As the Client Services team, we’re the ones receiving the referrals, checking details, communicating directly with case workers and scheduling the deliveries.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we didn’t know how much our process was going to change or how quickly. Pre- COVID, our daily operations relied heavily on in-person appointments and volunteers to guide clients on-site to select furniture for their homes. But as we all know, COVID forced us to rethink the health and safety of everyone.
When we closed our facilities in March, we started working in our living rooms/bedrooms/kitchens – planning long term for a way to still serve families that would be safe for everyone. This was an adjustment for us – we’re a team that thrives with personal interaction and we understand how important it is to be able to choose your furniture. Now, our process is heavily administrative, relying exclusively on frequent communication with our partner agencies to confirm critical information about clients. Sometimes, after a morning of collecting the information of 10-15 families, we looked forward to a zoom call where our various pets/plants/ family members would make an appearance. When we reopened in April, only staff were allowed on-site- and so our small team would wear many hats, getting the delivery information, getting the lists families provided to their caseworkers, and most importantly doing our best to fulfill as much of those lists as possible.
We could not serve clients in person on-site any longer in a safe way, so we established the Distanced Delivery Service, and created a Standard and Supplementary furniture list for our clients based on what is commonly needed. Clients have the option to receive delivery outside if preferred, or in-home and physically distant. It was challenging to determine which items were Standard (essential and things none of us would want to be without like a mattress or kitchen table) and which items were Supplementary (items that are just as important to make the place feel homey but are challenging to fulfill because of a limited stream of donations.) One of the positives of this new model is that clients are no longer spending 2 hrs traveling across the city to find us so this can be a huge time saver for a lot of people and more convenient. Another positive is that we were able to provide space for caseworkers to let us know about fabrics or colors the client may prefer, however, we know that what we select for a client may not be what they would choose for themselves. Like most other things affected by COVID, it means we are sometimes waiting longer than we’d like to fulfill those essential items these days, which translates to serving about 10-12 families per day.
As a department, much of the work we do requires us to be on-site and ensure we are matching the right furniture to the right clients and coordinating with volunteers (who we are so grateful for!) helping with the selection. Several months into the pandemic – our department started to work on-site most days to make sure we have eyes on the furniture selection process and assist volunteers who are doing a great job helping us build homes.
When we’re not booking clients or scheduling deliveries, you can usually catch us talking about food we want to try. Not so much cooking it… but eating it! We have shared love of sushi and Thai food and are dreaming about travelling in the post Covid world. One of the bright spots through this pandemic is still being able to have physically distant team lunch – we look forward to the day where we can sit down at a table together again and try each other’s meals. On weekends, there is a good chance one of us will be out for a hike exploring the local ravines and parks.