Good Works: Miracle on 34th Street
Miracle House needed a miracle. The New York City charity, which provides housing for out-of-town cancer patients and their families, needed to redecorate its apartments in a midtown Manhattan high-rise.
The Living Room
The worn-out decor was doing nothing to lift the spirits of the dozens of people whom Miracle House serves each week (asking them to donate no more than $40 a night for a room). Far from home, these visitors desperately need to be comforted. "They call me in tears, not knowing if they're more scared of the cancer treatments or of coming to New York," says Suzanne Keller, the director of client services for Miracle House, which was founded in 1990.

Enter a miracle worker: designer Elaine Griffin, who calls herself a "high-end girl with a huge conscience and a double dose of creativity." She completely renovated two of Miracle House's five three-bedroom apartments, using donated materials and volunteer labor. In a whirlwind of southern charm and persuasion, she got major donations from Baker Furniture ($69,783), Circa Lighting ($10,000), and Bed Bath & Beyond ($6,000). "I've never seen high energy quite so high!" says Keller.

Elaine Griffin was undaunted by challenges that included windowless communal living rooms. You won't recognize the result!