ROCKLAND — Though there are wonderful qualities to Maine, it’s not always “vacationland” and for some, life can take an unexpected downturn. The breadwinner in the family loses a job, and stable housing. A woman beaten by her husband, takes the kids and runs. A veteran with posttraumatic stress disorder comes home to a broken marriage. A drug addict finds herself without a stick of furniture as she works to better her life and start fresh.
These are the realities that a life-time resident of Rockland, Sharon Setz, and her friend of 30 years, Lori Alice Friant, know only too well. Setz and Friant started a nonprofit last spring called The Ripple Initiative. In September, The Ripple Initiative opened their shop in the converted garage of a friend at the corner of Union and Willow streets in Rockland.
The shop is the physical manifestation of Setz’s decades of networking throughout Rockland, finding donated furniture and goods from neighbors and friends that she can turn around and pass on to families impacted by poverty.
Setz has always been one of those community members who has helped out her neighbors. A former house painter and house cleaner, she has spent many years organizing a Secret Santa drive for neighbors in need, something she said she wished she could have done full-time. Friant, a former waitress, did the same kind of community giving in Lewiston and Portland before she moved to Rockland.
“I never thought I had anything to offer, other than some charitable giving, but Sharon took it to another level,” said Friant.
“For years, I’ve been dreaming about doing this year-round,” Setz said.
A chance meeting with a friend who works in nonprofits told her she could do this full time. After a year of getting their ideas into a business plan and the nonprofit status complete, Setz and Friant have established their mission and opened their doors.
“The idea just came together, that we would just find quality things at estate sales or donated items and would sell them to people who could afford it,” said Setz. “The income would allow us to do things for free for people who can’t afford it. For example, when the Hospitality House finds permanent housing for their homeless families, we give them a number of household items, all free.”
Essentially the Ripple Initiative’s mission is three-fold: to sell quality items in the shop and pass the profits into more resources for the areas’ impoverished; to collect donations of household goods and furniture through a neighbor-to-neighbor clearinghouse and give them away free to families in need; and to eventually set up a website registry, similar to a bridal registry, where they can match individual needs with specific donations.
“My garage and basement is constantly filled with items like mattresses and household furniture,” said Friant. “If we get a call from Hospitality House or from someone moving into an apartment or house with absolutely nothing, we want to give them a bed, a dresser, coffee maker, a microwave, silverware, shower curtain, a toilet scrubber—hundreds of dollars worth of items for free that it would cost them to set up a proper household.”
“We also go to estate sales, and people make appointments to donate something to us,” added Setz. “I know a lot of people here.”
Asked why people should choose to donate their items to The Ripple Initiative, Setz said, “The donations and profits go to charitable endeavors in this community—your neighbor, instead of going to people out of state.”
The Ripple Initiative thrives on the premise that when people are given a helping hand by neighbors, the person is uplifted and pays it forward in donations when they’ve successfully broken the cycle of poverty.
“I’ve seen it time and again,” said Setz, pointing to several pieces in the store. “These are beautiful donations from several people we’ve helped before.”
The shop is beautifully appointed with quality antiques, mid-century furniture, artwork and necessary household items.
“We’re very selective in what we take in from people,” said Setz.
“We don’t take anything broken or chipped,” added Friant. “The items you get are in very good shape. We only take in things you’d be proud to have in your own home.”
Unlike Goodwill, people are not encouraged to “drop off” items; instead donations are accepted by appointment only.
For more information visit: The Ripple Initiative
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org