Helping With Furniture
Helping with Furniture (HWF)’s mission is to furnish homes with comfort, hope, and dignity by delivering gently used furniture and household items to those in the Ottawa area who are restarting their lives because of situations of hardship. HWF was founded in 2005 by two Ottawa women (Nathalie Maione and Buffy Cassidy) who felt compelled to respond to a need in their community among refugee claimants, who were often arriving in Canada with very little, and without the means to furnish their homes. Since its creation, HWF has provided more than 4,500 individuals with the necessities and comforts of home. HWF’s mandate is to appeal for, collect, and deliver used furniture, household goods, and furnishings to individuals and families who are restarting their lives because of situations of hardship brought on by international and domestic displacement. Clients are referred to HWF by various social agencies in Ottawa. HWF has no religious affiliation and always serves its clients free of charge. HWF has been strongly supported by the Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation, which has been instrumental to our success. Since obtaining a generous grant from the ODBF over the past two years, HWF has been able to expand its operations through the rental of a warehouse where all of its donations can be sorted in one place. This allowed us to effectively double our services. The grant was essential to supporting our growth, which better prepared us for our expansion under the “HWF613” project described below.
In 2016, in light of the current Syrian crisis and the influx of Syrian refugees to Canada, HWF partnered
with Refugee 613, creating “HWF613” to help meet the needs of an even greater number of refugees in
Ottawa. This special HWF project focuses on helping Syrian refugees to supply their new homes with the
furniture and household items required to allow them to make a comfortable and dignified start to their
lives in Ottawa. HWF, HWB and HWF613 are completely volunteer-run. More than 100 volunteers work
a total of nearly 150 hours on average each week to ensure that our deliveries can continue,
representing upwards of 7,800 hours a year.
As part of HWF613, HWF received a generous donation of a large warehouse for 6 months, which more
than quadrupled our storage and operating space. This resulted in a significant increase in donations,
volunteers, and requests for assistance, including from recently arrived Syrian refugees. In order to meet
this demand, HWF for the first time in its history, added a second day each week where volunteers
collected furniture donations and deliver to families in need, effectively doubling its efforts. This was
seen as a pivotal moment in HWF’s existence, as it becomes more recognized for its work and becomes
a “go-to” agency for donations as well as assistance.
The 6 months’ warehouse donation, which was temporary, is coming to an end on July 31st 2016. HWF is
now facing another pivotal moment, in that is needs to consider how to absorb its newly expanded
operations back into its previous business model. There is a risk that HWF will be unable to sustain the
current number of families it is helping every week through both locations, as returning to only its
smaller space could mean a loss of volunteers and donors.
In order to pick up furniture donations across the city, and to deliver full furnishings to families, HWF
relies on a 5-ton truck, generously provided by Penske Truck Rental Corp every week. This truck allows our moving team to do a significant number of pickups and family deliveries on Wednesday nights and Saturdays. But despite the generosity from Penske, this single truck effectively limits the team in its ability to cover the city in a given night. Volunteers regularly work from 6pm to 2 AM, as the volume of furniture to pick up and deliver is significant. As HWF folds its operations back into one warehouse, it needs to seek alternative means of transporting donations across the city and work to reduce the burden on its small team of dedicated volunteers.
ODBF’s support will assist HWF work towards their goal of leasing a truck. This truck, in addition the regularly donated truck from Penske, will increase HWF’s ability to pick up donations and provide more deliveries to clients, effectively doubling our ability to transport and delivery furniture. This will allow two teams to share furniture pickups and deliveries, thereby significantly decreasing the length of volunteer shifts (which are currently unsustainable). It would also allow HWF to maintain a second truck operation on Saturdays, converting its recent volunteers from HWF613. This would also increase our ability to pick up ad-hoc donations outside of regularly scheduled hours when a truck donation is not possible. The lease of a truck will greatly improve HWF’s
ability to accomplish its mandate.
By expanding its ability to pick-up and deliver furniture, HWF will be able to:
1. Avoid turning away donations due to lack of truck availability or offers of donations timely donations on off days (ie. not Wednesdays or Saturdays). This will continue to help prevent more furniture from entering landfills every year.
2. Allow more timely furniture deliveries through increased vehicle availability
3. Maintain volunteer engagement and commitment by reducing length of shifts through simultaneous, rather than consecutive, activities, will allow HWF’s work to be more efficient. Volunteers currently often work until 1 or 2 AM due to the limitations of a single truck.
4. Better volunteering hours will help expand HWF’s volunteer base through more reasonable requests for support, while maintaining current levels of support.
5. The truck can be used to pick-up smaller donations, freeing the donated truck to focus on larger pick-ups and deliveries. It can also be used by the Helping With Bikes team to make deliveries.
6. This asset would help HWF grow its services by increasing efficiencies – allowing for more furniture to be provided to more families.
7. The truck can be also be used to store furniture ready for delivery or pickup when HWF’s warehouse is full, thereby increasing its warehousing space.