I used to think “creative” was synonymous with “artistic”. The definition of the word is “related to or involving the imagination or original ideas.” I’m the proud twin of an artist, a decorator, and a true creative in all senses of the word and, growing up as a twin, you can’t really have two of anything if you’re trying to be unique. Me and my twin started to claim our qualities as different from one another as all teenagers do. She was the blonde. I was the brunette. She was the artist, I was the academic. This carried into our young adult years until I became the East Coast twin and she remained in California. But in my early 20s it became more clear that our different expressions were just that, expressions. While she was painting in the art world, I was connecting in the nonprofit profession - both of us creating. As more and more people met me, April, rather than me, the twin, I found myself described more and more as “creative” and “passionate” and all the things I’ve attributed only to artists. So, hello, I am April, the kinda creative.
When I moved to New York, I got a TON of advice. The most prominent morsel was “don’t let New York beat you down.” I didn’t get it at the time and I certainly did not think I could be easily beaten down by anything. Then, I walked into a New York coffee shop and probably had four people cut me in line only to slam down their change on the counter and demand their coffee black - like their heartless souls and everything in their closet. Just kidding about the souls part, though. Anyways, I’ve changed a lot here but only in ways that I am very proud of and mostly because of the people who have come into my life.
With this new perspective, I’m able to look back and see that my creative qualities have helped me thrive in my field through networking and problem solving. And I realize that they were really nurtured by women in my life. In that land far far away - California in my early 20s - I was introduced to a group of women who called themselves the Topanga Women’s Circle. They used their resources and their community to give back to other families in a way that felt super authentic and not at all self-righteous. They went into transitional apartments and created homes for families that once lived on the streets, then left before the families even arrived. They fulfilled Christmas wish lists and made sure fridges were full with fresh produce, giving these families a real chance.
I’ve since worked on Rikers Island and in transitional housing (another story for another day) here in NYC and I’ve seen that sometimes we throw a dog a bone and call it a feast. We give the bare minimum living “essentials” like soap and toilet paper to homeless families. I’ve also seen the devastation of domestic violence and how women leaving a violent home also have to leave behind everything in their home. Again, their lives are whittled down to “just the essentials”. After working in social services for over eight years, I would love to see a little more gravy and a little more creativity in what should be considered as enough for a family to thrive. And I know this is very much possible because I’ve seen it happen before.
It turns out that New York didn’t break me down after all. It built me up and fueled a fire in me to do the same for others. I know that, when I am gifted a new candle or when I fill a vase with fresh flowers, I feel at home and am reminded of all that is beautiful around me. As a new mother, I realize the profound feeling of providing a home like mine for my child and am compelled to give this same experience to others in my community.
Just Human is a project that aims to provide the same feelings of home to families who have known what it is to not have more than the clothing on their backs. I have partnered with a nonprofit agency in the Hudson County that provides apartments to families transitioning out of homelessness. They have put together wish lists of items that they feel will transform their homes such as fresh towel sets, artwork, and table settings for family dinners.
Together, we aspire to collect, store, and redistribute surplus home goods to these families in need across the Hudson County. We recognize that artwork and beautiful linens are equally as essential for thriving and that it’s okay for families to want a beautiful space for themselves and for their children. We’re giving permission to all the badass moms out there making the most out of what they have and for their apartment to be more than just a roof over their head.
As you ring in the new decade and re-Pinterest board your studio apartment, consider sharing the things that brought you comfort by donating them to Just Human.