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Give old furniture new life by donating to families in need

9/4/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Pam Lifke

MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS — You could set your old sofa or dining room table out on the curb, or you could give it a second life with a family in need.

Cleveland Furniture Bank picks up good, usable household furnishings each week in several Northern Summit County communities, including Bath, Fairlawn, Cuyahoga Falls, Peninsula and Richfield.

Each scheduled pickup must include living room, dining room, kitchen or bedroom furniture or a major appliance like a refrigerator, said Executive Director Tom Gaghan. Kitchen essentials such as dinnerware, cookware, glasses and utensils and other household items such as linens, pillows, lamps and small appliances may be included in a pick-up along with the furniture items, he said. The furniture bank also accepts stoves and clothing dryers, as well as clothing.

Richfield resident Denise Ready, a member of the furniture bank’s Board of Directors, said she became involved with the organization because she believes items that still have use should be recycled or reused rather than sent to a landfill. Systems should exist to recycle useable items for those who are in need, whatever the circumstance, and the Cleveland Furniture Bank meets that need, she added.

“My family’s philosophy, as far back as I can remember — and well before the environmental movement — was clothing and household items that were still serviceable were donated rather than discarded,” she said.

A thrift shop aficionado since college, Ready said she still has a wooden chair her parents’ neighbors put on the curb for trash collection.

Potential donors often overlook the “green” aspect of giving their unneeded items to the organization, Gaghan said. Items repurposed by the furniture bank don’t end up in landfills, he said.

The furniture bank cannot accept donations of clothes washers, dishwashers, large and/or metal desks, infant/child items, pianos and organs or any damaged or badly stained items, Gaghan said.

Pickups for Summit County communities are scheduled Wednesdays between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Items to be donated can be placed in a garage, on a covered porch or even protected by a tarp in the driveway if the weather is threatening, Gaghan said.

A modest pickup fee of $20 is charged to offset the furniture bank’s expenses for fuel and employee salaries, Gaghan said. The average pickup costs the furniture bank about $135, he added.

“We had to do something to help offset the costs,” he said.

For very large donations, the pickup fee may be more, but it rarely exceeds $60, even when asked to pick up most of the contents of a house, he added.

Gaghan said the furniture bank works with more than 300 agencies — some in Summit County — to provide household furniture to veterans who have completed long-term treatment for health issues, families coming out of homeless shelters and domestically abused women and their children who are referred by battered women’s shelters, among others.

Clients are vetted by one of the agencies and given a voucher for the items needed. Clients and a caseworker will make an appointment to “shop” at the furniture bank, Gaghan said.

“They pick out what they’ve qualified for,” he said.

In the case of veterans, Gaghan said many of them have “literally nothing.”

The average family leaves with 12 pieces of furniture, he said. The furniture bank charges a $60 administrative fee for each client it serves. In many cases, the referring agency pays the fee for its clients. However, Gaghan said reductions in government funding to some agencies means clients may pay all or a portion of the fee.

Nearly a third of the people served by the furniture bank are children between the ages of 2 and 18, Gaghan said. The organization on July 12 celebrated the second year of its Beds for Kids program, which provides a new bed and mattress to children of families referred there. Gaghan said many of the children referred to the organization did not have an appropriate place to sleep.

“They’re sleeping on the floor, on the sofa or on chairs,” he said.

In its first two years, the program provided 2,557 new beds to children and spends about $130,000 annually on the program, he added.

“It’s the only program where we give away new things,” he said.

A major fundraiser for the Beds for Kids program, Inside the Park Home Run, last year raised enough money to buy more than 500 beds, Gaghan said.

“It was really a blessing,” he added.

This year’s event, featuring a 1-mile “Single” and a 4-mile “Home Run” through stadium ramps, along the fifth deck and finishing at home plate, took place Aug. 10 at Progressive Field.

Donations to the Cleveland Furniture Bank may be dropped off at the donation center, 13360 Smith Road, Middleburg Heights. Donations are accepted Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the loading docks and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays at the thrift store.

Pickups can be scheduled using the organization’s website, www.clevelandfurniturebank.org. Donations are tax deductible.

Founded in 2006, the Cleveland Furniture Bank serves more than 300 agencies that refer more than 3,000 people in need each year. Its companion thrift store each year sells donated merchandise to more than 45,000 customers who might not be able to shop in other retail outlets, Gaghan said.

Store sales cover the facility’s expenses and salaries of those who work there, Ready said, creating a unique, self-sustaining business model not reliant on government funding or private donations. However, cash donations are accepted and allow the furniture bank to meet the needs of its Beds for Kids program, Ready added.

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