Step inside The Community Feed at TCC, and you feel welcomed. An inviting farmer’s market shows off the colors of the season — bright red apples and homegrown tomatoes make a splash alongside brilliant oranges and leafy greens. Ample seating encourages visitors to stay awhile and bask in the warm, engaging space on the second floor of MacArthur Center.
Credit TCC alumna Leisa Arrington for the beautiful touches. Arrington designed the campus-based pantry that offers healthy meal kits to the college’s students through a service that’s currently online only due to COVID-19. The initiative, a partnership between TCC and the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, is meant to address food insecurity among students.
“I was truly honored to lend my skills to this project. I wanted this to be a re-imagined place of provision, guidance, healing and safety,” Arrington said.
At the front counter students can pick up preselected meal kits – offerings include pasta Bolognese and stuffed peppers and roasted asparagus — each designed to feed a family of four.
Arrington designed the space using elements of “modern rustic” and “industrial farmhouse” design styles. The open floor plan includes warm wooden cabinetry balanced with a consistent color palette of rich earth tones and textures. An eclectic selection of furniture and art pieces adds to the mix, inviting students to relax, rejuvenate and refresh.
“I was excited and on board with the project from day one,” Arrington said. “I saw this as my chance to bring people together and support them through those turbulent times in their lives.”
Arrington earned an Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design and a Career Studies Certificate in Acquisition and Procurement from the college.
She previously launched her own business, Proverbial Interior Design Solutions, in 1988. A skilled seamstress, she was taught the craft by her Aunt Mattie Jones at age 8. Arrington started her business making window treatments, bedding and slipcovers.
Today she provides complete interior design services for her clients, noting on her website, “It’s all in the details.Especially when it comes to creating the room of your dreams.”
“The hands-on work and the class presentations at TCC based on real ‘clients’ were so beneficial,” Arrington said.
Arrington also found a mentor in Professor Lana Sapozhnikov.
“Ms. Lana was a tough teacher, which excited me about her,” Arrington said. “She constantly challenged us and raised the bar high. She instilled in all of her students the ideals, traits and knowledge necessary to become professional interior designers.”
TCC’s acquisition and procurement certificate helped her weather tough financial times. She learned how to land state and government contracts and navigate vendor systems for both Virginia and North Carolina.
“When business declined during the housing market recession in the late 2000s, I was able to earn contracts with Norfolk State and Old Dominion Universities,” she said. “That kept me going, as we were doing a variety of tasks from designing window treatments to cleaning chandeliers.”
A Christian and mother of five and grandmother of 14, Arrington is a proponent of community college, noting, “TCC was a great place to start and can provide the training for higher-paying technical jobs or launch you to a four-year school.”