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In this furniture bank, second-hand objects lend a helping hand

Just a few months ago, Kat Williams lived with her three children, aged one, five and 13, in her car. Now she’s choosing furniture for a three-bedroom apartment that is “much more than I expected,” she said.

Williams and I met at a furniture and clothing bank in Central Florida called The Mustard Seed. Now in its 35th year of helping those who have suffered personal disaster or tragedy, the organization exists because overthinking people offer it — people like Linda Manzonelli, of Winter Park, in Florida.

After reading my recent column on decluttering, Manzonelli wrote, “Having too much isn’t everyone’s reality. We must remember that there are those who do not have much to decorate or clutter their home.

Point taken.

Fifty years ago, Manzonelli was a young, recently divorced mother who had only her bedroom furniture and a kitchen table and chairs, “so that my child and I would have a place to eat and a place to study, since I had returned to university. » It would be years before they had a second-hand sofa.

“There were no furniture banks back then,” she says. “When you have children, converting a house or apartment into a home is particularly important for everyone’s emotional well-being. This is why I will support this organization as long as it exists. She urged me to visit the center.

I loaded my car with boxes of household items that I was emptying—framed mirrors, lamps, a filing cabinet—and drove to the center, where Mahek Mirchandani, development and events manager, showed me around the 20,000 square foot warehouse filled with sofas, chairs. , tables and mattresses. There were rooms dedicated to dishes and kitchen appliances and another for bedding and linens.

Williams was one of seven clients who passed through the warehouse that day, referred by one of more than 100 agencies, from homeless networks to hospitals. In addition to a referral from an agency, clients must also have secure housing “with keys in hand,” Mirchandani said. Customers pay a $200 fee plus $150 if they need furniture delivered. “We are a helping hand, not a handout.”

After a series of setbacks two years ago, Williams and her children had to move in with her mother. When that relationship turned, they became homeless. A community agency found the family temporary housing in churches while they “worked to get my stability back,” said Williams, 32, who works as a secretary at a hospital. She then qualified for an apartment.

As we browsed the furniture aisles, I asked her what look she was going for. She lit up: “Bohemian,” she said. “I love color. I want a house full of color.

Thanks to many thoughtful donors who gave up what they didn’t need, Williams is about to get just that.

Mustard Seed Executive Director Kathy Baldwin says similar furniture banks are springing up across the country thanks to greater awareness. For example, there are banks in Walnut Creek, San Rafael and Los Altos, and others are listed at https://furniturebanks.org. In the meantime, here are some ways you too can clean up and make a difference:

Abandon the storage unit. The United States has 53,000 storage facilities. That’s more than all McDonald’s, Starbucks and Subway stores combined. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars a month storing furniture you don’t need, help a struggling family furnish a home and save money.

No mattress should be wasted. Because mattresses can have a nasty factor, many people don’t think about recycling used ones. However, no mattress should end up in a landfill. At The Mustard Seed, mattresses that are still in good condition are disinfected and made available to customers. Mattresses in poor condition are taken apart and sold to recyclers, with the foam and mattress padding turned into carpet padding and the springs sold as scrap metal.

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