November 30, 2023

Furniture Bank

Swing Your Furniture Bank

Free furniture bank for newcomers to Guelph offers another helping hand

Danby’s efforts to help refugees continue with the Circle Home Furniture Bank, which aims to help newcomers to Canada with home furnishings provided for free

Newcomers from war-torn countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine usually start with nothing when they arrive in a city like Guelph, so the Circle Home Furniture Bank was created to help newcomers start a home by providing free furniture and home supplies.

The furniture bank is located at 127 Woolwich St., where Gordon Taylor Music operated for many years.

Since the storefront started 11 months ago, more than 120 newcomer families have been helped.

The grassroots not-for-profit is volunteer-led with 11 volunteers on Woolwich, a space backed by Danby Appliances.

It started as an unintentional pilot project when Canada saw an influx of Syrian refugees flee from Syria, many sponsored by Danby CEO Jim Estill. Then refugees from Afghanistan came. Danby  sponsored 50 Afghanistan refugees. The furniture warehouse still provides furniture to refugees from both countries, now it includes newcomers from Ukraine.

“So I think I feel like every single one of the volunteers that we have works as hard as they do, so they can shop with a family like that is the pinnacle of volunteering here,” said Blaire Rennie, Danby Refugee Program administrator.

The volunteers show the newcomers what is in the warehouse space and let them know they can take as much as they want for their home.

Blaire said these furniture pieces could turn into heritage pieces down the line where stories are shared and newcomers can say, “This is the first piece that I got when I came to Canada.”

“This is a piece of a very multifaceted settlement experience,” said Kathryn Elton, the furniture bank’s volunteer warehouse coordinator. Danby and Estill have other programs trying to help newcomers to Guelph, and the furniture bank is a newer venture.

Now the furniture bank volunteers are seeing newcomers want to help, but we ask them to wait until they feel they are settled before they give back, said Rennie.

To qualify as a newcomer to pick out furniture at a scheduled appointment at Circle Home Furniture Bank there are some criteria needed such as number of people in the family, country of origin, name of sponsor and contact information. 

“We recognize that we’re not the only place in town. We don’t have the capacity at this point to go beyond newcomers,” said Elton. “It would be wonderful if we could provide to the larger community.”

She said the furniture donors agree the need for supplies is never going away. Volunteers and donations are still needed.