We all love the idea of a fresh start. But for homeless and trafficked kids, it's an urgent need. Since 1972, Covenant House has been offering shelter, food, services, and comfort to at-risk young people, and 14 years ago, Alex Molina was fortunate enough to be one of them. At age 19, after a turbulent childhood and stints in a dozen foster homes, Molina scored a spot at the organization's Los Angeles facility. "They gave me life skills I'd never learned: how to cook, clean my room, make a résumé," she says.

The following year, Molina heard about an Oprah Winfrey Show contest offering one lucky student a makeover. She sent in her story, and to her utter shock, she won—not just the makeover but also a car, a $10,000 wardrobe, and college tuition. After graduating from Loyola Marymount University, Molina returned to Covenant House L.A., this time to work as a case manager. During one of her regular email exchanges with Oprah, she mentioned that the 21-year-old shelter was showing its age. And indeed it was—think squashed institutional mattresses and bedraggled carpets.

Oprah knew just who could help: virtuoso designer Jeremiah Brent. Brent lives just three miles from Covenant House, but that wasn't the only reason he felt connected to the project: When he first came to L.A. in 2004, he was homeless himself for nearly a year. "I slept in my Jeep," he says. "My first apartment was across the street from Covenant House."

Brent dreamed up a revamp that would build the residents' sense of pride—and the results brought tears to Molina's eyes. "I wish there was a bigger word for grateful," she says. "I'm so humbled and blessed, it knocks me to my knees."

Designer Jeremiah Brent test-drives the new beds. He got involved after a call from Oprah. "She said, ‘The Covenant House beds haven't been changed in almost 20 years,'" says Brent. "Once I visited, I realized, We've got to change everything."

The O of O puts it best: "This place will lift these kids up and give them the wings to fly and do extraordinary things. Because it doesn't matter where you've come from. What matters is where you're going."

Products for this makeover were provided by Living Spaces, Maytag, IKEA, Smith and Noble, Pier 1, and Benjamin Moore.

See the before-and-after photos of Oprah's Covenant House makeover.


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