Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who has worked in international and community development, and is currently trying to figure out how to connect the local with the global in her everyday life.
Sometimes I like to think that one or two individuals can start something that will make a positive difference. Recently, I had the good fortune to meet some people who have done exactly that. Two women in Ottawa, Nathalie Maione and Buffey Cassidy, with the help of some enthusiastic volunteers, have formed a non-profit organization called Helping With Furniture (www.helpingwithfurniture.org).
Helping With Furniture’s approach is straightforward: collect good quality used furniture and household items from people who no longer need them, and deliver them to people who can use them. Once a week, Helping With Furniture volunteers pick up “gently used” items and drop them off at the homes of refugee claimants. Items which might have ended up in the landfill or unused are instead helping families who would otherwise have very little to start their homes.
Since its first delivery in November 2005, Helping with Furniture has assisted well over 200 households, with families coming from some 40 countries, among them Afghanistan, Burundi, Congo, Colombia, Haiti, and Nigeria (to name a few). Helping With Furniture provides a welcome as well as some basics such as beds, tables, chairs, and kitchen supplies. Helping With Furniture’s founders estimate that they recycle an average 1000 cf of furniture a year.
For me, finding a good home for a few treasured items that have been collecting dust in my basement – a rocking chair, a mattress that my children have outgrown, a handmade blanket, an extra lamp – was easy. I filled in Helping With Furniture’s on-line donation form that outlines what types of things they’re looking for. I received a prompt and friendly reply. On a recent Wednesday evening, Helping With Furniture’s volunteers arrived with a bright yellow moving van and loaded everything for transfer to temporary storage and on to new owners.
I was struck by the strong sense of purpose that motivates Nathalie Maione and Buffey Cassidy, by their commitment to addressing poverty and the environment. A growing demand has prompted them to expand the service provided by Helping With Furniture, which amazingly they run in addition to their jobs and families. For more information or to donate items, check out www.helpingwithfurniture.org.
Other organizations in Ottawa which accept donations of used household items are listed on the City of Ottawa’s Take It Back site (www.ottawa.ca/takeitback/).