For Immediate Release
ACTON, MA – On Saturday October 3rd at the Concord Country Club, Household Goods Inc. celebrated 25 years of Helping People Make a Home at a gala fundraiser, co-chaired by Janice Battle of Concord, and Beth Neeley Kubacki of Carlisle. 150 people attended the farm to table event, which featured nests and birdhouses on the theme of making a home. A silent auction early in the evening offered birdhouses handmade by one of Household Goods’ workshop volunteers, and turned into works of art by artists from the Powers Gallery, the Concord Art Association, The Umbrella Center for the Arts, and others.
Board Chair Mimi Deck Rutledge of Concord emceed the evening, thanking the evening’s Sponsors and describing the organization’s mission to provide furniture and household items, free of charge, to help people in need make a home. “In our first 25 years, we have helped 30,000 households,” Rutledge said. “Our aim is simple — to help them get what they need and with an experience of dignity and respect that can be rare for people trying to make it through a hard time.”
Rutledge credited the longevity and growth of the organization on the “compassion, vision and hard work” of founders Barbara and Ira Smiths. The Smiths inadvertently began the project in 1990 by helping a woman and her children who had fled the terror of the Salvadoran civil war. The Smiths offered to collect donated furniture and household goods in their carport so that she could furnish her empty apartment. In so doing, they happened upon a way to match a great need with others wanting to donate their lightly used possessions. Today, Household Goods helps twelve individuals or families a day, who come by agency referral not only from local communities, but increasingly from areas where the need is greatest: Boston, Lowell, Framingham, Worcester and Fitchburg.
Barbara and Ira Smith received a standing ovation as they approached the podium. In their mid eighties, they still volunteer at Household Goods six days a week. In their remarks they recognized the hundreds of volunteers who contribute their time every year, as well as the thousands of donors who have turned the operation into a vibrant community resource.
The final two speakers were Elizabeth Caisey of Heading Home, Inc., which has referred forty formerly homeless clients to Household Goods in the past year. Heading Home is only one of hundreds of agencies that rely on Household Goods to help when their clients have managed to secure permanent housing. Caisey said “We are so thankful to have Household Goods as a resource for people in need in the Boston area…you help give people a chance at real long term stability.”
The highlight of the night was a personal speech by one of Household Goods’ former clients (referred by Heading Home). Chuck Ferrell was born and raised middle class and attended Harvard, but then his life took a terrible turn with the loss of his mother and undiagnosed depression. He lost his job and spent through his savings, ending up homeless and navigating the shelter system. Thankfully, Heading Home was able to help him secure treatment, employment and (unfurnished) housing. In April, Heading Home brought him to Household Goods where he chose a bed, a chair, pots and pans, a book case and more. Ferrell said, “In this odyssey which I call my life, you might describe getting a few pieces of free furniture as a small thing. I can assure you it’s no small thing. When I was moving after 18 months of living in shelters I was overjoyed but horrified. Would I have enough money for food? Would I get enough hours at work to live on? While I was dealing with all these issues, the thing I didn’t need to worry about was: Will I have to sleep on the floor? Eat fast food because I have nothing to cook on or eat from? This ‘small thing’ makes a huge difference in people’s lives.”
The evening concluded with a high energy and very successful paddle auction run by skilled auctioneer David Brown. “The funds raised at the Gala will go a long way in securing the Smith’s legacy of open heartedness, inclusiveness and dignity – to continue to help thousands of people every year make a home, Rutledge said. “In addition, they will allow us to make long overdue changes to our operational flow to better serve our clients, donors and volunteers. We are beyond thrilled at the community’s support of our mission.”