Purposeful Design Rebuilding Lives One Piece of Furniture at a Time
Editor’s Note: Most Tuesdays, MinistryWatch posts an article of a Christian ministry doing great work in their local communities. Today’s featured ministry is Indianapolis-based Purposeful Design. For more articles in this series, click here.
Like a rough piece of wood that needs sanding before it can be used in a piece of furniture, lives are being transformed through Purposeful Design, a not-so ordinary carpentry shop in Indianapolis.
While Purposeful Design has been building and selling furniture since 2013, its main purpose has been to create jobs and a new life for those who have struggled with addiction, incarceration and homelessness. Located in a warehouse in Indianapolis, Purposeful Design partners with a variety of organizations, including Wheeler Mission, a local homeless shelter where Palmer is a former board member.
And founder David Palmer told The Indianapolis Star that the non-profit company’s work is accomplished “in the context of a really positive, encouragement-filled workplace where men learn to grow and to walk a new walk.”
Purposeful Design is “not just a safety net” for those struggling to get back on their feet, he added. It is “a place to get strong and they can go out, bearing fruit in their home, their community and in their churches.”
Purposeful Design’s mission, its website says, is to “help rebuild lives of individuals broken by addiction or homelessness, equip them with valuable work skills, and provide the gift of work.”
In 2019, Purposeful Design was honored by WORLD Magazine as the 2019 Hope Awards Northeast winner.
Since the non-profit company opened its doors, Purposeful Design has gone from making $37,000 its first year to most recently bringing in $1.5 million, WORLD reported. And it operates with about 8 staff and 50 volunteers.
To provide carpentry training while also teaching life lessons and how to be a servant-leader, Palmer started a School of Woodworking & Discipleship in 2018 that offers 30 hours of coursework.
“Not only did I learn woodworking, but I learned how to improve my relationship with the Lord,” one graduate is quoted on the company’s website.
While Purposeful Design thrives on providing a patient and nurturing atmosphere to those who work there, the company decided they needed to enforce a zero tolerance policy with drugs and alcohol in 2018, WORLD reported. “Staff members realized giving multiple chances to men who showed up high or drunk was hurting the business, hurting the individuals, and hurting their watching co-workers,” WORLD wrote. The group now does random drug and alcohol tests and terminates those who don’t pass. Since the new policy, Palmer told WORLD, the organization has had to fire three employees. But overall the new policy has helped keep employees more accountable in making good decisions as they seek to live a better life.
One of those lives changed is Russell Phillips, one of the team’s craftsmen.
Phillips recalled a life of struggles caused by spending time with the wrong crowds and making a lot of poor decisions.
“My Dad owned a bar,” he shared in a video interview on the Purposeful Design’s website. “I spent my 16th birthday on a bus from Orlando, Fla., to Mississippi. When I got off the bus, my Dad gave me a cigarette and beer, so it was bad from there on out. I thought it was good, until it got bad. And it got bad soon.”
But today, Phillips is a new believer in Christ and working at Purposeful Design has helped turn his life around.
“Now things are different in my life and it excites me,” he said. “It’s changed my life completely.”
Another craftsman, Jesse Slaugh, shared his story in a video interview and explained how the ministry helped him hit the reset button on his life.
Slaugh, who grew up in Utah, said he moved to Indianapolis for “all the wrong reasons,” and he used to be addicted to drugs and alcohol and went to prison for a time.
“I did what I wanted to do,” he said. “I was my own god.”
After being released from prison, Slaugh said, he had “nowhere else to go” and ended up turning to the Wheeler Mission, where he met Palmer, who helped him find a job at Purposeful Design.
Today, Slaugh says he answers to “one God” and is now a husband and father. While Slaugh left Purposeful Design to take another job for a while, he became concerned he might “fall back in [his] old ways” and returned to the company.
“The environment is the number one thing here,” he said. “We are brothers in Christ. The first thing we do before we even start working is pray.”
Slaugh’s co-worker, Phillips also noted, “We’re all like a big family around here,” he said.
“A lot of love, a lot of love,” he added. “We all work with each other and try to help each other from learning, doing bigger and better things.”