Furniture Finds Second Homes at Local Nonprofits

GW ReUSE program gives beds, desks, chairs and other items to those in need.

November 16, 2015


Courtesy of the GW ReUSE program.

By Brittney Dunkins

Among the thousands of ordinary houses located in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, there are a few with a special purpose—to provide a stable, peer-supported environment for people in recovery from drugs and alcohol.

National nonprofit organization Oxford House manages a network of fully furnished homes that are rented to people in recovery without the typical obstacles, such as background or credit checks. Residents must only promise to “stay clean and sober, pay an equal share and get along with their housemates,” according to Maria Hampton, manager of Oxford House outreach services.  

Ms. Hampton said that the successful program wouldn’t be possible without the help of the George Washington University ReUSE program, an initiative to reduce the university’s carbon footprint and divert items from the landfill through donations.

“We depend on donations, and we’ve gotten hundreds of beds, dressers, nightstands and cabinets from GW’s ReUSE program,” said Ms. Hampton, who is responsible for preparing the houses for move-in. “When we show a resident a room, and it looks cozy, and the furniture is nice, it’s a spectacular moment. This program saves lives.”

Oxford House is just one example of how the GW ReUSE program elevates the university’s sustainability goals by offering a service to local nonprofit partners. The program also outfits university departments with used furniture.

Past donations include a weightlifting system and stationary bike given to Fairfax County-Falls Church Community Services Board Residential Treatment program, furniture given to the Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys and most recently, office furniture for the Biology Department in Bell Hall.

More than 100 GW departments and 50 nonprofit and charity organizations have received furniture to date. The program diverted 90 tons of items from the landfill between July 2014 and July 2015 through GW ReUSE.

“GW’s ReUSE program supports GW’s sustainability initiative, provides cost savings and promotes goodwill and a helping hand,” said Bobbie Ballard, program manager for ReUSE.

That “helping hand” also extends to Emerge, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Columbia, Md., that serves people with disabilities. Members of the Emerge community participate in the Special Olympics, a supported employment program, a bowling league and volunteer with Meals on Wheels. The organization will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year.

“GW’s ReUSE program supports GW’s sustainability initiative, provides cost savings and promotes goodwill and a helping hand."

- Bobbie Ballard, program manager for ReUSE

About a month ago, Emerge Director of Individualized Day Services Verna Urso was looking for desks for educational activities in common areas of the Emerge facility.  She reached out to her local professional network and received a response from Ms. Ballard, who has worked with Emerge for the last three years.

“I had just taken on the donation initiative, and I started calling people—the next thing I know I get an email from Bobbie, and she just said, ‘come on down,’” Ms. Urso said.  “We looked around the warehouse and found so many wonderful items that helped us with our program.”

Ms. Urso said that GW ReUSE provided an almost endless supply of student desks, chalkboards, white boards and cabinets that revamped 15 areas of the Emerge facility.

“We help people to live the full lives they want to live, and we are just so grateful for the donations from GW,” Ms. Urso said.

Ms. Hampton echoed Ms. Urso and said that the ReUSE program team in the Division of Operations has been a “blessing” to Oxford House.

She said the organization previously had trouble finding donations and had to raise rates to cover the cost of furnishing the houses. Now that GW provides a steady supple of furniture, Oxford House has lowered rates. It helps residents start out more financially stable, she said.

“People coming straight from treatment or jail often have destroyed their background, and this program gives them an opportunity to build themselves back up in a supportive environment,” Ms. Hampton said. “GW is helping our residents take the first step in rebuilding their lives.”