The Mississauga Furniture Bank (MFB) has come a long way since those early days in the autumn of 2010. Inspired by the frustration of seeing piles of perfectly usable furniture along the road waiting to be tossed into the landfill, founder Laura Reeves set out on a mission.
Frustration might seem like an odd start for a not-for-profit organization, however, when your brother-in-law is Chair of the Toronto Furniture Bank, discarded furniture on the curbside is no longer an unsightly scene but rather the beginning of another kind of story.
“I knew there were people out there who needed that furniture,” says Reeves.
So she and a few friends sat in on a handful of board meetings at the Toronto Furniture Bank, talking in depth about how a furniture bank operates and what it takes to apply for grants. With this knowledge, they set up a steering committee to ensure the needs of a furniture bank were not already being met by another organization in the Mississauga area.
“Through [the] committee we were able to connect with a number of different social agencies who were really struggling to find a central place for all their furniture,” says Reeves.
From humble beginnings in the family garage to today's 32,000 sq-ft warehouse, The Mississauga Furniture Bank has exploded. “And it's not even close to what we need,” she says. “Right now we are only doing two pickups and deliveries a month because that's all we have funding for, but we could easily do that every week.”
“We lose out on a lot of opportunities to pick up donations and I think that's one of our biggest frustrations. [People] want to donate their furniture, but what they don't realize is there's a lot of cost associated when you want to donate.”
Although the MFB has grown substantially since 2010, they still operate on a highly volunteer basis with a total of 25 volunteers, one full-time and four part-time staff.
Through grants and donations, the MFB is able to pay a third-party carrier to pickup donated items, as well as deliver to clients of the charity. For those making a donation, there is a nominal fee of $25 to send the truck and movers to remove an item, for which a tax receipt can be provided. Items can also be dropped off at the warehouse, for no charge. The charity covers the costs of inspecting and cleaning all furniture before it is passed on to the next user to ensure that they are not transporting such pests as bed bugs and fleas or pathogens like parasites and bacteria.
The MFB's interactive website allows for an easier donation process for everyone involved. They suggest those wishing to donate an item(s) should send a photo, information regarding the donation and whether they would like to have it picked up or are able to drop it off and a staff member or volunteer will get back to you to schedule an appointment.
Due to part-time staffing and a large volunteer base, it is important to schedule an appointment for donation pickups/drop-offs to allow for inspection of the items to ensure the donations are usable. The MFB accepts donations by appointment only as they do not have the proper facilities to dispose of unusable furniture.
Clients are found through registered not-for-profit agencies working in the social sector, and must have a Mississauga address.
To help guarantee proper distribution of furniture, “The caseworkers are supposed to [perform] a home visit to make sure that the clients need [furniture] and that they're only ordering what they need,” says Reeves. “We rely heavily on the honesty of the caseworkers because we don't have experience in that area and we would rather focus on the furniture delivery.”
“Furniture is just one component in a whole host of services that that family might need”¦you want to leave people with some dignity.”
According to Reeves there are a lot of plans to potentially expand the MFB's services and move to a bigger warehouse, with the short-term goal being to increase the number of donation pickups to once a week.
“It costs a lot of money to run a furniture bank. It helps the environment, and it helps those less fortunate, but just because it's a charity doesn't mean it's free.”
Those wanting to help can go online to set up a donation or make a monetary donation to The Mississauga Furniture Bank; 100 per cent of all monetary donations go back into the basic operating costs of organization.