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Explore A Secret Garden

at the St. Paul & Ramsey County Domestic Abuse Intervention Center

A safe and magical space for children whose families are experiencing hardship and trauma.  The space is a warm, culturally relevant, comfortable, welcoming, and soothing to the soul.

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A safe, magical place.

The goal for this Joy Room project is to create safe space to play or study while their mother/parent/guardian attends St. Paul Intervention Project (SPIP)’s education and support groups, obtains critical one-on-one services, and accesses its array of culturally and linguistically appropriate programming.


Having nearly finished a significant renovation, funds had been depleted. Missing from the project was a safe space for youth while families are receiving support services. Gardner Builders called on Joy Collaborative in the hopes that they could consider partnership on the project. “We saw kids playing in a cold lobby space with bare walls and we knew there could be more done for the recipient families. Having worked with Joy Collaborative in the past and their focus on uplifting spaces for youth, we knew they would be the perfect partner for the project,” said Abigail Heimel Peterson, Market Sector Leader at Gardner.  

The Finished Joy Room

The space will be able to accommodate both individual and supervised activities with a multi-cultural feeling when their parent/guardian is receiving services. Included is an array of furniture to include “mushroom” stools, a rocker, and study tables. A fun surprise element is the interactive wishing tree created by Bill. “I wanted to create something more than a 2D element. Sculpting the vertical surfaces gives kids a texture that can be used to distract them when stressed, and adding a mailslot to exchange secret messages with the SPIP garden gnome will be fun for kids as they make their wishes.”  

Mica Anders, a local mixed media visual artist, created a fantasy backdrop for the space. The illustrations on the wall are not only decorative, but functional.  Her woodland scenes were printed on a blackboard style wallcovering that will serve double duty as youth personalize their environment and learn positive social skills.  

This is by far the crown jewel of projects in my 18 year career — that’s because I believe so much in SPIP and Joy Collaborative’s missions and outstanding people like the people brought together on this project. 
Thank you for including me in this project.

– Leslie, project designer



Thank You Project Partners!

  • General Contractor, Gardner Builders  

  • Architects, Studio BV, Betsy Vohs and Jared Eder

  • Interior Designer, Leslie Connell-Torres

  • Mixed Media Artist, Mica Anders

  • Woodworker, Bill Nelson

  • Flooring Manufacturer, Interface 

  • Flooring Installation, St.Paul Linoleum

  • Custom Wallcovering Manufacturer and Installer, First Impression Group

  • Wallcovering Distributor, Hirshfield’s Design Resource 

  • Wallcovering Installation, Rainbow Inc. 

  • Ceiling Panels, ASI Anderson Specialty Industries

  • Ceiling Panel Installation, Ispace

  • Light Fixtures, Lumenpulse

  • Light Fixture Installation, White Bear Electric

  • Window shade, Hirshfield’s Design Resource 

  • Accessories installation services, Greiner

  • Monitor, LP AudioVisual 

  • Furniture donation, Staples

  • Cindy Bach, Bach Design, IIDA Northland Day of Service Volunteer

  • Jennie Arnett, Gensler, IIDA Northland Day of Service Volunteer

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About Domestic Abuse

Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. 

Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone. 

Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together, or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

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