December of 2009 is etched in my mind because my family finally moved into an apartment. At that same time my oldest daughter and her two little boys had also moved into their own place. Though we were excited, I remember our new landlord thinking that for a family to move into an almost 7-room unit with no furniture or household supplies such as plates, utensils, pans, and just a few blankets was rather strange. To us the word strange did not exist. We were all too ecstatic to be together in our own place again, as a family, and sleeping on the floors was something we certainly could manage. Right before Christmas arrived that year, I was not even sure we would be able to have a Christmas dinner, never mind a tree with presents. We did forgo the decorations, the tree, and the presents that year, but I had gone to a food pantry the weekend before and was blessed to receive a Butterball turkey with some trimmings for our holiday dinner. On Christmas day, the smell of turkey filled the air as we pulled patio chairs into our oversized kitchen. We also got an old table from the basement where my family sat to enjoy our dinner and our holiday blessing.
That blessing was to include furniture assistance from the Mission of the Deeds in Reading, MA, which gives a onetime donation to families referred by an organization. My husband rented one of the biggest trucks he could handle. We left with an empty truck one chilly, rainy morning in January with our oldest daughter to bring home furniture, pictures, bedding, kitchen items, linens, and even some toys and books for our grandchildren.
Founded in 1993, the Mission of the Deeds helps over 7,000 families each year that otherwise would not be able to purchase something as simple as kitchen pans to cook with. They are a nonprofit that is staffed by volunteers, and each day their work improves the lives of many.
Another nonprofit that works hard to give families donated furniture and household items is the Furniture Bank, created through the Mass Coalition for the Homeless in 1985. The Coalition’s Furniture Bank operates out of a 40,000 square foot warehouse on the North Shore, and assists over 3,000 families transitioning from homelessness each year. On average over 3.5 million dollars in furniture and household goods are collected and distributed annually. Referral forms can be picked up at Lifebridge in Salem, Ma and they will even fax your request over for you. You can also contact the Mass Coalition at (781) 595-7570 Ext. 11.
A place where clothing, household items, jewelry, furniture, and even used books get a second chance is at the thrift store staffed by community volunteers and shelter residents at Lifebridge in Salem, MA. Bargain hunters, collectors, and even families that could not afford the prices at most furniture stores can find things that make where they live more like home. With more than $125,000 in funding provided each year to house and feed shelter residents, any type of purchase saves money for the buyer and for the homeless shelter. When I had a temporary office job I didn’t think I could afford to buy clothing for the office until I walked into the thrift store one day and left with enough outfits to dress me up for work. No one that I worked with even suspected that my clothes were second hand, and I felt good going to work as well.
As I sit in my newest place, a studio with just my cats and my husband, since our children have moved on during the past few years, I still have remnants of the donations my family received. My oldest children also have items that we passed along to them as they moved out and got their own apartments. Recycled items passed on with our recycled life, a life that has included blessings from places that help families and places that have been a saving grace for us.
Tammy Anne Callahan-Callanan is a mother and grandmother who lives in Salem. She majored in creative writing and English literature at Salem State University. She writes columns regularly for the Salem Gazette and other publications. Find her on Facebook by searching for Salempoet’s Writing Page.