By: Erin Moore, Member of the Muncie Community—
Muncie, Indiana—“She promised herself better and never looked back.” These words of inspiration are painted in bright blue letters in the “Chameleon Connection,” a newly designed space for the YWCA of Muncie’s Complimentary Overnight Temporary Shelter (C.O.T.S.) program. Outfitted with beds, comforters, end tables, lamps, and brightly painted walls and artwork, the space – which used to house exercise equipment – now provides a warm and welcoming space for women and children who need shelter for the night.
The space is named in honor of Krista Sides, owner of Chameleon Salon Suites and co-creator, with her husband Richard, of the YWCA Love Project. Over the past year, the Sides have repainted, redecorated, and revived common areas, bathrooms, and bedrooms throughout the facility. Along the way, they have incorporated help from friends, clients, and YWCA residents.
To Sides, the project is more than a fresh coat of paint – it’s an opportunity for community members and residents to work side-by-side and provide love lessons to those who need them the most.
“The YWCA does so much to help women in our community get a fresh start. We want to add life and color to the YWCA building so it reflects the transformation that is possible here,” said Sides.
For the Sides’ latest venture, they organized multiple fundraisers to cover basic costs and solicited donations of furniture, décor, and artistic talent. Each bed area in the Chameleon Connection is painted with unique artwork to give visitors a sense of having their own space. The walls are filled with cheerful colors and words of encouragement and empowerment.
“Imagine the darkest time in your life. You have no support and in the middle of the night go to the only emergency shelter available in East Central Indiana to sleep alone on a cot in a gymnasium. It’s a safe place, but does not leave you feeling empowered and ready to face life’s issues in the morning.” — Kat Knox, Director of Marketing and Development for YWCA Muncie.
“Krista and her volunteers, along with the YWCA Muncie Leadership team, have created warm, brightly colored sleeping accommodations surround with positive powerful words! Any woman and her children can stay in the Chameleon Connection from 8pm to 8am with minimal requirements. They receive a warm bed, food, hygiene products, clothes, access to showers…and a peace of mind.”
A major structural drawback was the extensive ductwork that ran throughout the entire space. But to Sides, it looks like a train that symbolizes the positive momentum that she hopes women will experience here.
To see this vision come to life, Sides reached out other Muncie salons to design and paint their own train car. Stylists from Chameleon Salon Suites, Eclipxe Salon & Day Spa, Twisted Scissors, Sport Clips, and Dimensions Salon and students from the Muncie Area Career Center Cosmetology program (where Sides is a mentor) all participated.
“Even though we are competition, we all have huge hearts to serve – it’s what we do every day behind our chairs,” said Sides. “We can have a powerful influence on our community, especially when we bring our unique talents together.”
Once Chameleon Connection passes final inspection, it will be ready for overnight guests.
“Residents who began their experience with us in the C.O.T.S. program in the gym, although grateful for a place to lie their head, admit that they were hesitant to be in there and certainly did not sleep well,” said Knox. “They are excited that other women will have the opportunity to use the Chameleon Connection as they begin their journey. Dignity can lead to hope. Together safe is together strong.”
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