Furnish for Good helps families transitioning out of poverty upfit their new homes.
by Catherine Ruth Kelly
Priscilla Chapman, Lesley Faulkner and Mary Beth Hollett met just over a year ago through their mutual friend and local homeless advocate, Kathy Izard. The three moms were searching for a way to give back to the Charlotte community — Hollett is an empty nester, and Chapman’s and Faulkner’s kids were getting older, freeing up time for a new venture. Izard and her friend, Laurie Martin, had an idea.
Inspired by The Green Chair Project, a Raleigh organization that offers affordable furnishings for homeless families in transition, Izard and Martin saw a need for something similar in Charlotte.
“The dignity they offered by giving such personal shopping choices to families experiencing homelessness was something we didn’t have here,” explains Izard, who in 2012 led the development of Moore Place, an apartment complex for the chronically homeless. “But Laurie and I didn’t have the bandwidth to make it happen.” Instead, they convened a meeting of Charlotte women they thought may be interested in starting a nonprofit modeled after The Green Chair.
“Priscilla, Lesley and Mary Beth really lit up around the idea,” Izard says. “No one wanted to tackle such a big project alone, but together, they felt emboldened by each other’s strengths.”
Fueled by their shared passion for philanthropy, the trio devised a plan after that first meeting, including establishing a board of directors that includes Kitty Bray, Kelly Burkholder and Genie Scheurer.
Furnish For Good now occupies a 3,600-square-foot space on College Street, right across from the Urban Ministry Center, an interfaith agency that provides services for the homeless. The bright, open space serves as a showroom for their clients to select items for their new homes.
“When families move into their affordable housing, they don’t have anything — not a pot, not a pan, not a can opener, not a bed,” Chapman says. “We provide all of that for a small fee.” All of the items are either donated or hand-selected from area thrift stores. Volunteers test and clean the items before displaying them on the showroom floor.
FFG strives to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere and a personalized shopping experience. Only one customer is allowed in the store at a time. They are greeted and given a tour before they begin shopping for their items.
“Most of our clients have never had a choice in how they furnish their home,” Hollett says. “Here, they can walk through, pick their pillows, lamps and dishes and make it their own — it’s empowering.”
FFG has teamed with MOOVR, a local moving company, to carefully pack clients’ items and deliver them to their new homes the same day they are selected. A representative from FFG is present during every step in the process, even when the clients unpack their new goods.
“Mary Beth set the table with placemats and plates for our last client on her move-in day,” Chapman explains. “We really want to make it a very personal experience.”
FFG has partnered with 11 area agencies that refer clients to them. The organization opened its doors to its first family at the end of November and has served more than 50 people so far. And they have only just begun.
“Our city is full of people who want to do good, and we are thrilled to be a part of connecting those people with our neighbors in need,” Faulkner says. SP
For more information, visit furnishforgood.org.
Featured photo of Mary Beth Hollett, Lesley Faulkner, Priscilla Chapman provided by Furnish for Good