Keep your sofa, dresser or desk—or even the kitchen sink—out of landfill and help people in need
BY AMY VALM
Three years ago, TV host Pay Chen helped resettle a family of Syrian newcomers in North York. She found out their exact arrival date just four days before they landed, so it was a scramble to secure all they needed, at top speed and on a tight budget. Fortunately, Furniture Bank, a United Way–funded agency, was there to help furnish the two-bedroom apartment these new Canadians would soon call home.
“The mom arrived alone, initially, with her four children,” says Chen. “Furniture Bank helped us make sure there were enough beds, tables and chairs for everyone.” The sponsor was able to take the new Canadians to “shop” for what they needed, free of charge, in the volunteer-run organization’s large, unfussy warehouse. Clients are invited to pick out pieces to their own taste, which explains the enormous reclining armchair that the youngest son claimed as his own dedicated TV-watching perch.
“We’re a city that has a lot of items that we dispose of quite carelessly,” says Chen. “But your items are appreciated by someone whose only other option is to use something in poor shape or perhaps even to not have a bed for their child.”
To Greater Toronto Area residents restarting their lives, your perfectly-good-but-no-longer-sparking-joy furniture can make a new home much more comfortable. Here’s where to donate your gently used household gear.
Furniture Bank Where: 25 Connell Court, Unit 1, Etobicoke How to donate: There are a few hard noes when it comes to what Furniture Bank will accept: nothing in poor condition (ripped, stained or icky) and only essential items that are in demand (including beds, couches, tables, chairs and dressers). Also, your donations must be free-standing, appropriately sized for smaller spaces and not require assembly. L-shaped desks get a “Thanks but no thanks!” Electronics, kitchenware and small appliances, as well as bedroom and living room furniture, all get a green light. (Here’s a full and current list of needed items.) You can drop off items in person at the Etobicoke warehouse, Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon, or arrange pickup for a fee (starting at $150, plus it comes with a tax receipt). Who it helps: Furniture Bank clients include women and children escaping abuse, people entering housing after a bout of homelessness and newcomers.
Habitat for Humanity ReStore Where: Various locations across the GTA How to donate: An eclectic shop, ReStore accepts everything from used tools to bathroom fixtures to all types of furniture. It’s shorter to list what they don’t take: namely, anything broken, damaged, grubby or excessively stained; anything water-damaged, mildew-spotted or moldy; and any hazardous waste. You can drop off items at any of the 11 locations in the GTA or arrange a free pickup (they will vet your items before committing). Who it helps: Items sold at ReStore directly benefit Habitat for Humanity’s GTA building projects. This initiative helps working, lower-income families—who might otherwise not have the opportunity to be homeowners—access safe and affordable housing.
Red Door Family Shelter Where: While shelters don’t list their address for safety reasons, you can call 416-915-5671 ext. 222 or e-mail email@example.com to arrange a pickup of your furniture donation.
How to donate: For the Red Door Moving Program, high-priority items include hutches, tables and chairs, dressers, nightstands, coffee tables, bookshelves and televisions (nothing older than 2010, please). Pickup is available for a fee of $25 to $45, and there’s a two- to three-week waiting period. The Moving Program can’t accept mattresses, bed frames and upholstered furniture, such as sofas and armchairs. All donations must be in A-plus condition, bedbug- and mildew-free, and clean. Who it helps: Helping more than 100 families each year, the Moving Program provides furnishings and household items to people transitioning out of the shelter. When clients have furniture taken care of, they can reserve their money for clothing, food and other necessities.
Just Junk Where: Various locations across the GTA How to donate: Just Junk is who you call for big jobs, such as downsizing, preparing for total-home renovations or emptying the house after an estate sale. They will come and remove anything you’re done with, including furniture, appliances, reno debris and garbage. Depending on what you have, they’ll give you a free estimate of removal rates. The best part: They’re not just taking all your stuff to the dump—usable items are donated. This includes clothing, electronics, furniture, salvageable construction materials and housewares. Unsalvageable items are properly recycled, so there’s no need to feel guilty about saying goodbye to the excess. Who it helps: Items that fit the bill are donated to Habitat for Humanity, so their sale will benefit low-income families in the organization’s GTA home ownership program.
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