The Devon and Cornwall Furniture Reuse Project has been helping some of the most vulnerable people in Plymouth since 2011.
Its remit is to provide good quality furniture and appliances at affordable prices but as Alison Turner who runs the project says, working with more than 300 charities and organisations across the region, they are frequently called upon to help those in crisis, and supply furniture and white goods free-of-charge.
“A lot of people don’t realise we’re here and what we do,” says Alison. “Last year Plymouth Social Services asked us to help an 82-year-old man in Plymouth who had been befriended and then scammed by his neighbours. Things were so bad that he had to be moved out quickly, his house cleared, and his new flat kitted out with furniture and appliances. After it was all done, I popped in to see him, and he couldn’t stop crying: he couldn’t believe that we would do all of that for nothing.”
And that’s not all. Alison and her colleagues have helped to write CVs; to complete job application forms and apply for bus passes.
“We are so much more than just free furniture,” says Alison. “We help build relationships with people.”
Regrettably business is booming. In February the city council donated £10,000 to set up the “Warmer Home 4U” initiative and enable the charity to purchase thousands of pounds worth of white goods and appliances. Since its launch it has provided more than a hundred individuals and families with all they might need to set up home. Crucially, this has left the recipients free of the financial burden and enabled them to get on with ‘living’. More recently, a second grant of £3,000 was received to help people in Cornwall, but that money, says Alison, was gone within a fortnight;
“We spent £3000 on white goods to help people in Cornwall; it went within two weeks and every single person was a victim of domestic violence.”
Five years ago, the charity was helping about twenty people a month now it has more than doubled and nearly fifty individuals and families each month are being supported by the charity. Furthermore, says Alison, there has been a significant increase in referrals from mental health and domestic abuse charities. Realising there was more they could do to help, Alison and her volunteer colleague Chloe, set up a second initiative in February, the Welcome Home Box;
“We knew they’d be popular and they’d be needed but we had no idea how much.”
With the help from local stores Waitrose, Morrisons and Asda, as well as Lush in the shopping mall, each Welcome Box contains about £100 worth of bedding, toiletries and small appliances. And Alison and Chloe say they always find time to put in a personal little note and extra ‘gifts’ for the children;
“We had a mum in Saltash fleeing from domestic violence. She had moved with her children into this house and it was just awful. But when she and her children opened the boxes, she said, the look on the kids’ faces was amazing.”
The Devon and Cornwall Furniture Reuse Project continues to support some of the most vulnerable people in our communities; from refugees to victims of domestic violence; older people without any support and sixteen-year-olds leaving care: these are the individuals that Alison and her colleagues, the volunteers and the trustees of the charity, are committed to helping. It’s not furniture; it’s a future.
If you would like to support the charity please contact Alison on Plymouth 600277 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and help to furnish a future.