that were essentially a converted home. Everyone referred to it as "The Wish House" because it actually was a house. Granted, it was a 4,100 square foot house, but it still felt like a home when someone walked through the front door. It was very welcoming and warm; it didn't really feel like stepping into a sterile office.
But by 2013, MAWOCIE had outgrown the house. Staff members were literally sharing desks. Interns were given a laptop and set-up at the kitchen table. There was no room to conduct training, something that the chapter does over 125 times per year, which meant that all training was done off-site. And, most importantly, there wasn't a space that Wish Granters could use for the Wish Children and their families in Wish Reveals and Wish Interviews.
An extensive space planning program was carried-out, then reworked again and again several times. They came to the realization that in order to fulfil their mission, to grant the wish of every child with a life threatening illness, they would need to grow even more and that growth would require an estimated 10,000 square feet.
The concern with a transition from a house to a commercial office space was that MAWOCIE would lose that warm, "homey" feeling that visitors experienced when they entered the Wish House. The new office would have to be professional-looking, but at the same time be welcoming to Wish Children and their families. They realized it would be a delicate balance between professional and whimsical: two virtues that would not normally be seen paired together.
This was the direction given to the design firm, Casco Design, and the furniture vendor, Facility Services: to somehow design and furnish a space that met the professional expectations of the organization's donors and stakeholders while still providing a family- friendly atmosphere for their clients. It was important that donors would walk in feeling that they were supporting a high-level, growing initiative but it was also important that children could walk in and immediately feel at home, relax with their families and generally, just be a kid.
Casco Design and Facility Services generously donated their time, working in concert to bring the look and feel to the offices that MAWOCIE had feared losing by moving from the original Wish House. The design elements are whimsical; a blue brick path to wishes, an open area for Wish Children and families, lighting and ceiling treatments that fit the feel in the family areas. The offices and workstations were laid out in a very open and modern format. Furniture in the common areas such as Reception, Wish Family Room and the Donor Recognition area are modern and professional-looking, but fabric and finish selections are more whimsical and kid-durable.
Now when families come to visit, the children are instantly at home, bouncing on chairs, pulling toys out of the toy box in the Wish Family Room and just generally being kids. Working together, Casco Design and Facility Services were spot-on in fulfilling the original needs assessment. Make-A-Wish Orange County Inland Empire now has an 11,000 sq. ft. space that is perfectly suited for the serious work ahead of them, while at the same time making their constituents feel right at home.