You’ve heard of food banks but have you’ve heard of furniture banks?
Well a furniture bank is the same thing as a food bank except instead of helping people with food, the furniture bank provides people with free furniture. And anyone who has purchased furniture knows that it can be very expensive.
This summer the United Way of Lancaster County awarded the nonprofit, Pennsylvania Furniture Mission with a $10,000 “2023-24 Level Up & Launch” matching grant, allowing the nonprofit to begin serving clients.
- READ MORE: ‘A game changer’: Officials cut ribbon on first Catherine Hershey Schools early learning center
The Pennsylvania Furniture Mission is based in Columbia, Lancaster County and serves residents in Dauphin, Cumberland, Lancaster, York, Lebanon and Berks counties.
The nonprofit was founded by husband-and-wife team, Pashk Sokoli and Amanda Reilly-Sokoli to provide free and gently-used furniture to families and individuals in need.
“We wanted to bring this type of service to my home state where there was a need,” Reilly-Sokoli said.
Reilly-Sokoli grew up in Berks County and graduated from college in Lancaster County
“My heart for social work, obviously helping people has always been a part of my life,” she said.
Sokoli was previously the director of the operations for the Chicago Furniture Bank.
Reilly-Sokoli said through that experience, the couple learned how to operate a furniture bank. And they have three goals for the Pennsylvania Furniture Mission: provide furniture for those in need, provide jobs and keep furniture that can still be used out of the landfills.
Reilly-Sokoli said the difference between receiving furniture from the Pennsylvania Furniture Mission and buying furniture at a thrift shop is the nonprofit doesn’t sell anything and doesn’t charge any delivery fees directly to the client. A flat fee for the service is typically covered by its partner organization that is making the client referral, she said.
Those interested in receiving furniture can contact one of the organization’s partners. The organization has dozens of partners including Central PA Food Bank, New Hope Ministries, Church World Services Harrisburg and Dasher Services.
Reilly-Sokoli said its partners routinely work with people in the need of furniture such as those who have experienced homelessness or who are experiencing economic hardship. After the referral is made to the Pennsylvania Furniture Bank, an appointment is made for the client to come into the warehouse or meet virtually to pick out items for their home. Items include bed sets, kitchen tables, chairs, lamps, furniture and other pieces for the home.
The nonprofit receives furniture from people who might donate one item or might donate many items if they’re cleaning out their house or downsizing. The Pennsylvania Furniture Mission also hopes to receive large amounts of furniture from hotels, offices and universities when those organization decide to upgrade furniture. Reilly-Sokoli said the nonprofit expects to receive furniture from 328 rooms of a Marriott hotel in Michigan in February.
Currently, the nonprofit runs its operation out of 6,000 square feet of space but, hopes to add 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of warehouse space to its operation by February to have room for the donation from the hotel in Michigan. And as of now the Pennsylvania Furniture Bank has one truck but officials hope to have a second truck, so there’s one dedicated for delivery, and one dedicated for pickups.
The Pennsylvania Furniture Mission does not charge for furniture pickups, but requests donations. A pickup can be scheduled at www.pennsylvaniafurnituremission.org/schedule-a-pickup.
Financial donations can be made at www.pennsylvaniafurnituremission.org or by sending a check to Pennsylvania Furniture Mission, 341 Chestnut St., Suite 102, Columbia, Lancaster County.
Anyone interested in volunteering can send an e-mail to [email protected].
“If there’s anybody that wants to get involved, we are always looking for volunteers,” Reilly-Sokoli said.