Furniture Project continues to give


The furniture-stocked warehouse doesn’t have heating or air conditioning.

There are no windows, and a few dim lights protrude awkwardly from the mismatched tin roof.

Overgrown weeds claim the perimeter of the one-room building, and the mud- and dirt-encrusted slush discourages anyone from walking through the thick fog to approach the sliding industrial door.

“It’s like a Charles Dickens novel,” said Mande Butler, the director of ReStore, a home-improvement material reuse center.

Its appearance is bleak, but to many, it exudes hope.

The warehouse, 625 McCollister Blvd., is the Furniture Project’s pickup center, where more than 350 families obtained furniture free of charge last year, up from 275 in 2008. With this growth, the organization has plans to move the facility to a newer building within the next few months.

Butler, who began managing project in 2008, has seen significant growth both in donations and recipients.

The organization primarily serves families and individuals facing short- and long-term financial struggles. Recipients must present a referral from an area human-service agency for proof of need.

“We get families who come in that are larger, and all they want is a kitchen table for their kids to sit at,” said Katie McMullen, a volunteer coordinator.

Donated beds are highest in demand, followed by table and chair sets, then couches.

Butler said the Furniture Project assists people in a variety of situations and income levels. The organization provided aid to many victims of the 2008 flood with short-term furniture loans before their FEMA assistance arrived, she said.

“When tragedy hits or when transition hits, it’s better for people to know their resources,” Butler said.

The Furniture Project received more than 570 donations and more than 1,800 pieces of furniture in 2010.

Though the organization has helped furnish the homes of many Johnson County residents, Butler considers the result a byproduct of the Furniture Project’s primary goal. The Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center implemented the program around 15 years ago as a way to reduce the amount of furniture in the landfill.

The center still continues to oversee the area and provides $28,000 in funding annually.

“[ReStore has] been doing a wonderful job,” said Jennifer Jordan, the recycling coordinator for Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center.

The Furniture Project’s effort kept 23 tons of waste out of landfills in 2008, and it more than doubled that figure in 2010.

The Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center plans to relocate the Furniture Project’s warehouse this summer to a new building next to ReStore’s offices, 2401 Scott Blvd. S.E. The move will simplify the donation and pickup process, and it will be located on a bus line.

“It’s going to be a great win-win situation for everyone,” Jordan said.

For now, the project continues to operate in its Dickensian warehouse. Officials encourage residents to use the resource.

“Who doesn’t love cheap stuff?” Butler said. “Everyone can benefit from this.”

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