After disastrous leak, Ypsi Township nonprofit seeks help to provide furniture to those in need

Ypsilanti Township nonprofit Friends In Deed is seeking donations of gently-used furniture and volunteers to move large items in the wake of a roof leak that took out most of the nonprofit's stock.

"We've been running this program, providing free basic-needs furniture to low-income Washtenaw County residents for decades," says Executive Director Sarah Thornburg. 

The nonprofit already had some problems with the roof over its furniture warehouse, she says, and two heavy storms in late summer of 2023 caused a major leak that wiped out nearly its entire stock of mattresses and caused water damage to other pieces.

Repairs went slowly, but the warehouse is now in much better shape. Unfortunately, it's also mostly empty. Friends In Deed has been unable to provide furniture to residents in need and  staff have been making referrals to other community organizations while they build their stock back up.

"Now we're starting from scratch," says Furniture Coordinator Nikia Smith. 

She says staff are seeking items without stains, cracks, or missing pieces. They're especially in need of mattresses, bed frames, sofas, lamps, night stands, dressers or chests, and dinette sets.

Smith says the nonprofit doesn't need desks or office chairs. Those were popular in the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic when many people were working or going to school remotely, but she says requests for those items have dropped off sharply. Since many recipients live in small apartments, Friends In Deed also can't take large entertainment centers, china cabinets, bookcases, or hutches.

In addition to supply shortages, Thornburg says Friends In Deed's volunteer pool was "devastated" by the pandemic. Many office volunteers came back, but the furniture program suffered. Friends In Deed needs able-bodied volunteers to move furniture in the warehouse and drive a 16-foot box truck.

"We're always looking to recruit people who haven't volunteered for us before," Thornburg says. 

Meanwhile, Circles, a Friends In Deed program with a mission of helping participants rise out of poverty, continues to grow. Circles Coach Carla Wilson says staff recently came back from a national conference in Orlando with the realization that the program in Ypsilanti is a "well-established, well-run program" compared to programs in other areas.

"We were giving them advice, for instance how to acknowledge our volunteers so they keep coming back," she says. 

That well-established program is getting ready to celebrate the graduation of its fifth cohort on Jan. 30, while the sixth cohort is in training, Wilson says.

Anyone interested in donating to or volunteering for Friends In Deed can find more information here. More information about the Circles program is available here.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photos by Sarah Rigg.
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