One Saturday morning in February, Beth Smoot, a co-founder of The Green Chair Project, led volunteers on a tour of the new facility, pointing to a project underway to install a slat wall, the future location for a framed art display. I followed the group through the facility, learning where donated small appliances were tested and kitchen items inspected, before entering the larger warehouse space, where donations needed sorting.
At the end of the short tour, volunteers were encouraged to choose how they wanted to help, selecting from a list of posted tasks. One team quickly assembled to rearrange furniture on the showroom floor. In recent days, some families had “shopped” for needed items, leaving some open floor space for other donated goods. Those goods come from individuals in the community, people with the desire to help others, as well as to keep reusable furnishings from entering our landfills.
The “showroom” at The Green Chair Project is organized much like a retail furniture showroom floor. There are sections for living room furniture and dining sets, while entertainment centers and TVs line a wall adjacent to a section of framed art. Bed linens and kitchen items are displayed in alcoves at either end of the space. The showroom’s flow and arrangement facilitates a shopping experience for clients referred to The Green Chair Project through its partner organizations.
The Green Chair Project was established in 2010 and is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit corporation. In its first year, the organization assisted 24 clients. During the second year that number increased fivefold to 126. As with any new organization, The Green Chair Project has experienced growing pains, requiring a move in recent months, from their initial location to a larger space at 1853 Capital Blvd. in Raleigh. The new space allows The Green Chair Project to continue serving the increasing community demand, though with some additional expense. In some instances, donated furnishings of higher value are retained for fundraising sales to the general public. The next public sale dates are set for a special preview day on Thursday, April 26th (with food and beverages available) and continues Friday, April 27th through Sunday, April 29th (look for updated information at The Green Chair Project’s website in the near future).
The Green Chair Project partners with several local non-profit organizations, such as Step Up Ministries, InterAct, The ARC of Wake County, The Salvation Army and Triangle Red Cross, to assist families in transition, or those coping with a disaster. In May 2011, partnership with The Salvation Army allowed donated home furnishings to be made available to victims of the April 16, 2011 tornadoes. Later in 2011, two fifty-three foot truck loads were transported to the North Carolina coast, to aid victims of Hurricane Irene.
On a smaller more local scale, a client transitioning from a temporary living situation at a partner organization’s shelter to a new home, may visit The Green Chair Project showroom in person. The partner organization bears the responsibility for screening clients, for providing them with the education and assistance needed to promote self-sufficiency, and for working with those clients to determine a budget. Then, The Green Chair Project enters to help complete one more step in that path towards self-sufficiency, assisting with the “how” to furnish a new home.
With the client’s budget and needs assessed, The Green Chair Project staff walks through the showroom with the clients as they select a sofa, coordinating chair, end tables, even lamps, floral arrangements or art work for the walls. A points system sets the “price” for each item, enabling an attainable goal for the client to have not only basic living room furniture, but lamps and throw pillows that make their new home feel comfortable and complete.
How We Can Help
Interested in helping The Green Chair Project continue its work in reusing furnishings and renewing lives? Volunteers with most any skill set are warmly welcomed (find more information about volunteering here), and especially those with furniture repair and framing skills.
As you get to your spring cleaning in the coming month, look for items around your home that you no longer need (see the website for a complete list of gently used items accepted). The biggest needs tend to be those items that typically we all seek:
- Full size sofas
- Queen-size headboards, bed frames, bed linens
- Cookware, such as sauce pans and frying pans
Donations of furnishings are accepted Tuesdays and Thursdays between the hours of 10 am to 5 pm, and on the first and third Saturday of each month, from 10 am to 1 pm. Monetary contributions are accepted as well.
Also, on April 21st (Earth Day weekend), The Green Chair Project and the Downtown Raleigh Historic Churches Alliance will host a collections drive for a variety of items (clothing, books, food, furnishings, etc.). I’ll post more information about that drive as the details become available.
As always, positive word of mouth, sharing information with friends, family, church members, civic groups, co-workers and even your employer, can be very beneficial to furthering the goals of The Green Chair Project, keeping reusable items out of our landfills, while lending a “hand up” to those reestablishing lives in our community.