Carolyn Rebuffel Flannery has created something so wonderful with Make It Home (www.makeithomebayarea.org), I want all of you to know about it, to donate your gently used furnishings, fixtures, and housewares, and for the month of June, to generously donate cash to infuse the coffers and support this extremely important cause.
Make It Home is a heartfelt organization doing great work for people and the planet. Carolyn, who has built a successful career as an interior designer and then as a textile designer, turned her attention full-time during Covid to collecting and distributing good quality furniture and materials that would otherwise end up in landfill, to create homes for people transitioning from unhomed, for adults leaving abusive relationships, for families into which foster children are being adopted, and for kids who age out of the foster care system into emancipation and their own living spaces.
No matter what one’s life circumstances, setting up a house is no small task; it takes thoughtfulness and planning, investment and logistics. Many adults, and certainly most young adults, don’t have the first clue where to find furniture, what size to get, or how to make it look good.
Designers and our clients alike know that when homes are set up to support us to be our best selves, we feel energized and empowered. To offer that gift to these populations, as Make It Home does, and to recycle all of these items in the process, is simply a win-win.
My hope for Carolyn is that one day, Oprah will interview her. In the meantime, please join me in donating to her organization. Her fundraising goal in the month of June is $30,000.
There are so many reasons why this fundraiser is close to my heart including — some of you may know my story — I left home at age 16, lived with another family, and then with my older brother. After high school, I got my own apartment, and then my younger sister came to live with me; I was her guardian, and then our older brother and younger brother both came to stay with us. We were the four scrappy Martin kids, living among donated furniture from friends and neighbors.
I know what it feels like to have a home that is not ideal, and to receive help to make it liveable, safe, and supportive.
Of all the Bay Area counties we serve, Alameda has the highest percentage of residents living below the poverty line. There is a HUGE need for what we are doing.
When we create homes for people like this, we are helping the larger community. There is demand on both sides. So much furniture is going to the dump, it’s egregious. You want to give the furniture, we need your furniture. By donating and repurposing instead of dumping, we take responsibility for our resources. We become accountable.
We have a huge problem in the Bay Area with furniture poverty and a huge problem with excess. You see items left on curbs all the time. One problem solves the other problem immediately.
The thing is, I cannot do what I do for free. I have to pay movers, staff. There are logistics that have costs. The $30K in June will do many things. It will go to paying skilled labor, utilities, administrative costs, and insurance. It will go toward purchasing kitchen and bath supplies for our clients. And it will increase our program manager’s hours from part-time to full-time, meaning we will be open more often for receiving and for outgoing, to take more requests and make more placements, and do so in less time.
An example of why this is important: We received a call from a gentleman on a Friday; his social worker knew of us and had referred him. His daughter’s mother had just passed away. In the State of California if you don’t have custody, which he did not, you have to be vetted by the State before they give you custody. So it was not automatic that she would go to him.
He had been living with roommates. The County helped him get independent housing, but he didn’t have any furniture. He couldn’t get his daughter back until he had appropriate furnishings, a bed for her room, a kitchen table.
We received his call on a Friday, and spoke to his social worker the following Monday.
There were no other hoops for him to jump through. The only thing keeping him from getting his daughter back was furniture.
We put the order together that same Monday and delivered the furniture on Tuesday. His daughter moved in with him on Tuesday night.
He called me to share the news. He was in tears. I was crying too.
Giving people a beautiful place to live is essential. Do you want to sleep on the floor? Can you work well during the day if you did? Can your kids get their homework done if they don’t have adequate lighting? Even standing lamps and table lamps are an essential need.
If we’ve always had furniture, we don’t think about it in these terms.
Furniture is expensive, even at Goodwill or Ikea. Furnishing a one-bedroom at Ikea costs roughly $6K; imagine having to spend that, plus you’ve just paid first/last/security, you’re poor, and you live in the Bay Area.
Thus far, since opening our doors in October of 2020, Make It Home has helped 114 households — 313 people total, of which 166 were children, and 39 were foster kids!”
The response from the community has been amazing and we have been inundated with great stuff that can be re-homed and re-loved. We have been able to reuse about 95% of our donations and our outgoing donations to date have averaged 1.2 tons per household. That translates into keeping about 137 tons of furnishings repurposed and out of landfill.
I am so inspired by what Carolyn has created. Please join me in paying it forward by supporting her fundraiser at: makeithomebayarea.org/donate-money
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