BLOOMINGTON– The woman was 80. She had no bed. Two little kids sat on a floor eating cereal– atop an upside down plastic bin. Recycling Furniture for Families changed that– giving the woman a bed and the other family a table and chairs. Another woman literally came in limping from burns suffered in an apartment fire to choose items to rebuild her life.
“You take something to somebody who has nothing. It changes their lives. It changes yours,” said Jim McNamara, a longtime volunteer with the charity along with his wife, Sharon.
The non-denominational Christian charity, 515 N. Center St., has an 8,000 square foot warehouse of donated basic household items given to McLean County residents pre-screened by social service agencies or churches.
RFF helped 430 families in fiscal year from April 2012 to 2013, providing 8,063 larger items. Average family size was 2.3 people and average yearly income $9,530 with 65 percent of households headed by women. About 50 volunteers logged in 9,012 hours for RFF, which has one full-time and two part-time employees.
The operating budget for all expenses is $120,000, mostly from donations. RFF is especially short on several fronts–volunteer drivers, some household basics–and money to operate the charity which helps 10 to 15 families weekly.
“We have six drivers–I would love to have 20,” said Director Greg Meyers. Volunteers need a good driving record and a standard driver’s license to drive a box truck. They help unload and pick up furniture donations.
Current shortages include: mattresses, box springs, bed frames, sheets, blankets, bed pillows, dressers, kitchen tables and chairs, bath towels, pots and pans, lamps, fans, televisions, microwaves, small kitchen appliances like toasters and coffeemakers, cooking utensils, dishes and knives, forks and spoons. Other basics accepted are couches, chairs, end tables, coffee tables, and bookshelves.
Since families are allowed just one visit–if something is not there when they need it, they don’t get it, said Meyer. Bath towels are rationed one towel per two children in family; adults each get one. Each family also gets just one pot and one pan.
Giving away free stuff costs money. Utilities run up to $1,500 a month. The two box trucks for furniture delivery have 100,000 and 150,000 miles respectively. High-pressure heavy-duty tires cost several hundred dollars each. Meyers is hoping individuals, businesses, corporations, groups of coworkers, service organizations, fraternities, sororities, church groups etc. will donate: $25 pays half a day’s utilities, $162 covers a week of free furniture pickup, $65 maintains a truck for a month, $130 buys a tank of gas, $250 completely furnishes a family.
Since families are allowed just one visit–if something is not there when they need it, they don’t get it, Meyer said. He noted in a recent newsletter there were no kitchen tables, pots and pans, lamps, silverware or full-size sheets at one point. “Sometimes we don’t even have a single bed in the place,” said Meyers.
HOW TO HELP:
- Drivers to deliver furniture and unload 5 to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m . Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.
- Minor furniture and small appliance repairs in the workshop 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Saturday.
Intake workers help families choose household basics 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
- Volunteers are asked to work three hours a month–but one three-hour shift would be better, Meyer said. If volunteer positions fill up–waiting lists will be compiled for volunteers for backups or substitutes.
- Drop off household goods 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or 9 am. to noon Saturday at 515 N. Center St., Bloomington.
- Call 309-829-6500 for pickups. A $29 donation helps offset truck costs in town; out of town pickups are $40. Checks can be sent to Recycling Furniture for Families, 515 N. Center St., Bloomington, IL., 61701
(This article was written by Sharon K. Wolfe, community connections coordinator for RFF. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)