The unique aspect of Matthew House Ottawa: Furniture Bank is that many of the people they help are part of its refugee program – where individuals and families are offered a place to stay until they can get settled and find a place they call home. Part of what makes a home is the furniture Mathew House Ottawa provides these people.
We all know an empty house isn’t a home. By developing a strong sense of community through its housing opportunities, Matthew House Ottawa builds a strong foundation for people in need, making them truly feel like they are home – part of a larger family there to support them. The sense of community drives action and purpose in these individuals and families as they often come back as volunteers once settled.
They don’t exclude others in need. As a faith-based, volunteer-driven, charitable organization, Matthew House Ottawa: Furniture Bank helps Ottawa’s marginalized population establish a connected, safe, healthy, and dignified home within their community. They help formerly homeless individuals, immigrants, and newcomers to Canada. Approximately 700 households are furnished each year by Matthew House Ottawa: Furniture Bank.
Growing to Succeed
Established in 2010, Matthew House knows starting over is never easy. But starting small – one step at a time – and growing from there adds up. Similar to how Matthew House gives these people a chance to start over and slowly grow at their pace to re-establish themselves, the Furniture Bank is trying to grow as well.
Since the beginning, Matthew House Ottawa: Furniture Bank has relied heavily on volunteers. Having grown steadily over the 10+ years in existence, they realize they are at a point where they need to expand to match the demand for their services.
Expansion doesn’t mean going in different directions. Instead, it means leveraging opportunities and technology to increase their capacity – to increase the number of people they can help.
In a recent visit, Toronto Furniture Bank and Matthew House Ottawa: Furniture Bank discussed the opportunities and challenges of relying so heavily on volunteers. Additionally, how to get and keep people and culture-building were topics of focus. While they have a strong foundation of community to pull from, they are still curious about ways to further strengthen the ties between Matthew House, its volunteers, and the community.
The Heart and Soul
One of the key drivers of the community commitment is David Botha, Program Director for the Furniture Bank arm of Matthew House. Originally, David was a volunteer for Matthew House Fort Erie before becoming the Program Director. Regardless of someone’s history, he is motivated to serve them.
While David’s title is Program Director, he fills in wherever he is needed – on the trucks, takes on some of the HR role, and helps out whoever needs a hand throughout the day. But to serve more people, he knows he’ll need to hire some extra people to focus more on the full operations of the furniture bank.
David’s dedication to the furniture bank and the community is unparalleled. It’s quite amazing to see him in action.
Different Sizes, But Still the Same
While different in size, there are many similarities between Toronto Furniture Bank and Matthew House Ottawa: Furniture Bank. Excluding the obvious (the service both provide), many of the operational elements of the two furniture banks are similar.
Furniture Banks working together provides more opportunities for us to spread the word and help more people. These partnerships can range from small details (trading logistic and sorting methods) to larger endeavours. One of the larger endeavours came with a coordinated effort to accept a large donation from IKEA that involved the wider Furniture Bank Network (FBN) in partnership with Furniture Link.
A donation like this wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the communication and coordination between furniture banks. Furthermore, it shows that, no matter the size, by furniture banks working together, we can make a larger impact on our communities. And as Matthew House Ottawa has taught us, community is everything.