Home sweet home
As the economy struggles, some businesses are experiencing a downturn.
But one busy furniture warehouse near downtown Columbus expects demand to go up as a result of the economy.
Every day, trucks rumble out to make deliveries from MAP Furniture Bank on South Yale Avenue.
The nonprofit organization works with area social agencies to get donated furniture to local families in need.
Recently, the group approached Bexley City Council in hopes of spreading the word about the service it offers to all of central Ohio.
One of a growing number of furniture banks around the country, MAP was started in 1998 and is the second-largest such organization in the country, President Jim Stein said.
"The (social) agencies have really embraced us, because this isn't just a novel idea, it's a real solution that works in the community," he said.
MAP offers free pickup of furniture for people in the Columbus area who want to donate. A variety of organizations also donate furniture to MAP, such as universities or hotels that are redecorating.
Stein said the group is trying to get the word out about MAP because members find that only about 20 to 25 percent of people around town know about the organization.
Last year, MAP helped about 3,600 families, he said.
"Because of the economic challenges right now and the housing crisis, we really expect we're likely going to serve 4,200 to 4,500 families this year, so we're really working hard to spread the word for more people to realize that they can get a free furniture pickup of something that they no longer need."
Stein estimated that 80 percent of the organization's clients make less than $12,000 a year, so getting some basic furnishingsfor their homes is "a real godsend."
"It helps them get restarted and back on their feet," he said.
Clients come into the warehouse and pick their furniture from a variety of options, using a points system. Clients have given amounts of points to spend to make sure they get a fair amount.
Stein said MAP tries to provide core household items to meet basic needs, like bed frames and mattresses, dressers, sofas, tables, kitchen tables and chairs. If people donate other items with those core items, like TVs and microwaves, the clients are happy to get those as well, he said.
MAP relies on volunteers to help their regular staff. Volunteers work in the office, help with mailings, help pick up furniture and provide advice to clients about their furniture choices.
"I just love going there, and knowing that in my own little way, even though I don't have contact with the clients, knowing that what I do impacts them in a helpful way," said Ruth Phelps, an office volunteer.
Stein said the furniture bank affects the environment in a positive way as well. Last year, the group collected about 305 trailer loads of furniture, which otherwise might have ended up in a landfill.
For the group's work, the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio awarded MAP one of its Emerald Awards, given to organizations and individuals who prevent litter and reduce waste.
Stein estimates the organization needs about $225 in funding to help each family, but he said that was still far less than the group would pay to buy the furniture. Funding comes from individuals, businesses and grants. The organization also charges about $55 to $65 to deliver the furniture, which he said is less than furniture stores would charge.
Franklin County Children Services is one of the organizations that work with MAP. Communications director Doris Calloway
Moore said together they have helped more than 400 families receive furniture during the current contract year with MAP.