Sometimes a bed, a table, or a chair can make all the difference in a person’s life.
By Kristin Jautz
Sometimes a bed, a table, or a chair can make all the difference in a person’s life. They can signal a fresh start to a woman who has escaped domestic violence. They can mean that a child can be reunited with his parents after months in foster care. And they can give hope to a family who has lost everything in a natural disaster.
For the past five years Furniture Sharehouse, Westchester’s furniture bank, has provided needy local families with basic home furniture free of charge. Says founder and Executive Director Kate Bialo, “Many people don’t understand that there are families right here in their neighborhood who are forced to sleep on the floor, eat on the floor.” Operating out of a 6,500 square-foot warehouse at Westchester County Airport, the nonprofit organization collects and redistributes gently used furniture donated by area residents and businesses. Since April 2007, over 27,200 donated items — worth almost $1.8 million — have found new homes with more than 1,850 families.
Today, Furniture Sharehouse is able to serve around 450 households per year – ten to 12 families a week. Clients are vetted and referred by local social service agencies, ensuring that those who come truly have a need. “People get to come and pick what they like,” says Bialo, “and that gives them a sense of dignity”. Each household is allowed to choose 12 to 15 pieces of basic furniture, plus some accessories. A group of dedicated volunteers helps the families navigate through the selection process. Demand is high — it can take up to eight weeks to get an appointment. And clients are immensely grateful. Deeann, a former shelter resident, wrote: “We now have a real home with real furniture and it makes us feel like a real family. I thank you and your organization for being there for me and my boys.”
Due to the high turnover there is a constant need for new inventory. To help, volunteers from Rye Presbyterian Church have organized a furniture drive in early November to benefit the organization. Area residents are invited to drop off their furniture donations on Saturday, November 3, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the nursery school parking lot off Milton Road.
Drive coordinator Doug MacLaury points out that “most people around here have an extra table or dresser sitting in their attic or their garage, and many are only too happy to donate it to a meaningful cause.” However, only average-sized home furniture in good condition will be accepted – nothing torn, stained, or broken.
Bialo urges people to review the donation guidelines on their website. “Gently used means that you would not be embarrassed to bring it to the family yourself”, she explains. “Our clients have been through tough times, and we want them to feel proud of their new furnishings.” Donors will be given a receipt itemizing their donations for tax purposes.
For those unable to get to RPC on November 3, pick-ups are available for a minimum of three large items and can be scheduled with Furniture Sharehouse. Donors also have the option to drop off items at the warehouse every third Saturday of the month from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
For more information or to find out how you can help, visit www.furnituresharehouse.org.