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Bloomington Charity Needs More Space For Furniture Donations

Children in masks standing in furniture warehouse
The Recycling Furniture for Families warehouse at 515 N. Center St., Bloomington has nearly reached capacity.
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The head of a Bloomington nonprofit organization has a good problem.

Frank Downes, executive director of Recycling Furniture for Families in Bloomington, said the organization never saw a single event stoke as much demand for donated furniture as summer flooding in Bloomington. The charity gave away hundreds of pieces of furniture to more than a half dozen families — primarily couches, chairs and wood furniture that didn't survive basements that flooded with sewage.

Still, Downes said the charity's 8,000-square-foot downtown warehouse at 515 N. Center St. is consistently filled with donated furniture.

Frank Downes
Frank Downes of Recycling Furniture for Families took part in a Multi Agency Resource Center (MARC) event at Bloomington Junior High to help families impacted by summer flooding.

“We are at the point based on what we are giving out right now we can replenish, but it’s right at the max at this point,” said Downes, adding Recycling Furniture for Families has had to ask some furniture donors to come back later, or offer it to Habitat for Humanity's resale store instead.

Downes said donations are up because of many homeowners are downsizing.

“With the hot housing market here in Bloomington, Normal and McLean County, we’ve had no problem getting furniture donations,” he said.

Downes said Recycling Furniture for Families is trying to find free storage space of up to 5,000 square feet, but he acknowledges that's tough in a strong real estate market. He said he's grateful so many are willing to offer still-good furniture to people who may need it, but he said supply and demand can ebb and flow.

“We really do need more square feet to be able to handle this because it’s a feast-or-famine type thing,” Downes said. “You get a lot of furniture in a few weeks and then not much for a week or so, so the ability to hold and handle more furniture would help us benefit the community.”

Downes said Recycling Furniture for Families relies on donated furniture and money. He said the non-profit lost two of its biggest fundraising events in the last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. He said that cost the organization about $15,000, or 10% of its annual budget.

Downes said added donations will likely come in handy this fall when the eviction moratorium expires next week.

“We are all expecting we are going to have a major impact from that,” he said, adding while a lack of space presents a challenge for the non-profit, he’s grateful there’s no shortage of furniture for families in need.

“The worst thing we could have is that we couldn’t give a family enough to live,” Downes said.

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