Charles and his wife Susan aren’t from Iowa, but they are happy to call the state home. After 20 years in Florida, the couple lost everything in a fire and relocated to Chicago to live with family. While there, a friend told Charles about the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids area and the incredible support they show veterans. Charles and Susan made the move down and were met with open arms by the staff at Willis Dady. After learning they had little to no possessions, Willis Dady’s executive director put the couple in contact with Central Furniture Rescue (CFR).
This connected network stood out to Charles immediately. “One connection leads to another one. The whole network is great. There is a lot of help for veterans in this area,” he said.
When CFR reached out to Charles about his furniture needs, he told them about the devastating fire. The CFR team got to work coordinating furniture and basic household items. Since the family was in West Branch, CFR couldn't deliver, but Charles rented a truck. When he arrived to pick up the items, he was immediately overwhelmed.
“They had it all ready to go. A whole house worth of furniture right by the door. They went the extra mile; it was all ready to load,” Charles recalled. “They had asked what I needed; they got all of that and so much more. We went from zero to everything. I thought to myself, we can finally relax. We can exhale.”
Now with the furniture all moved in, their new residence feels more like home. Susan's favorite part? It all matched. From the couches to the bedding. “They really went above and beyond. It all goes together,” said Charles. “We feel complete.”
Charles enjoys the couch the most, while Susan loves the kitchen items, noting that even something as small as a measuring cup made a big impact on feeling whole again. They both feel fortunate to be part of this new community and hope one day soon to be able to give back. Charles said they would even like to help with CFR furniture deliveries and be part of this network that delivers so much good to so many.
As a single mom of two young children, Starr appreciates all help. Homeless at 17, she bounced around over the last five years only to find herself displaced once again after the destructive Derecho storm hit Cedar Rapids in August. She secured a new apartment in September but didn’t have any furniture. Starr and her son slept on a shared air mattress, and her baby daughter slept in a bouncy chair. While they made the best of it, she was anxious to get more permanent beds.
Through the HACAP “First 5” program that helps families with children under the age of five, Starr was referred to Central Furniture Rescue (CFR) to acquire household basics. Starr talked to CFR and shared her situation, stressing the need for better sleeping arrangements.
On the day of the furniture delivery, the sheer volume of volunteers stood out to Starr. “They had a million volunteers helping move everything. I barely had to carry anything,” she remembered.
It wasn’t just beds that CFR delivered. “They gave us furniture for the entire apartment,” Starr recalled. “We got a rocking chair and a couch, even a laundry basket for the bathroom. They also brought us sheets. I wasn’t expecting sheets. I was actually saving up for sheets, knowing we’d be getting beds. That was so appreciated.”
The beds still proved to be the highlight of the delivery, especially the toddler bed for Starr’s son. “He got so excited about the bed. I set it up while he was napping and made it up with the bedding,” she said. “The first thing he did when he woke up from his nap was to crawl into the bed and cover up with a blanket.”
Another part of the process that touched Starr happened at the very end. After the moving was complete, she said the ten-to-fifteen volunteers stayed and prayed with her.
“It really meant a lot,” said Starr. “We needed the prayers.”
Waypoint possesses a long history of serving individuals in crisis dating back to 1894. Today, Waypoint's mission reads, "to inspire people to move forward." Reflecting its mission, Waypoint strives to help individuals in crisis along their path to stability. Waypoint’s Housing Department remains focused on ending homelessness, by offering emergency shelter, housing assistance, case management, homelessness diversion, tenant education classes, and resources navigation with the goal to create solutions for individuals and families experiencing a housing crisis. Waypoint’s partnership with Central Furniture Rescue is vital to housing stability. We know housing placement is more successful if a house feels like a home and Central Furniture Rescue offers this experience to all of their clients. Clients are always excited to receive their delivery from CFR and continue their journey in a new home.
Before CFR, we used to place households into their new housing units with a few scattered pots and pans and a handful of towels and cleaning supplies. Families and individuals would be so excited to have a place of their own, they wouldn’t necessarily think to ask, “how long will we have to sleep on the floor on blankets?” We’d make the appropriate referrals for furniture, clients would wait on a list, and then have no means to move their new couch or beds to their homes. So, they’d be stuck, again, between paying their bills and renting a moving van, or paying a friend to haul their new furniture. The relief on a client’s face when we tell them that we have this partnership where their home is furnished and delivered by amazing volunteers, is something I look forward to. That conversation when I say, “start keeping your list of household needs now!” is my favorite one to have, well second favorite to, “let’s go sign your lease!” CFR provides our clients the opportunity to start again, in a home. A real home instead of a place that’s empty and just a place for now. But a home that can be for as long as they want or need. The best part is that CFR genuinely cares about our client’s story and their experiences. They don’t just get a list of items and drop them off. Our clients get to be heard, to be empowered to tell and own their raw experiences. That is the partnership Willis Dady has with CFR, the partnership to take our clients to the next level in their self-sufficiency and self-reliance. The opportunity and encouragement to start again; to start better.
Alicia Faust, Executive Director
From the derecho to the pandemic, this year has thrown Brittany a lot of curveballs. Homeless with three kids aged five and under, she worked with a local organization to get housing. Her caseworker put her in touch with Central Furniture Rescue just before the derecho hit.
