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Charities work to meet growing furniture need in community

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
December 30, 2009
— The six adults in Rich Turner’s family lost everything in an October 2008 fire.

“The only thing we had left was the clothes on our backs,’’ the 52-year-old Janesville man said.


After a brief stay in a local hotel, Turner’s landlord found the family new rental property, but they still needed furniture.


While picking up clothes at Rock Assembly of God’s free monthly giveaway, the Turners were referred to Shelly Danks, founder of Acts of Kindness, a local charity that helps people who need clothes and household items.


Danks made sure they got six dressers, five beds, a sofa, end tables and a coffee table plus a kitchen table with chairs. A month later, she delivered another bed for Turner and a chair with a footstool and computer desk.


The delivery brought tears to the eyes of Turner, who said he is disabled.


“It was very important to try to get at least something to sleep on. My mom is 73. I didn’t want to see her sleeping on the floor,” he said.


Without the donations, Turner said, his two-generation family would have gone without.


“We probably would not have had anything,’’ he said.


The Turners are not alone.


A growing number of needy families are without furniture, something that local charities say is not as commonly donated as clothing or food.


A family of seven was evicted because too many people were living in one home. Although the couple found a new place to live, they needed furniture, especially beds for their five young children and new baby on the way.


Elsewhere in Rock County, a mother and daughter slept together on a torn mattress on the living room floor.


In another area apartment, a young couple slept in a twin-size bed with their 1-year-old and newborn.


All three Rock County families received help through Rock Responds, a component of United Way that connects organizations and service providers to those who deal with people needing services.


Need grows

Thousands of local people are in need of furniture and seek help through Rock Responds, Acts of Kindness, ECHO and Love INC.


Need continues to grow, spokespersons for all of the organizations said.


“We get between six and 10 requests a month for furniture,” said Tina Westman, clearing house coordinator at Love INC.


Shelly Danks at Acts of Kindness said she couldn’t begin to count how many people ask for furniture.


“Every time we’re open, we get a lot of calls for people requesting furniture,” she said.


ECHO has more than 71 households asking for furniture, said Jessica Schafer, client advocate.


“With our list, it can take a week to a couple weeks sometimes” to meet needs, she said.


Rock Responds had 518 requests for furniture, appliances and clothing through Dec. 18 this year, said Barb Wien, certified information referral specialist. Of those, 241 needs were met, she said.


The need for furniture continues to grow and surpass donations, the women said.


Love INC had one request for furniture in May. That grew to two requests in June. Requests steadily increased until the list filled a sheet of paper by November, Westman said.


At ECHO, furniture requests “definitely have not gone down,” Schafer said.


Requests at Acts of Kindness have “absolutely increased,” Danks said.


Since Rock Responds became operational in 2002, its needs requests jumped from 36 in the first year to 1,091 last year.


“With the economy the way it is, the needs are greater. People just aren’t able to take care of those needs themselves because their money has to be used for living expenses,” Westman said.


Danks agreed: “A lot of it is basic necessity. You need something to sit on or sleep on. These are items that people need to live; not an end table or mirror they want,” she said.


Donations needed

ECHO makes a plea for furniture in its newsletter wish list and receives a couple donations a day, Schafer said. Because ECHO has no storage space, it immediately connects a client in need with the donation and makes arrangements for pickup or delivery, she said.


Danks said Act of Kindness furniture donations come from furniture shops, churches and people in the community.


Westman said Love INC volunteers donate time, vehicles and gas to deliver donated furniture.


“It’s quite a ministry,’’ she said.


She has faith furniture donations will continue.


“We’re a faith-based organization. As we send out this furniture (needs) list, we know people will be praying for us. We see God move in amazing way,’’ she said.


Westman is impressed by the generosity of the community.


“We just have to do the best we can,” she said. “Once items come in and are available, we move them as quickly as we can to get them to people who have been waiting.’’


TO GIVE OR GET HELP

These local nonprofits help meet furniture needs in Rock County:


Rock Responds—This program was created in 2002 to meet the needs of low-income families and others in Rock County and the state line area. It is facilitated by United Way of North Rock County First Call program. Rock Responds connects organizations and service providers to those who deal with people needing services.


To receive or donate: E-mail Barb Wien at bwien@uwnrc.org or call her at (608) 757-3051.


Love INC—Love in the Name of Christ started after hosting the Day of Compassion in 2004 and 2005 that brought 47 churches and 1,000 volunteers together to meet physical and spiritual needs in the community. Love INC today brings resources together through local churches and nonprofit organizations to help those in need in Rock County.


To receive or donate: Contact Tina Westman, clearinghouse coordinator, at (608) 531-1880 or tinaloveinc@yahoo.com.


ECHO—Everyone Cooperating to Help Others was created in 1969. It is a nonprofit, faith-community sponsored charity that has grown from being a food pantry and clothing depot to a charity that helps meet temporary housing, food, transportation and other emergency needs for low-income individuals and families in the Janesville area.


To receive or donate: Contact Jessica Schafer at the ECHO office, 65 S. High St., Janesville. Her phone number is (608) 754-5333.


Acts of Kindness—This Janesville charity started in 2008 to help people in need with free clothes, household items and more.


To receive or donate: Call Shelly Danks at (608) 728-0841 between 1 and 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday or Friday.



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