Philadelphia Furniture Bank's October Open House Event
“When you speak something into existence and areit’s amazed how it has grown.” Pathways’ CEO Chris Simiriglia is looking out over dozens of social service providers at the Philadelphia Furniture Bank. Behind her sit couches, end tables and recliners, neatly arranged and waiting for new homes. “We started the Philadelphia Furniture Bank over two years ago because there was a need,” Chris says. “It’s amazing to see you all here today, and see what we’ve done together.”
In the audience sits Kerry, a Community Donation Specialist with HAIS. She came to the Philadelphia Furniture Bank's open house today to learn how HAIS can become a member agency. Kerri works with refugee families fleeing violence in Afghanistan, Bhutan, Azerbaijan, Congo, and Eritrea. "We're looking for ways to spend less money on furniture," she says. "Because less money spent on furniture equals more money for clients needs." This dilemma is exactly why the bank was created.
Before the bank opened, each agency in the city worked independently to meet their clients' furniture needs. Some stored donations, like Kerry mentioned. Others paid for costly new furniture kits or sent staff to purchase furniture second hand, diverting scarce time and money away from clients. In some cases, families simply moved into new homes that didn't have furniture. “Clients used to tell us stories of gathering on the stairs to eat dinner in their new apartments because they didn’t have a table,” PFB Director Tom Maroon recalls.
Meanwhile, even today Philadelphians across the city throw unneeded furniture away or curb it for lack of better options. “I work at the Red Cross,” one guest shares, “and we get calls all the time from people wanting to donate furniture. We can’t take it, so I'm happy to now have a place I can refer people to.” The bank takes gently used furniture that is no longer needed and redistributes it to agencies that help families and individuals find new homes.
Beth has been volunteering for 15 months with the bank and gets to see first-hand the impact of her work. “I love it here,” she says. “It’s a great way to see a positive end result.” When member agencies bring clients to the bank, Beth walks them through the showroom and helps them select the table, chairs, and couch that will become part of their family’s new home. "I don't know a lot about the clients that come," she says. "But I do know that every client has a big story."
Ruth gets to know some of these stories more deeply. She is hoping to get furniture from the bank for the 70 men in her program at Ready, Willing and Able. They receive transitional housing while working and learning job skills to find permanent employment. Another guest is visiting from PHMC, where they outfit apartments for their clients. "We work with homeless women and children," she says. "We're trying to help them get back on their feet."
Back on the stage, CEO of Impact Services, Casey O’Donnell is sharing some closing thoughts. “A little while ago, we heard that the furniture bank has been called ‘the best idea to come out of Philly in a long time.’ I hate to quibble,” he says,” but I have to disagree. I work with an amazing team, and I hear incredible ideas all the time. What I will say is that the furniture bank is the best idea that someone actually followed through on.” He scans the faces of the men and women in the room, each preparing to go back out and help someone build a new home. “The bank gets all of us working together,” he says. “And we need to keep doing more of that.”
The Philadelphia Furniture Bank is accepting membership applications now! Fill out our application today to get furniture to help your clients rebuild their lives.