BELLINGHAM - Some old college furniture has found new life in the homes of people who need it most.
A dormitory renovation at Western Washington University prompted the donation of 128 dressers for housing agencies.
Dressers were pulled out of Mathes Hall on Wednesday, June 13, with almost half going directly to the homes of people who had recently been homeless. The rest went to the Habitat for Humanity of Whatcom County Store.
The 61 dressers delivered straight to homes was the largest-ever donation to the virtual furniture bank House 2 Home, agency coordinator Abby Lund said.
The nonprofit keeps its expenses low by operating without a storage space. Its volunteers pick up furniture from donors and drive it directly to families that are transitioning from homelessness into a new place.
Now in its third year, the virtual furniture bank is surpassing its goals, Lund said. The organization set a target of 200 pieces of furniture delivered in 2012 but had logged 195 items delivered this year, before the Western donation.
"We've definitely exceeded our expectations," Lund said.
Womencare Shelter, which helps domestic-violence victims and their children find new permanent homes, has come to depend on House 2 Home, the organization's housing advocate said.
"It would be really hard for me to operate without them," Sheryl Hull-Cline said. "When we find people living in their car with their children, they have nothing."
The 67 dressers at the Habitat for Humanity store are available to the furniture bank to deliver as needed. The store also will sell the dressers to benefit its own mission, building homes for low-income people.
"It's a huge donation for us, too," Habitat Store manager Jaime Arnett said. "This could add thousands of dollars to our cause."
DORM UNDERGOES RENOVATION
Furniture that comes out of a large dormitory renovation often enters the waste stream. Sometimes, construction companies opt for a less wasteful alternative.
"We encourage them to recycle," said Dale Krause, Western Washington University's construction coordinator.
Western and its renovation contractor, Regency NW Construction, decided on a third way: giving away the 128 old dressers that came out of Mathes Hall.
"They were pretty well-built dressers, so they still got some years of use left in them," Krause said.
Western's housing office was "real happy to be able to help" families coming out of homelessness as part of its Mathes Hall remodel, Krause said.
In addition to some cosmetic and functional changes, such as new furniture, the work on Mathes this summer focuses on safety improvements, Krause said. Fire sprinklers will be installed throughout the building, including every student room. Structural upgrades should help the nine-story building hold up better in an earthquake.
It will take two summers to finish the project. Work this year is scheduled to be mostly done by Aug. 13, before student move-in this fall.
HOW TO HELP
House 2 Home is looking for volunteers this summer - especially those who have trucks. It is always looking for furniture donations, and beds are currently in demand. To help, call Abby Lund at 360-224-7185 or go to whatcomvolunteer.org and click on "Our Programs," then "House 2 Home Furniture Bank."
Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at email@example.com or call 715-2266.