RICHMOND, Va. -- Empty shelves where furniture usually sits is a problem this new year for CARITAS Furniture Bank in Richmond. The Richmond non-profit serves more than 600 households each year and is running shorter than they like on pieces of furniture.
They are hoping New Year’s resolutions to get organized can lead to helping others in the community who are restarting their lives after overcoming major obstacles.
“Most of the clients who come to us are coming out of homelessness or some other type of crisis,” Sandy Morris, the CARITAS Furniture Bank Program Manager, said. “Our essential items are mattresses, box springs, sofas or love seats, dining room tables and chairs, and dressers.”
More than 80 partner agencies, from homelessness advocates to the Red Cross to local schools, bring people in need into the “showroom” to “shop” for items, all of which are free to the person or family.
Those clients include women escaping domestic violence, individuals and families who have been homeless, elderly persons on limited incomes, people with mental and physical disabilities, refugees, youth and adults recovering from substance abuse, victims of natural disasters, and the working poor.
The agencies only refer people who have met a set of criteria that demonstrates their needs, according to CARITAS.
“Those are all essential items that a person needs to get started or restarted,” Morris said.
The program is donation-based, which is part of its power and the problem since in a typical year CARITAS serves between 600 - 800 households. Morris said their back stock can dwindle very quickly, as it has done of late.
“Last year, we served 567 households even during the pandemic. So, each week we have about 25 clients coming in. So that’s about 25 sofas we hand out each week,” Morris said.
In January, many families are getting organized or redoing spaces inside their home.
CARITAS is hoping those who fit that bill will donate old, gently-used furniture that will go to households in the region who have worked to start their own, new space.
“That means they can make their house a home. That means they can invite guests over. That means they don’t have to sleep on the floor at night. That means they can have a family dinner together. It just means so much,” Morris said.
Jan Bell has been volunteering in the Furniture Bank for about a decade.
Bell and her friend Joyce make a “dynamic duo,” sorting and packing dishes and towels a couple of days each week. Bell called those items “treasures” because “if you don’t have one, it’s precious.”
“We try to make it look nice because we’re doing this as a gift,” Bell said. “I followed a lady once, when I was a trainee, through the shopping experience. You have this idea that people are going to grab things and she only wanted a bed for her children. She was just overwhelmed. I mean, it was emotional. She wanted to take care of her children, and we took care of her. It was awesome.”
If you want to help fill the bare shelves, there is still time.
Anyone can bring items to the Furniture Bank at 2220 Stockton Street, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Call 804-358-0964 to ask questions about the items you would like to donate.
You can learn more about the mission and items that are needed here.