The nonprofit Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan picks up donated, gently used furniture and delivers it to local families in need.

The nonprofit Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan picks up donated, gently used furniture and delivers it to local families in need.

Photo provided by the Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan


Give your old furniture a good new home

By: K. Michelle Moran | C&G Newspapers | Published July 16, 2019

 This year, the Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan is on track to supply more than 900 beds to children in need, like Ely, 4, along with new sheets and a comforter.

This year, the Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan is on track to supply more than 900 beds to children in need, like Ely, 4, along with new sheets and a comforter.

Photo provided by the Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan

 Since it originated in 1968, the Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan has collected and delivered needed pieces of furniture to thousands of local families.

Since it originated in 1968, the Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan has collected and delivered needed pieces of furniture to thousands of local families.

Photo provided by the Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan

PONTIAC — Imagine your home, but without a single piece of furniture. Imagine sleeping and eating on the floor. Imagine your kids doing homework on the floor.

For metro Detroit’s poorest families, that scenario is all too real. That’s where the Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan comes in. The Pontiac-based nonprofit provides families with basic pieces of furniture.

In honor of the Furniture Bank’s 50th anniversary this month, it is conducting a drive to purchase 50 beds for 50 kids, along with sheets, pillowcases and other bedding. The goal is to raise $10,000 to purchase beds and bedding for children as part of the organization’s Bedding for Kids program, because a good night’s sleep is vital for health and well-being.

“Our main focus is trying to get families off of floors,” said Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan Executive Director Rob Boyle, of Grosse Pointe Woods.

The Furniture Bank is a place where people can donate furnishings they no longer need. Boyle said the organization will pick up essential furnishings from people’s homes from almost all communities in Macomb and Oakland counties, along with several Wayne County communities, including the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods.

Essential items include gently used mattresses, box springs, dressers, kitchen chairs and tables, sofas, love seats, sectionals, recliners, living room chairs, end tables, coffee tables and nightstands. Because families need to use the furniture immediately, knobs and drawers must work and items can’t have structural or pet damage, stains or tears. Wooden furniture that is badly scratched or marred is not accepted.

Because it lacks the space to store it, the Furniture Bank typically can’t accept nonessential furniture like china cabinets, bookshelves or even desks.

If you can’t leave furniture on a front porch or in a garage for pickup, the Furniture Bank’s professional movers will remove it from your home for $30, regardless of the number of items you’re donating.

Pat Whitledge, of Bloomfield Hills, a Furniture Bank volunteer, has donated several pieces of furniture over the years.

“It’s very easy,” Whitledge said. “There’s two guys on the truck, and they’re all friendly.”

She said that she has spoken with callers who have praised the care that the movers demonstrated while inside people’s homes.

Last year, the Furniture Bank distributed 14,547 pieces of furniture to almost 2,000 families. Of the nearly 6,000 individuals assisted, more than 60% were children. Recipients included victims of fire and domestic violence, seniors, foster parents, and people with disabilities and medical emergencies. In 2018, 69% of the families served had annual household incomes of less than $10,000, according to the Furniture Bank.

Boyle said they supply more than 2,200 beds a year.

“There’s a huge demand for them,” he said.

In 1968, Birmingham and Bloomfield-area churches and volunteers launched the Furniture Bank. There are roughly 150 furniture banks throughout North America, but “by all accounts, we are the oldest,” Boyle said.

“It was all volunteers when we first started,” he said. “There were programs (then) to get people food and clothing, but nothing to get them a bed or a dining table.”

Circa the mid-1990s, Boyle said, the Furniture Bank added a small but dedicated staff, aided by volunteers. While still a smaller nonprofit, the Furniture Bank has helped more than 65,000 families during its history.

Furniture recipients, who are able to select items from what’s available at the time, are referred by one of the Furniture Bank’s partner agencies. The Furniture Bank used to give away furniture at no charge, but Boyle said they were overwhelmed with referrals and people waited an average of four months to get anything. In addition, recipients who subsequently lost their house or apartment would generally leave the furniture behind and then need a second or third set of furnishings, limiting the number of families the Furniture Bank could help.

Now, the Furniture Bank charges an appointment fee — which is often covered by the referring health or human service agency — and Boyle said that wait times are two weeks or less. The fee works out to about 10 to 15 cents on the dollar for the value of the furnishings; the average cost is $100 to $125, which will furnish an entire house or apartment, complete with pots, pans and linens.

Donors can fill out forms online and set up a pickup date and time electronically, or they can call.

“The mission of the Furniture Bank is incredibly important to me — and that is that people in need are getting what they need for their lives to be improved,” Whitledge said. “This is something that changes people’s lives. Every once in a while, you see a little boy or girl come in, and they’ve never slept on a bed before. The pleasure on (the faces of) these wide-eyed children — it’s wonderful.”

To donate or for more information, visit www.furniture-bank.org or call (248) 332-1300.