This guest blog post was authored by, Erin Lazer, Furniture Bank Volunteer and Owner of SpaceStyle Home Staging, Organizing & Design.
In Erin’s Own Words
I first came across the Furniture Bank while planning an event for the GTA Chapter of the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA), a North American trade association for Home Stagers and Redesigners. We were looking to align our event, an open house for a property staged by chapter members, including a talk from well-known designer, Kimberley Seldon, with a charity that we could raise money for. The Furniture Bank was found to be a perfect fit for our organization, as we are not only often recommending to clients that they donate excess furniture, but we also help people to furnish and set up new homes. Since the event, I have personally wanted to get involved on a regular basis with a charitable cause, and again, the Furniture Bank was a perfect fit for me personally, as I could work directly with the clients that benefit from the organization, and help them to wisely choose furnishings for their new homes.
My first impressions were that Furniture Bank was very well-organized, and that all of the employees and volunteers truly love working with the clients, and making a huge difference in their lives. Although they of course want to help all clients as much as possible, they have great processes in place to ensure that guidelines are followed in order for the organization to operate efficiently, and be able to help as many people as possible in the long run.
Volunteering at Furniture Bank has definitely had an impact on me personally. I truly have enjoyed working with the clients. They come from various backgrounds, and each has a story. Some of them are so thankful for the furniture and housewares they are able to choose from. It’s really the small things that make them happy. It has made me feel lucky and privileged to be living the life I am living, and shown me that there are so many people out there that need assistance, and the impact that others can have on them through their donations is profound. I try to collect donations almost every time I volunteer, whether from myself, family and friends, or even clients who are decluttering or moving.
The Furniture Bank is unique as it’s a very positive organization. We are meeting clients who are hopefully at a turning point in their lives, and are helping them get settled, and hopefully set up for success. I have not volunteered at that many organizations, but this place is definitely special.
What keeps me coming back to volunteer week after week is that each client I have worked with has been a pleasure. Some are coming in on their own, or with their spouse, or even with children in tow. Knowing that I can personally help them choose furnishings for their new home, a home they may not have thought would be possible, keeps me coming back. Knowing that the help we give them extends to their children, is even more important. With two little girls at home, I know that as a parent, we want to give our children the best life possible. The gratitude that they show is also a joy for me.
I’ve learned a lot in the few months that I have been volunteering. I’ve learned that no matter where we come from, we all deserve to have a place to call home, and having that can make anyone a better person. I’ve also learned that everything has value. Someone may think no one else would want the furniture they are tired of, or the small appliances they no longer have use for, but to someone else, these could be treasured possessions. Most things are worth donating.
There’s one experience I’ve had that stood out for me.
I had one client come in that was moving into a bachelor apartment. We went through and chose everything he needed. He thanked me a few times for being so helpful, which was nice. He had a good sense of humour too. When we were wrapping up, I saw a Tinkerbell lunchbox in the housewares section. I jokingly said to him, “Do you think you need anything else? Perhaps a Tinkerbell lunchbox?” Then he told me he would actually take it. It turned out he has two daughters that he was fighting for custody of. He wanted something that his little girl would love. That was a good moment.
So far my experience volunteering with the Furniture Bank has been extremely positive, whether I’m helping clients on the showroom floor, or helping to unpack donations from our generous donors. I look forward to continuing to help out, meet more clients, and make a difference in their lives.