Maureen Sullivan
 
| Wicked Local

Editor’s Note: The following was submitted by New Life Furniture Bank.

            When you speak with Rich Purnell, executive director at New Life Furniture Bank of MA, and ask him to recap this year, you might expect to hear a story of woe — how could he and a group of volunteers continue to serve clients coming out of homelessness in the midst of a pandemic?

            “We had big plans for 2020,” said Purnell. “We were prepared to collect more home furnishings and reach more clients than ever before. Then COVID-19 hit Massachusetts, and New Life’s operations halted … but not for long.

            “We shut down for a week, revamped our operations, and reopened, thanks to a massive volunteer effort. I’m proud to say we were the first furniture bank in Massachusetts to maintain our mission with a new model and safety precautions.”

            Purnell and his team adjusted their approach by switching from clients visiting in-person, to “shopping” at an online “store.” Purnell identified software that would work for the furniture bank. Volunteers upload photos of household goods so clients can make their choices virtually. After they “shop” online, other volunteers bundle and prepare the clients’ selections for pick-up, and the next day moving trucks pick up and deliver the goods to the clients’ apartments.

            Many of New Life’s clients spent months or even years in homeless shelters before obtaining housing assistance. Most do not have the resources to obtain household furnishings and avoid debt without the help of a furniture bank.

            The “Changing World. Changing Needs. Changing Lives.” Campaign has launched, which has the ambitious goal of raising $135,000 by Dec. 31. These funds will enable New Life’s to serve more households.

            “Without generous donors and volunteers, we would not be able to meet the rising demand,” said Purnell.

            Over its seven years of operation, New Life has gained a reputation across eastern Massachusetts as a reliable resource that provides those in need with quality, gently used home furnishings and personalized support from caring volunteers. As an important contributor in the battle against homelessness in Massachusetts, New Life knows this year’s campaign is critical to its continued growth.

            New Life expects to serve around 500 households in FY2020.

            “I feel very good about that number,” said Purnell. “We are limited by COVID, and right now we are physically unable to serve more than nine clients per week. But the exciting part of this is, after the COVID restrictions are lifted, we are going to be able to operate two ways – an online store and another at our Walpole Donation Center. When that happens, we hope to serve twice as many clients – a silver lining to the pandemic.”

            Gifts may be made at https://newlifefb.org/ or by check payable to New Life Furniture Bank of MA, sent to P.O. Box 573, Medfield, MA 02052.

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