New Furniture Sharehouse Restocks Flooded Homes

by Christy Whitman, Junior League of Westchester on the Sound

Furniture Fair

United Methodist Church in Mamaroneck was turned into an impromptu furniture showroom to serve victims of the early March flooding.

(April 24, 2006) In the aftermath of two major floods, and following a declaration by President George W. Bush designating Westchester County a federal disaster area, a new resource has opened that provides furniture, and some much-needed hope, to those in need.

Furniture Sharehouse celebrated its official opening on April 24 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Westchester County airport where it has its base. Its warehouse is filled with gently-used furniture that will be distributed to families and individuals through social service agencies that have partnered with the Sharehouse. The furniture bank is a community project sponsored by The Junior League of Westchester on the Sound.

Furniture Fair
Recipients tested the couches during the Sharehouse furniture fair at Mamaroneck United Methodist Church.

Even before the ribbon-cutting, the Furniture Sharehouse had begun assisting victims of the floods that devastated homes around the Sound Shore in March. The Sharehouse conducted a furniture fair at the Mamaroneck United Methodist Church on March 28 and 29 that offered a selection of couches, beds, tables, chairs, lamps and other household items. After the second flood in April, the Sharehouse is again coordinating with local agencies and volunteer groups to organize furniture collection and distribution within the impacted communities.

“The losses in parts of Mamaroneck alone are staggering – entire households of furniture are ruined,” said Kate Bialo, founder and director of Furniture Sharehouse, and a Junior League member. “We will be doing everything we can to make the furniture we already have available to families in dire need.”

Sharehouse will also be continuing to collect gently-used or new home furnishings from homes and businesses in the community for redistribution at no charge to those in need.

Furniture Fair
A furniture fair client makes a selection. All items were available at no charge from the Sharehouse.

“Furniture Sharehouse has been a work in progress for over two years,” said Ms. Bialo. “The idea of shared warehouse space for furniture donations was developed after hearing so many community partners of the Junior League lament their inability to accept donations of furniture for lack of storage space. Perfectly good furniture was slipping through their fingers every month while families were struggling without even the most basic items that make a house a home.”

Approximately 60 furniture banks operate across the country, according to the National Furniture Bank Association (www.help1up.org). Furniture Sharehouse organizers agree it’s a win-win for everyone. Donors of furniture get tax relief. Families in need get free, basic furniture. And the environment is spared of furniture piling up in landfills and incinerators.

The Junior League of Westchester on the Sound provided $30,000 in seed money to get the project off the ground. The Sharehouse also received a $20,000 emergency shelter grant from the Westchester County Department of Planning to assist homeless families moving into permanent housing.

“The Junior League is proud to have been instrumental in making Furniture Sharehouse a reality and helping to fulfill its goal of providing free, basic home furnishings to those who need it most,” said Kristine Budill, president of The Junior League of Westchester on the Sound.

For information about how to make donations or become a member agency, please visit www.furnituresharehouse.org.