Local group provides furniture, hope to families in need

by Sarah Gilbert

In its very first year, Beds for Kids, a Charlotte furniture bank, provided necessities like beds and kitchen tables to more than 100 local families in need.

Beds for Kids began when founder Tim Rowley, while delivering a donated couch to a family in need, realized the entire family, including three children, slept on the floor of their home.

In January 2011, Rowley teamed up with Daniel Fogarty, now the organization’s executive director, and Brandon Holmes, director of operations and partnerships, to launch the nonprofit and begin delivering more furniture to families in need.

“In looking at Charlotte, there wasn’t a singular organization that focused on furniture and creating that sustainability,” Fogarty said. “There are a lot of great organizations that help clients get back on their feet and get into a house or an apartment, but when they get there, furniture often isn’t available.”

The group visited furniture banks and other organizations around the country, combining their best practices to find the right model for Charlotte.

Throughout the first year, Beds for Kids, which maintains a furniture bank in a donated 11,000-square-foot warehouse, supplied furniture to fill 103 homes, including 268 beds.

“We work to create a new level of excellence and provide the opportunity for a family to have that feeling of dignity …” Fogarty said. “When they come to us, they’re treated just like they would be at any furniture dealer, but for very little cost. They go out thinking, ‘I’m not a charity case. I’m a human being.’”

The group relies on corporate partners, including Ashley Furniture HomeStore, and on the efforts of volunteers, including approximately 15 who work at the warehouse each week.

In February, the organization hosted more than 70 volunteers from seven different churches during LOVE Week, an interdenominational service project organized by Matthews-based Elevation Church. The volunteers picked up donations, delivered furniture, sanded, painted and upholstered furniture needing repairs and built a woodworking station.

“Volunteers are vital,” Fogarty said. “There are three of us who do this full time, and volunteers allow us to take it to the next level. We couldn’t do this without volunteers.”

Beds for Kids provides furniture to families referred to them by partners like A Child’s Place, Charlotte Family Housing and the YWCA. Families typically receive beds, a kitchen table and chairs, a sofa and a dresser for clothing.

“Families are referred to us from six partnering agencies,” Fogarty said. “We saw with other organizations that they were spending a large portion of money on social workers to vet clients. We set service parameters, and the partnering agents are the front line in vetting families.”

There are approximately 4,700 homeless children enrolled in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and more than 7,000 homeless men, women and children in Charlotte. According to Beds for Kids, there are an additional 12,500 local people, including more than 4,400 children, described as “couch-homeless,” or precariously housed, often living with a friend or a relative.

Homeless children and children in uncertain housing situations tend to perform worse in school and suffer from more health problems than children in permanent housing, the organization said.

“We expect kids to go to school, perform well and have a good attitude, but it’s tough when they’re starting the day after sleeping on a pile of clothes on a hard floor or doubled up in someone else’s apartment,” Fogarty said. “These are basic little necessities that have huge impacts. Giving a kid a bed and a place to sit and do their homework changes the way they think about the future.”

Volunteers are needed Saturday mornings to help keep the Beds for Kids warehouse running efficiently. Volunteers ages 15 and up can participate by moving furniture, preparing items for recipients, organizing and cleaning the warehouse and helping out with other projects.

The organization accepts donations of gently used furniture Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon at the Beds for Kids warehouse, located at 2519 S. Tryon St., in Charlotte.

Find more information about Beds for Kids or sign up to volunteer at www.bedsforkids.org.

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