Furniture Bank

Last weekend a group of six of us helped out at the Furniture Bank in downtown Toronto.  I had no idea this place existed, and it serves such a vital need.  I felt the difference it made when I saw the before and after pictures of the places their items helped to furnish.

Some of their clients are people who were fortunate enough to find a place to stay and keep dry, but did not have any money to have any furniture.  Their room would have nothing but a sleeping bag and their clothes were kept in a knapsack.  With furniture bank, they were able to have a bed, a chair and a little table.  They could have a home where they could truly look forward to going to rest and sleep comfortably.  It’s the comforts so many of us don’t even think about, but enjoy day-to-day as a given…

We took clients around the warehouse and they were able to choose the pieces they needed.  There were big items like sofas and beds and tables to small items like dishes and picture frames.  The clients were so overwhelmed by the generosity of the people who donated the furniture…I remember the family we took around saying, “We could have another item?  Really??  I could have a desk AND a dinner table?  We could have chairs for the table too?” It was truly eye-opening and you felt the immediate impact you were going to make for the people you were with.

Furniture Bank was initially started by a nun in a church basement.  Since then it has expanded to a large building with a back area where donated furniture gets repaired and even steam-cleaned before getting put out onto the show floor.  Many of their hired staff are actually people in the community that needed a job but would normally have difficultly finding full-time employment.  This is an agency that truly helps their community in anyway possible.

If you are interested in helping out or have items you would like to donate, you could find out more by visiting http://www.furniturebank.org/

Add comment January 23, 2011

5 With Drive Food Bank

This past weekend we volunteered with 5 With Drive.  It’s a food bank that helps those in need in the York region.  We were there to sort food before it got distributed.  At the beginning, it was just that – sorting food.  But then the lady who runs the program, Anna, gathered us for a brief moment to give us some background and perspective about the clients the food bank helps.  Anna has been doing this for over 20 years and she shared some pretty touching stories.

One example I particularly remember is about a recently new client.  This client is a widow who recently immigrated to Toronto.  She has 8 children…and they all sleep in one tiny room on the floor…no mattress, no room for furniture.  They’ve been in Toronto only a few months, but in that short period of time, they’ve been easily taken advantage of and marginalized.  Not knowing their rights, the school that should have been their “home” school, sent them to another location further away where the kids had to walk an hour to get there (without money for bus fare).  Her eldest child is over 20, but him and several of her eldest kids were ALL put into grade 9 so they could “prove themselves”.  When Anna asked what she could do to help, all they wanted was a pair of gloves to help keep them warm during the walk to school and some blankets to keep them warm at night…the requests can be so simple…Anna and her own family (it’s a family run operation) has been doing all they can to help this widow and her family.  Thank goodness for wonderful people like that.  They went out and bought them coats, they gave them boots and blankets…this was just one example…

By the time the “intro” was done, I was in tears.  Sorting food after that became more than just putting cans in their right location…it felt purposeful!  My body kicked into high gear and I was working faster too…I felt I had to do more and the couple hours I had planned to spend at 5 With Drive seemed insufficient.  Which is why I know we’ll be back.

Add comment December 12, 2010


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