April 1, 2012 marked MPA’s 24th Anniversary. But we didn’t celebrate with just MPA employees. We teamed up with Heading Home for an Up & Out – their signature volunteer program which pairs groups of volunteers with clients who are making a milestone move from a homeless shelter into permanent housing. In simplest terms – it’s kind of similar to the tear-jerking, Extreme Home Makeover. Obviously we would be dealing on a much smaller scale – but with equal emotional impact – just no crazy Ty Pennington running around screaming, “MOVE THAT BUS!”
The catch: we only had ONE month to collect everything a family would need in a new home … EVERYTHING! So, with only one month to coordinate everything, we hit the ground running!
To get the ball rolling, and to remind people of the commitment we made as a firm, I set up boxes labeled for each room or section of the apartment that would need to be furnished and stocked. With the boxes placed strategically in our lobby, I knew everyone would pass them daily and be reminded of their donation duty. There was no way they could miss ‘em!
As the weeks passed, we watched the boxes began to fill more and more.
While it was great to see that we had all these small items, we also needed to somehow obtain every piece of large furniture for the entire apartment! And that’s where The Furniture Trust (TFT) came in to save the day! If you don’t already know who they are – you need to, because their mission is amazing.
TFT is a non-profit that reinvests unwanted office furnishings back into the community. As a socially and environmentally responsible way of disposing excess office furniture, TFT gives furniture that would otherwise be disposed of to those who are in need. While many of their clients include schools and local businesses, I realized that partnering with them on this Up & Out could turn out to be a great benefit to all involved!
Prior to move day, I accompanied members of TFT to an inventory check at a recently vacated space. That’s where the fun really began! It was like walking into a ghost town. There were signs that life once existed – shoes, clothes, live plants, food, and even personal photos still attached to bulletin boards above desks. Even more alarming was that I was able to claim anything I wanted! I remember asking TFT every time I found something new, “Can the family take this?” and each time I got the same answer, “Yes! Anything you want – it’s yours!” Bless them for being patient and understanding of my excitement!
Roaming the floor I couldn’t believe how many pieces of furniture had great potential for a home environment. All-in-all I walked away with the following items:
A couch and reclining chair (both from IKEA – they had seen better days, but I knew a quick trip to Ikea for new covers would make these bad-boys brand new!)
A matching 3-piece coffee table and side table set with glass tops
3 different sized tables for the dining room (Don’t judge — we hadn’t seen the apartment yet, and I wanted to make sure we had options!)
2 rolling file cabinets with soft seat cushions attached to the top (I thought they would be perfect as a toy storage/seating option in the kid’s room!)
An Ikea buffet table (This thing was huge! I didn’t know if it would fit, but HAD to take it…)
White boards and bulletin boards
A floor lamp and a desk/table lamp
A giant wall clock
A live plant
A Bean-bag chair
A lacrosse stick
A ceramic Rooster (not kidding!)
To say the least, I got some pretty interesting looks on the Red line as I hugged a giant wall clock and lacrosse stick all the way back to MPA’s office.
After this trip, I realized we were in great shape – now all we needed was furniture for the bedrooms! Que the luck (again!), because Senior Associate John Pearson’s wife works for Circle Furniture. After a few emails and phone calls, we were the proud recipients of a beautiful bed for the mother’s room, and a dresser for the little girl’s room.
Piecing together a few loose ends, I knew we were in the homestretch to the big day and reveal.
With everything we had already accomplished there was still one more critical thing we had to do: we had yet to meet the family. So, with only one week left, we finally got the news we had been waiting for – our Up & Out efforts were going to jump-start a new chapter to the lives of a 25-year old mother and her 3-year old daughter.
When we finally met and sat down with the mother and her daughter at Heading Home’s office, I realized that what she had gone through was so far beyond anything I could have imagined. She explained the physical and emotional toll that homelessness had taken on her. The mother cried as she told her and her daughter’s story. She detailed the fear she experienced as a parent just trying to provide for her daughter, and the feeling of inadequacy while being unable to give or provide enough. With tears in her eyes, she emphasized her simple main goal in life: to be the best parent she could and give her daughter a life that every 3-year old deserves.
In her short 3-year life, this little girl had never had a home to call her own. And now, the wait was over. Now, she was going to have a home, and her own room. I couldn’t have been happier that we were going to be able to give them a home of which they had always dreamed and prayed.
Sunday | April 1, 2012 | MOVE DAY! Having loaded the delivery truck the day before with everything that had been donated and collected – from small toiletries, to toys and books to all furniture – the truck arrived at the family’s new apartment. We knew we only had three hours to get in, set up, and get out: the race was finally on.
The apartment is roughly 650 square feet. Despite its small size, we happily fit almost 25 people in there – all running here and there trying to help in any way they could while preparing the home for the family’s arrival.
I’m not going to lie – I thought we were going to cruise with 25 people helping, but it took the full three hours we had to get the job done! There is so much that goes into getting a first home set up. We cleaned everything, assembled and arranged furniture in each room, filled drawers and shelves with supplies, grocery shopped, filled the refrigerator and cupboards, decorated and applied finishing touches, and cleaned again.
And then, before we knew it, we were in our positions – just waiting for the mother and daughter to walk through the door and realize their new home was all ready for them.
Once the mother and daughter had been shown their new home room by room, we all began to file out. Our job here was done. But just before I walked out through the front door, I turned around one last time only to see the mother holding her daughter in her arms, crying. They were so deserving of a good life and finally they were where they belonged – home.
It was truly a day no one will forget. The ability and power to change someone’s life by contributing your time and effort is such an amazing thing.
Now, April 1st is not just reserved for MPA’s anniversary. It will also forever be the day that this family got a fresh start on a new life in their new home.