Simple pleasures, such as sharing a meal around a dinner table or crawling into a warm bed after a long day, become difficult for those struggling to get by without furniture and other staples of everyday life.
Helping With Furniture (HWF), an Ottawa, Ontario-based non-profit, is there to help furnish individuals and families with household necessities that will put them on the path to a better life.
Every Wednesday night – for the past 10 years – volunteers have loaded up a Penske rental truck with furniture and other household goods for delivery to help individuals and families start new lives in Ottawa.
"The need is great," said Nathalie Maione, president of Helping with Furniture. "We have more than 200 people on our waiting list, and they have to wait four or more months to receive items they need."
Since 2005, HWF has furnished more than 1,450 homes. Last year, the non-profit furnished 268 homes. On average, HWF fully furnishes between three and six homes a week.
The charitable organization, staffed by a group of 200 volunteers, provides its services free of charge to refugees, immigrants, those leaving shelters and abusive situations, and others at risk of homelessness.
HWF delivers gently used household items, furniture, décor, bikes, electronics, tools, toys and books to people attempting to restart their lives. The non-profit receives referrals from social agencies, hospitals and school boards in Ottawa.
Many of the items provided to the families come from individuals and some come from local businesses.
— HelpingWithFurniture (@hwfottawa) October 12, 2017
"We are sometimes lucky to get big donations of several pieces from hotels and furniture stores," Maione said. "Over the years, we have been very lucky to form valuable ties in the community."
Opportunity from Loss
The relationship with Penske began when the rental company which had loaned them a truck went bankrupt. After reaching out to other companies with no luck, Maione turned to the telephone book.
"I had not heard of Penske before and stumbled upon them in the phone book," she said. "I thought I would phone them and explain our need."
The yellow and white rental trucks – dubbed the "Yellow Canary" and "Snow Goose" by Maione – are used to make regular deliveries once a week and for special deliveries, volunteer days with corporations and events like garage sales.
— HelpingWithFurniture (@hwfottawa) September 27, 2017
"Without Penske, we would not be able to deliver the furniture to people in need in Ottawa. The Yellow Canary and the Snow Goose have given us the ability to help more people each year," Maione said.
The company's involvement doesn't stop there.
"The Penske employees in Ottawa are amazing. They make sure I am safe every Wednesday night and that I have a great truck," she said. "They volunteer with us on our bike team as mechanics and on our dragon boat team as paddlers."
Darryl Munson, branch manager at Penske's Ottawa location, said the company was drawn to HWF's commitment to the community.
"The work Nathalie provides for our community is out of necessity; however, very few individuals take it upon themselves to provide it with the same enthusiasm and selflessness as Nathalie does," Munson said. "We knew from the very beginning Nathalie was on to something very important.”
The decision to partner with HWF was an easy one for Penske.
"They provide so much good to the Ottawa community on so many different levels: they provide essential living fixtures to the next generation of new Canadians; they help our environment by ensuring unused furniture is recycled and not in our landfills, and the list goes on," Munson said. “Nathalie provides hope for those in need and a vision of true community. Without Penske’s support, Nathalie’s vision would never have become a reality. We needed to work with HWF."
The vision for the future of HWF is clear for Maione.
"Our long-term plan is to grow, so we can help more families and individuals as well as make the wait time shorter," she said. "We would like to have a major impact on poverty in our community by helping the most vulnerable among us."
For more information about Helping With Furniture, please visit the non-profit organization’s website.
By Bernie Mixon