ROCKLAND—For people trying to scrape together a bit of furniture when moving into a new place, The Ripple Initiative has them covered. Open since May, The Ripple Initiative’s new furniture bank occupies the building space adjacent to Salty Waves hair salon in Rockland—a place that is dedicated to assisting the community in times of need.
When The Ripple Initiative first launched in 2016 (see our related story), the nonprofit was a retail shop to benefit the community. After 18 months, The Ripple Initiative gained a solid foundation in the Midcoast. That shop has since closed due to the property going up for sale.
“We have always run the nonprofit as a ‘furniture bank,’ we just never had the actual space to store furniture,” said Executive Director Sharon Setz. “The retail shop was a way to raise money to purchase the things our clients needed. We’ve taken a lot baby steps forward to get to where we are now. Our model runs exactly like a food pantry. The people who come to us are already vetted in the system and they can fully outfit their new home with our donated furnishings free of charge.”
“We not only receive donations, we also buy furniture for the bank,” said Setz.
“We have a Sweet Dreams program, where we buy brand new beds —mattress, box spring, mattress cover and sheets,” said Marty Jones, Chair of the Board, who explained how they are able to do that between individual, corporate and Board donations, along with United Midcoast Charities, Camden Rotary, and United Home Furniture. The furniture bank itself got support from 100 + Women Who Care About Knox County and West Bay Rotary.
Although they don’t have specific statistics, Setz said her perception is that the majority of recipients are women with children. “One of the ways we can determine if people are eligible for the furniture bank is that they are already in the system using social services, such as TANF, food stamps,” she said. “We get many families who have just fallen on hard times. We’ve got people who are living in a friend’s basement trying to get their own place, people who are trying to own their first homes. Our clients come predominantly from local case managers.”
Rents in the Midcoast have soared in the last decade. Maine State Housing Authority statistics show that the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment with utilities included in Rockland is $1,033, it’s more than what 67 percent of Rockland residents can afford. Now, compound that with the fact that many landlords require a first and last rent payment and deposit. What’s left over for furnishings?
“When people come to us, we provide absolute essentials: kitchen table and chairs, beds, a dresser, a couch, a living room chair and all the essentials for your kitchen and bathroom,” said Setz. The total of these items roughly adds up to $1,600 for a single mother with one child, and $2,500 for a family of four, according to breakdowns that Setz has configured.
“The cost of furishing a home is so cost prohibitive for so many people,” Setz said. “There’s not a whole lot of data nationwide, but Humble Design, a Michigan-based organization with the same mission, provided data that showed without furnishings or household essentials, 50 percent of the families will return to homeless shelters within a year,” she said.“With furnishings, that number drops to one percent.”
As for the furnishings, Setz has gotten savvy about what she will or will not accept. “If I don’t want it in my own home, I won’t give it to someone else,” she said. “In other words, I make sure that things are clean, not ripped, there’s animal smell or hair or smoke odors. I want to give people stuff that makes people feel dignified.”
All donations to The Ripple Initiative’s furniture bank are 100% tax deductible. For more ways to donate see the organization’s press release (related story) or visit the website.
Kay Stephenscan be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org