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April 23, 2014

Donate unwanted furniture to local families in need this spring

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

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The Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan provided Tonya Mathis, of Pontiac, with a bed so she is no longer sleeping on the floor of her apartment.

METRO DETROIT — One of the biggest parts of spring cleaning is getting rid of the unwanted furniture and clutter that can quickly overtake a home.

But before heading into the basement, garage or closet to toss it all away, consider giving unwanted items new life by making a donation to The Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan.

The Pontiac-based Furniture Bank is a nonprofit that Executive Director Robert Boyle says helps ensure children are sleeping in the warmth of a bed, families have tables around which to gather for a meal, and those who are most vulnerable can live with the stability and dignity that many take for granted. 

“When you think of basic needs, you usually think of food, clothing and shelter … but the thing of it is, if you don’t have a bed to sleep in at night, if you are sleeping on a floor, and if you’re a child, what kind of chance do you have to excel in school? If you’re a family who doesn’t have a table to share a meal, what kind of life is that? If you don’t have a dresser to put clothes in and they are spewed out all over the floor, are you going to feel comfortable inviting somebody into your home?” he said.

Imagine your house or apartment with absolutely no furniture in it whatsoever, Boyle said.

“Then imagine what it would be like to live a day like that, a week like that, a month like that, and a year like that — you kind of get the idea of the impact something that many of us take for granted really has on the lives of the families in need. That is really what we are about,” he added.

According to Boyle, many Furniture Bank clients have been homeless and are working with organizations — such as Community Housing Network, South Oakland Shelter or Training and Treatment Innovations — and are establishing a new place to live.

“They are just doing so barely, and then they need furniture, and there is a cost associated with that, and that is where The Furniture Bank comes in,” he said.

If you’re a resident of Oakland or northern Macomb County, the Furniture Bank’s truck will pick up “essential items” — which include beds of any size, dressers, sofas, dining/kitchen tables, and dining/kitchen chairs in sets of four or more — from your porch or garage at no cost. The furniture collected is then provided to local families who are living in poverty, transitioning from homelessness or recovering from crisis.

For $20, Furniture Bank’s professional movers will carefully take donated items out of your home, with the money received going to help to support the nonprofit’s mission. 

“It’s a very modest amount, and it helps us underwrite our mission, while at the same time helping somebody who may not want to have to move a sofa or a heavy dresser out of their home. Our guys are equipped to do it,” Boyle said.

While picking up an essential item, the Furniture Bank will also gladly accept smaller items, such as chairs, coffee tables, end tables and nightstands, as well as linens, lamps, pots, dishes and silverware, which will also go to the families it serves.

“I don’t think a lot of people really know that there are so many families in need, just even around this area, that would really benefit from having those few essential items,” said Barb Rogers, a Furniture Bank board member.

Last year, The Furniture Bank distributed approximately 1,500 beds, according to Boyle. This year, the nonprofit hopes to distribute even more beds to families in need.

“For every sofa that a family would need, they may need two, three or four beds,” he added. “Twin beds are always one of our highest-demand items, because the apartments or places that our clients tend to be living in are smaller, and they can’t really fit anything other than twin beds in them. … I probably could open up our client database and see at least 20 people waiting for a twin bed right now.”

If you live in Oakland County or northern Macomb County, call (248) 332-1300 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday or visit www.furniture-bank.org to schedule a tax-deductible furniture donation.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.