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Furniture for Families provides home necessities

By: Laura Newell, Features Editor
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After volunteering at the Twin Lakes Food Bank in Folsom, one woman got the idea to help less fortunate people in a different way.

Jan Voy, of El Dorado Hills, is the director and founder of Furniture for Families, a non-profit, all-volunteer organization.

The furniture bank solicits and picks up good, serviceable used furniture by appointment, from El Dorado Hills, Folsom and Rancho Cordova. The furniture is stored at their warehouse facility for distribution, free of charge, to clients.

“We never sell anything that we pick up, it all goes to needy families,” Voy said.

Since opening in May 2001, Furniture for Families has given away more than 20,000 pieces of furniture to more than 2,000 families, said Voy.

“While volunteering at Twin Lakes Food Bank, I learned that many of our clients have needs other than food and clothing,” she said. “There are families in our area who have been homeless and finally get shelter, but sleep and eat on the floor because they have no way to obtain even basic furniture.”

She said many times battered women who often find themselves finally out of their violent environment, and foster children who are emancipated from the program and suddenly on their own, have a difficult time finding support or knowledge of how to obtain furniture and other basic items needed to function well in life.

“Beds, tables and chairs, dressers, sofas and cribs can be the beginning of a new life with self-respect,” she said. “Basic furnishings can turn a shelter into a home, providing comfort, security and self respect.”

To keep furniture donations fair and frequent for all families in need, Voy said there is a process to follow.

“We have 90 agencies on our approved lists. Before clients can come to pick-up furniture, caseworkers have to make a home visit to screen families in their home. Then the caseworker needs to come with the clients to pick up their furniture,” Voy said. “We want to provide furniture for people who do not have it, not just an upgraded furniture piece. We can go through furniture very quickly, so we really want families to need it.”

Clients can make appointments on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but to stay fair, only six appointments can be made total each week to pick up furniture.

“The amount of furniture that we bring in each week is approximately the same amount as families who come in the next week to pick it up,” she said. “We try to make the experience similar to shopping at a furniture store. We treat clients with dignity and let them shop.”

She said while many community members donate to the furniture bank, larger furniture stores also give a helping hand.

“We really do just fine with collecting furniture. Most of the furniture comes from family donations, but some comes from stores when they have leftovers, returns or odd colors that are hard to sell,” she said. “All of the money that we get through donations goes to serving our clients. I don’t believe in buying furniture, we believe that there is furniture out there and we need to find it.”

While the furniture bank runs efficiently with about 35 volunteers working regularly to help collect furniture, Voy said there is more to be done.

“We continually need donations of furniture, sheets and towels,” Voy said. “We give blankets with each mattress or bed set. But when it’s really cold, we try to provide people with extra blankets to stay warm. So we run out quickly and frequently. Blankets are always a good donation. We want our blankets to be usable and in good condition.”

For more information, call (916) 635-0664 or visit furnitureforfamilies.org.