President's Toronto SUN Column
TREB President's Column as it appears every Friday in the Toronto Sun's Resale Homes and Condos section.
Furniture Bank Offers A Helping Hand
May 2, 2014 -- Working with thousands of homebuyers and sellers each year, Greater Toronto REALTORS® understand the many elements that go into making a house a home. Recognizing that one key component is furniture, we lend a hand to a charitable organization that transforms the living spaces, and the lives, of those it supports.
Since 2011 Greater Toronto REALTORS® through the REALTORS® Care Foundation have supported Furniture Bank, a Toronto-based charity that outfits homes with the essentials, giving those who are emerging from difficult circumstances a strong start as they begin a new chapter in their lives.
Furniture Bank traces its beginnings to 1998 when Sister Anne Schenck of the Sisters of St. Joseph began collecting furnishings for refugees in need of help establishing a new home. Since that time the charity has served more than 60,000 people, offering a helping hand to nearly 5,500 people last year alone. In addition to newcomers, Furniture Bank now also serves women building a new life following an abusive situation and homeless people transitioning to a permanent dwelling.
“You can’t really do much else or think of moving forward in your life if you don’t have a bed to sleep on so we think of it as providing support for people who have made the very difficult decision of making a big change in their lives,” says Executive Director Susanna Kislenko.
The charity charges a fee to pick up your items and in exchange, it offers a receipt for the value of your donated pieces for tax purposes. The majority of this revenue is then used to fund the organization.
Furniture Bank estimates that in 2012, it diverted more than 1,526 metric tonnes of furniture from landfills, translating to more than 21,000 sofas in one year alone. In addition to offering an environmentally friendly alternative to disposing of unwanted goods, Furniture Bank operates a job skills program for at-risk youth and new immigrants.
It also works in conjunction with other groups such as Streets to Homes, which supports those transitioning from a shelter environment to their own home.
Kislenko says she draws inspiration from the feedback received from such partners. “What we heard from one of the case workers recently is that she is still looking for the person on the street even if the person has four walls in a sense and their home formally, until the day that their furniture is delivered. So they know from the day their furniture is delivered they will consider their house a true home.”
Those who benefit from Furniture Bank’s services are in fact, so grateful that they often return to the organization to offer volunteer support.
There are a number of ways that you too can support this very worthwhile cause: through a financial contribution, a furniture donation or by volunteering your time. To find out about how you can help visit www.FurnitureBank.org and to learn more about the many ways Greater Toronto REALTORS® are working to build a better Toronto please visit www.TorontoRealEstateBoard.com
Dianne Usher is President of the Toronto Real Estate Board,
a professional association that represents 37,000 REALTORS®
in the Greater Toronto Area.