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Central Furniture Rescue ‘transient,’ looking for permanent warehouse home

Cedar Rapids-based charity furnishes homes for free for people in need

Braeden Dupree, 16, and Logan Rasmusson, 17, load a couch into the back of a pickup truck March 11 at Central Furniture Rescue in Cedar Rapids. The organization is looking for a permanent warehouse to serve 500 households annually with new-used furniture. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Kaneisha Taylor felt “more than joy” as volunteers with Central Furniture Rescue moved furniture into her two-bedroom apartment.

Taylor, 25, gave birth three months ago to her third child and didn’t have money to fully furnish a new apartment after moving in Feb. 5. The family of four piled into Taylor’s bed each night.

“It’s like a war in my bed,” Taylor said with a laugh.

The furniture — a couch, kitchen table and chairs, toddler bed, a few end tables and some toys for the kids — will “make her home a home,” Taylor said.

But for Central Furniture Rescue to continue providing free, gently used furniture to Eastern Iowans like Taylor, it needs a permanent warehouse home to store donated furniture.

Central Furniture Rescue started in January 2019 and helped 229 households last year with an estimated $82,000 worth of household items — using a similar pricing standard as Salvation Army.

Couches, beds, kitchen tables, pots and pans, and other household goods are donated to Central Furniture Rescue and delivered to people in need referred by HACAP, Willis Dady, Waypoint, the Abbe Center and Family Promise.

The program moved from two garages into a 4,800-square-foot warehouse, courtesy of owner Adam Gibbs, until that warehouse was rented. Gibbs offered to let the organization move into a different, 12,000-square-foot vacant warehouse, which it did Jan. 25.

That warehouse now also has been rented, and the organization has to move again by May 1.

“We are in no better shape than the clients we help,” said Susan Johnston, founder of Central Furniture Rescue. “We are transient and unstable, and we cannot focus on the future if we don’t have a stable place to be.”

In a perfect world, Johnston hopes someone with an empty warehouse can lease it to Central Furniture Rescue for five years for $1 a year. She doesn’t want Central Furniture Rescue to own a building because it’s not “financially responsible” for the organization. “What happens if we suddenly don’t need the building anymore?” she said.

“We need to have warehouse space to be able to have an inventory of at least three weeks’ worth of deliveries at a time,” Johnston said. “That would have to be storage to hold 150 beds, 50 couches … at a minimum 10,000 square feet.”

As of mid-March, Central Furniture Rescue had made 75 deliveries in 2020, and Johnston said they are behind. Johnston estimates they will reach 500 households this year, delivering to almost 10 households a week.

Central Furniture Rescue relies on volunteers to make deliveries, donating their vehicles, gas and time to move furniture from the warehouse to someone’s home.

On the third Saturday of each month, they host a “blitz” — using as many volunteers as possible to make as many deliveries as possible. During the February blitz, 39 people showed up to move furniture.

On March 11, Chris Lindsay, 11, joined his dad Mike Lindsay, and a dozen other volunteers to move furniture into Kaneisha Taylor’s apartment.

It was the second time Chris volunteered to move furniture from the warehouse.

“I like their reactions” when bringing people furniture, Chris said. “It makes us feel good.”

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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