“We were scheduled to get our furniture the week the storm hit,” recalled Brittany. “We had to reschedule for the next week, but they got it to us as soon as possible.”
CFR delivered beds for the family and so much more. They also received a kitchen table, living room furniture, as well as toys for the kids.
Brittany loves the kitchen table, which is big enough for her family to gather around. “We can sit down and eat dinner together. We can do art projects. We do things as a family,” explained Brittany. “When you’re homeless or living with others, you don’t have that. We’ve never really had our own space to sit down together before.”
CFR also gave her a crockpot, which she wasn’t expecting but truly enjoys. “I haven’t had one of those for years. It made me so happy; we used it right away. I use it a lot.”
Another item that came just in time was a desk for her five-year-old who was just starting school. Since he started the academic year learning from home, the desk was the perfect place for him to be able to work on his tablet and focus. Since returning to school in-person, he still gets lots of use out of it.
“The desk is nice as he sits down to do his homework or to read,” said Brittany. He gets his own little space where his little brother and sister can’t bother him.”
The generosity of CFR made an incredible impact on Brittany. “I think about them picking out things to fit us specifically. Everything about it was amazing,” she said. “I’ve never had everyone help us the way they did. It makes me really happy and thankful.”
One day Delah packed up and left Chicago, coming to Cedar Rapids looking for a fresh start. With two little boys, a four-year-old and a one-year-old, she arrived with nothing and ended up in a shelter. Her caseworker helped arrange housing and put Delah in contact with Central Furniture Rescue (CFR).
“We were on mattresses, and then CFR brought everything. It was just a blessing,” said Delah. “We all got beds, even a crib for the baby, and this little loveseat couch that I love. It’s emerald, which is my birthstone.”
In addition to the furniture, CFR also delivered pots and pans, bedding, and stuffed animals, which made Delah’s four-year-old excited. “Now he has his own room, with his own bed, and his own stuff,” she said.
The CFR volunteers mean more to Delah than just people who helped her during a time of need. “I still talk to some of the volunteers,” says Delah. “They are a really special group of people. They are genuine and sweet. I love the fact that months later they still reach out and checkup on us.” In fact, the volunteers are some of the few people Delah has met since moving to the area, as she stays very busy between working and being home with her kids.
Delah is excited to be in Iowa. “This is a wonderful place to raise a family,” she said.
She would also recommend CFR to anyone in need of furniture without their own means. “They are an awesome organization. Truly a blessing for my family and me.”
With six kids aged 10 and under, Amber has her hands full. She was working with Helping Hands for assistance, who put her in touch with Central Furniture Rescue (CFR). Amber reached out about her family’s furniture needs, then welcomed her sixth child into the world. Amber recalls bringing the baby home at the same time CFR was delivering furniture.
“When we got home from my newborn being released from the hospital, they were pulling up,” recalled Amber. “They had so many volunteers. They were all so helpful and fast.”
Which meant Amber and the new baby could get comfortable quickly and welcome the newest member of the family home in style. CFR delivered beds for everyone, as well as a table for the family, a bookshelf, and even stuffed animals for the children.
With the pandemic, Amber works from home and the kids do online schooling. Having everyone together so often means having some dedicated space helps everyone stay focused on their work.
“The furniture really helps them feel happier in their rooms, especially as they are all home,” said Amber.
Being comfortable is what Amber says really stands out to her. “Having furniture really gets your house feeling like it should, so you can feel comfortable.”
My first memories of “The Table” were around 1950, when we lived in Mount Vernon, Illinois. I remember it being in our kitchen, and I sat there to eat my breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and to color and draw. I was 5 years old.
\When I was 10 years old, we moved to Cedar Rapids, and my Dad surprised my Mom with a brand new hard rock maple table and chairs. It was her pride and joy and took a place of honor in our kitchens for the rest of Mom’s 91 years. (That “new” table lives in my dining room, to this day.)
With the “new” table, “The Table” was set aside to be used as my desk. When my parents bought their first-ever house in 1961, the table was painted and moved to the basement, and was used sparingly.
When my husband and I married in 1967, “The Table" became our kitchen table, after my husband refinished it to its original wood finish. It served our Family well until I wanted something new. For several years, “The Table” lived in our garage attic, until our daughter, Katy, needed a table for her new home in 2005-or-so. When Katy no longer needed “The Table”, our youngest daughter, Molly, used it in her home until she wanted something different. For the past few years, “The Table” has lived in Molly’s garage and has been used to display items at Garage Sales and Thrift Marts.
The idea of selling “The Table” never entered my mind.
Today, “The Table” has a new home…in the apartment of a young man who has recently transitioned from being homeless in our community, and is now helping others who are homeless, as his life’s work. I donated “The Table” to Central Furniture Rescue and was pleased to be able to be part of the delivery to the young man’s apartment. I took a few minutes to tell him a bit about the history of “The Table”. His response was, “wow”. When I had spoken with him, as Client Coordinator for Central Furniture Rescue, about the furnishings and household items he would like for his new Home, he specifically mentioned wanting a table and chair to sit at to eat. I immediately thought of “The Table” and knew I wanted to give it to him.
I have no idea if “The Table” will have a useful and special future with its new owner, but I know “The Table” has a wonderful history of serving my family well for decades, and that is enough.
My hope is that others will think about items they have within their homes that they are no longer using…items which could help others, who are less fortunate, to create “a Home”.