Helping families have healthy futures, one sofa at a time
Ashley Funderburk looks around her empty living room on furniture delivery day.
“The echo,” Funderburk says. “I hope the echo goes away when there is furniture.”
Funderburk and her four children moved into their new home Aug. 26. The family slept on blankets on the floor and an air mattress for almost a month before the NW Furniture Bank delivery truck arrived Sept. 24.
NW Furniture Bank helps families in need by providing furniture, household items and mattresses. The program is structured like a food bank. Donations come from a variety of sources including community members, universities and furniture stores. The referral pipeline includes churches, school counselors and the Department of Social and Health Services.
Families who are referred shop a warehouse filled with couches, loveseats, dining room tables, chairs and housewares.
“What we do is simple but it’s so important to establish a home,” says Haley Haines, community engagement manager at NW Furniture Bank.
Funderburk, expecting baby number five in March, is ready for her empty space to feel like home.
“It’s been very, very tough,” she says. “Living in an empty place, I haven’t felt that home vibe.”
Hope, dignity and stability
When families arrive for their appointment at the furniture bank, they are greeted by a member of the client services team and paired with a personal shopper to peruse the warehouse floor.
Most of the furniture is donated. The furniture bank has high standards for quality and a thorough process for inspecting, cleaning and sterilizing furniture to bring it to as close to new as possible.
“Quality connects to dignity,” Gaines says. “People go through hell and high water to get housing but then they might be looking at empty rooms. Everything is crazy expensive. It’s amazing to help a family set up stability.”
Volunteers operate the Build Shop where items are repaired and assembled. In total 500 volunteers support the furniture bank working in various capacities including the build shop and as personal shoppers.
Three organizations, one mission
NW Furniture Bank is one of three programs that operate under the same umbrella. Thirty-three employees work across the three programs. Above the warehouse is Hope Furnishings, a retail space with new and used furniture. The sales at Hope Furnishings help sustain the furniture bank. Every $100 generated in sales at Hope Furnishings, for example, buys a mattress.
Across the parking lot from the furniture bank is the mattress recycling operation.
“Mattress recycling is the unsung hero of this operation,” Haines says.
Mattresses and mattress materials are stacked nearly to the ceiling in the warehouse. Approximately 1,500 mattresses are recycled each month.
That’s 1,500 mattresses, mattress springs, foam and filler that is turned into useable materials such as carpet padding and composite deck materials. The program recycled 3,700,000 pounds of mattress materials last year.
“It gives people a way to responsibly dispose of mattresses,” Haines says.
Home sweet home
Around 11:15am, the delivery truck from NW Furniture Bank pulls up outside of Funderburk’s duplex. Ashley’s daughter Nalayah, 5, skips up and down the hallway while delivery guys Matthew Martin, Vance Borja and Malcolm Ellis unload furniture from the truck.
Malcolm hoists a dining room table through the duplex door and makes the tricky turn into the kitchen.
“Are you excited?” Martin asks.
“It’s my table,” Nalayah answers.
“It’s all yours,” Martin answers.
Each member of the delivery truck crew had a story and connection to the cause just like each family who comes to the furniture bank.
“We’re part of the joy. The furniture is the light at the end of the tunnel,” Haines says. “They are picking out the couch they are going to watch movies on as a family and the table for their new dinner plates.”
It wasn’t long ago that Borja was opening his apartment door for a NW Furniture Bank delivery himself.
“My girlfriend, son and I were sitting in our apartment with blankets and pillows,” Borja says.
Funderburk knows what that’s like. With mattresses in her children’s rooms and a couch and recliner in her living room, she smiles.
“There is no echo and I love it,” she says.
Story by Jen Rittenhouse
Photos by Dean Koepfler
This story was produced in support of MultiCare’s mission, “partnering for healing and a healthy future.” We support community organizations working on initiatives, programs and projects that improve our community. Some of the nonprofits profiled are recipients of MultiCare’s Community Partnership Fund.