Crisis Assistance Ministries in Charlotte offer hundreds of Mecklenburg County residents life-sustaining services on a daily basis. While visiting, I was most impressed by their furniture bank, which provides families with furniture and appliances free of charge. Customers are first screened by staff members, and if referred to the furniture bank they may select anything they need at home. This truly includes whatever a family could need—from dressers to beds to all kitchen appliances. I couldn’t believe their inventory; their whole warehouse was filled wall-to-wall with clean and well-built pieces of furniture. Several prominent local companies including Electrolux and IKEA donate new furniture and appliances while local residents may donate their lightly used furniture, too.
CAM refers to those in need as "customers" in keeping with its mission to provide a vital service to the needy without jeopardizing their dignity. Staff members shared some stories with us during our visit, and a few will stay with me. One customer was a grandfather who excitedly reported that he'd be using his brand new microwave oven to share Hot Pockets with his grandson—for the first time. Another customer was a mother who lost custody of her young children because she lived without appliances. She came to the bank, picked up her new refrigerator and stove, and soon enjoyed a working kitchen ready to welcome her children home. Some families came to the bank so their kids could enjoy their own bed for the first time. I'm haunted by the thought of children never having these experiences that I have never dreamed of living without. It’s sad to imagine, but I’m filled with hope knowing that CAM makes a few kids’ lives better every day.
I enjoyed watching staff members hard at work, and I was most impressed by the pride they took in their jobs and how they gleamed as they shared their days’ highlights. The work area is spotless, and everyone who passed us stopped to say hello and share his or her role in the bank. The staff has a lot to be proud of—last year alone the bank provided 12,000 pieces of furniture to the community, including 80 beds per week. The bank goes a full step further by having all mattresses professionally cleaned before their delivery to a customer. This remains in stride with the constant goal of treating each person with dignity; all who enter the bank have the chance to secure a more comfortable living environment and a much-needed weight lifted from their shoulders. It's a big step toward self-sustainability.
Posted by John T. Gibson on Wed. July 9, 2014 4:12 PM
Community Focus: Charlotte