A nonprofit in northeast Baltimore is launching a pilot program to provide free furniture to families in need.
Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, Inc.’s free furniture initiative was inspired by local Baltimore realtor and Belair-Edison resident Keichel Lewter, who in 2015 launched a furniture bank that collected new and gently used furniture to distribute to individuals in need.
“After Keichel spoke with us about her previous work with the furniture bank she expressed how she wanted to do something specifically for our community,” said Belair-Edison Executive Director Denitra Braham. “So I reached out to one of our funders and told them about the plans. I then wrote a grant initiative for a pilot program through the DHCD [Department of Housing and Community Development], and they gave us $10,000 to help four to five homeowners with either $2,000 each or $2,500.”
Belair-Edison’s Real Estate Acquisition Specialist John Watkins contacted one of the organization’s partners, Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake, which agreed to give each recipient a $500 credit to purchase furniture at Habitat’s various locations.
Resident market leaders helped identify families in need of assistance in the Belair-Edison neighborhood.
“Within the community we have a resident market leader program,” Braham said. “These are longtime residents who have made it their mission to get to know their neighbors, get to know their community, and the needs that are within their community. We have meetings weekly and they’ll let us know if there is a trash issue or if a neighbor is in need. So, they gave us a list of families that they thought could benefit from the furniture giveaway.”
Braham continues, “We met with the individuals and asked them a few questions; household size, income, why they should be selected to be one of the recipients, and also what their needs are. We met with five families, and decided that four of them were in need of the furniture.”
Lewter secured Value City as a partner and preferred furniture supplier, where the families will receive 10% off of their purchases. She will also personally transport some families to the stores if they do not have available transportation.
“Working in the community, we see the impact of homeownership and recognize the importance of having a bed to sleep in and a table to eat at,” Lewter said. “I believe it’s our social responsibility to support our neighbors and maintain our communities.”
Additionally, Karl Keels, marketing specialist for Allen and Sons Moving and Storage, agreed to become a partner in the program and save recipients the delivery fee by delivering all furniture to each home for free.
“This is a pilot program, so we’re hoping that the success of it will merit us being able to go back to our funder and say these four families greatly benefited from this particular initiative,” Braham said. “And there’s many more families in the community that could benefit from such an initiative, and we hope it’s something that we can do with each grant cycle.”
This week all four recipients are scheduled to shop and pick out their own living room sets, bedroom sets, dining rooms sets, or whatever other furniture their home may need.