After 13 years of helping families in need furnish their homes with donated items, the Delaware County Furniture Ministry said the group will not be able to meet the needs of the more than 30 families on the waiting list for furniture this winter.
“Normally, we help out between 60 and 80 people between now and Christmas,” said Bob Summerfield, who runs the Delaware charity. “We just don’t see that happening this year.”
Summerfield said the holiday season is the busiest time of year for the charity. Right now, however, the storage unit that normally houses its donated items is empty except for a few desks and other items.
“I think the economy is a lot of it,” said Kim Summerfield, who helps her husband run the Furniture Ministry. “We just don’t see people buying (new furniture).”
Without the purchase of new furniture, donations of old furniture don’t come in, they said. It has been nearly a month since the last furniture donation, something they have not yet seen in their time running the Furniture Ministry.
“People are just holding on to their furniture,” Bob said.
The couple started the Furniture Ministry in 2000 after Bob was injured and had difficulty walking. He said rather than do nothing, he began looking for a project. A friend asked him if he knew anyone who was getting rid of furniture, so he began searching Craigslist, a classifieds website, in the “free” section for items his friend needed.
That’s when he decided this was something he needed to do: connect those who had furniture to those who needed it.
“Before long, people started calling and saying, ‘I heard you are taking this or this’ or ‘Hey, I need this or this or this’,” he said. “When (Kim) and I started this, it was just her and I. Throughout the years, we just grew and grew and grew.”
As the need expanded, the Summerfields began asking for donated storage unit space during the holiday season to house the furniture they collected for the families they were helping. At the same time, they began getting volunteers to help move the furniture.
The Furniture Ministry also connected with local organizations that could refer families in need to the Summerfields, and teamed up with groups in Columbus that also worked with donated furniture. The Summerfields said, for example, if a group in Columbus has an item that a client of the Furniture Ministry needs, the groups can work together to fill the gap, or vice versa.
The Summerfields said their small group helps out families in all sorts of situations: survivors of house fires, families in poverty, families who move to Delaware County without belongings and can’t afford to purchase furniture, and in many other situations. The Furniture Ministry also matched families in need with donated appliances.
“If you’re in need, we’re not going to tell you no,” said Bob, who said he, Kim and the volunteers do the pick-ups and deliveries using their own gasoline and time.
Four years ago, with a growing need year-round, 42 Storage and U-Sell, 3295 U.S. 42, donated a storage unit to the Furniture Ministry for the entire year. The Furniture Ministry has stored its donations there ever since, often at full capacity as they match furniture with families’ needs.
“We haven’t been able to fill everybody’s needs, but we help as many as we can,” Kim said. “I know there’s people on the list who need beds – their kids area sleeping on the floor – but we don’t have any.”
Bob said he also is adamant about the furniture being clean, free of bugs and pet hair, and in good working condition.
The Summerfields said they are not giving up on the mission this holiday season despite the lack of donations and the dire need of the families they help.
“This is just what we do,” Bob said. “We love helping people. People have been there for us.”
“It’s a blessing,” she said. “We’ve been able to bless so many families with even the smallest things. It’s our way of giving back because we’ve needed help in the past.”
To contact the Delaware County Furniture Ministry, call 740-513-6611 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.