For more than six years, Danny Ayala has seen firsthand the difference furniture can make. Whether it’s a family who lost everything in a disaster, someone escaping domestic violence or a veteran on a fixed income, having just a couple pieces of furniture can turn an empty room into a home.
Ayala, director of the Chattanooga Furniture Bank, works alongside several volunteers to gather donations of furniture and housewares and prepare them for donation to qualified individuals. In the bank’s space on Main Street, individuals referred from a Furniture Bank partner agency can come “shop” for the items they need.
“We believe in creating a sense of dignity with this space,” said Ayala. “A lot of the people who come here are coming right out of a disaster, and they don’t need to feel like they’re entering another one when they come here.”
Chairs, mattresses, tables and more are donated from the public, hotels, schools and local businesses. Fabric items are treated and prepped for donation, and wood items are polished and restored. Hotel redesigns and in-kind donations from hardware stores have given Ayala rooms and rooms of items. While special repeat cases are considered, the core purpose of the program is to give individuals a one-time head start on creating their home spaces as they’re actively working toward stability.
Veterans have access to a select area of furniture at the bank, in addition to housewares and clothing. The Furniture Bank has also helped prevent children from returning to foster care by providing assets required by Child Protective Services for their homes – things like beds and working appliances.
“Sometimes I get asked, ‘what’s the big deal about used furniture,’” Ayala said. “Imagine getting on your feet and finally having a place to live, but the place is empty. For someone with nothing, having a real bed to sleep on or a chair to sit in gives them more than you think.”
Anyone interested in donating to the Furniture Bank can give monetary donations online or donate items through Goodwill Chattanooga. For business partnerships or large donations, you can contact the Furniture Bank directly at (423) 757-9527.