WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Most Westchester County families take for granted that they will have a bed to sleep in at night and a kitchen table to gather around for family meals.
Kate Bialo, a Larchmont resident and founder of Furniture Sharehouse, knows that not every family has those basic necessities. Even better, her organization takes steps to address this issue, providing free furniture to Westchester County residents who do not have and cannot afford beds, dining tables, sofas, chairs and other home furnishings.
Furniture Sharehouse, a New York State nonprofit, collects donations of gently-used furniture from the public in its warehouse at the Westchester County Airport. Families in need must be referred by one of 30 community agencies, and come by appointment to the warehouse where volunteer personal shoppers assist them in selecting much-needed basic furniture for their home. Clients can take the furniture with them, or pay a modest fee for delivery.
“Depending upon their needs, we try to give every family at least two beds,’’ Bialo said. “In addition, they’ll get a sofa, armchair, end tables, kitchen table and chairs, dressers, nightstand, lamps, rug, artwork and a few household items. Every family gets a full apartment of furniture."
Bialo said since Furniture Sharehouse opened in 2007, it has helped more than 10,000 people get a new start. Last year, 465 families received items from Furniture Sharehouse. She estimates that her non-profit organization has given away more $3.5 million in furniture at thrift shop prices to Westchester County residents.
The reaction? The thank you notes on the organization website tell the story. “I would like to say thank you for being there and having such a great organization that helps the less fortunate and needy of Westchester. Before I received furniture from you, I was sleeping on the floor and I had only 3 fold-up chairs. Now I have a sense of pride in my place, I have a loveseat, a dresser, and end table, an ottoman, a lamp and a full-sized bed and I am sleeping on a comforter,” said one of many grateful clients.
Bialo served as President of the Junior League of Westchester on the Sound in 2001-2001, and Community Grants Coordinator thereafter. She tried matching individual donations and families in need, but sought for a way to expand her reach. “I thought -- wouldn’t it be nice to locate some space, collect furniture in it, and share it as needed,’’ she said.
In January of 2007, flooding in Mamaroneck left a lot of families without furniture. Agencies helped find donations, and Bialo helped distribute furniture from a temporary center at Harbor Island. In April of that year, Furniture Sharehouse opened at the airport. “That gave us a quick start,’’ Bialo said. “After that, there was no looking back.”
Bialo said the organization accepts basic home furniture in good condition and moderately sized. “One of our biggest issues is explaining to donors that we cannot accept over-sized furniture because it will not fit into our clients’ small apartments and often cramped delivery situations. That enormous entertainment armoire or huge sofa may be gorgeous, but they will not fit so we cannot accept them.”
The warehouse accepts furniture drop-offs on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:30-11:30 a.m. It also is open on the third Saturday of every month at the same hours. Municipal collection bins are located in Larchmont, Tuckahoe and from April through October in White Plains. Pick-up is available for qualifying items for a small fee. Click here to find out more about donating items to Furniture Sharehouse.
A volunteer herself, Bialo finds her reward in working with a volunteer team that treats clients with respect and dignity, knowing that they are helping struggling families get a fresh start.
“It’s incredibly gratifying to know that you have transformed a life in just one morning,’’ Bialo said. “The thank you letters we get from clients tell the whole story.”
For more information about Furniture Sharehouse, click here to visit the organization’s website.