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Furniture Mission of the Red River Valley helps people in crisis 'start their life over again'

A new Fargo-based organization is collecting and distributing gently used furniture to people in need to help them through housing crises

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Evert Van Engelenhoven, left, is the driving force behind Furniture Mission of the Red River Valley. He's pictured Monday, Sept. 28, with Director of Operations Stephanie Manesis at the agency's north Fargo warehouse. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)
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FARGO — A number of metro area agencies work to get people who are in crisis situations into apartments and houses.

But few of them can also help make a few rooms become a home.

Furniture Mission of the Red River Valley is filling that void.

The nonprofit organization has been collecting gently used furniture - chairs, couches, tables, chairs, clean mattresses, lamps and quilts - since spring and has helped more than 50 families from its warehouse at 1301 39th St. N.W.

“There is a huge need in the community for people having furniture when they come out of crisis. They might be coming out of homelessness. They might be coming out of incarceration. They might be coming out of an abusive situation that they are fleeing. Or they might have a flood, or a tornado or a fire,” Stephanie Manesis, the group’s director of operations, said Monday, Sept. 28.

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“Without furniture, people really can’t have a home. It’s one thing for someone to get you housing and you have an apartment. But if you don’t have any furniture in there, it doesn’t really feel like a home,” Manesis said. “So we allow them to start their life over again, and to do it in a way where it feels like it's meaningful to them and can bring some joy in their life.”

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One of the rooms in the north Fargo warehouse space occupied by Furniture Mission of the Red River Valley, pictured Monday, Sept. 28, is given over to couches, chairs and other furniture. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)

Evert Van Engelenhoven is president of the board of directors and the driving force behind Furniture Mission, taking it from the early planning stages two years ago, to regular distributions of furniture.

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“We get calls daily for all sorts of furniture gifts,” Van Engelenhoven said.
“We don’t know their backgrounds. We don’t know why they’re in the predicament that they’re in, and we don’t ask,” he said. “We just treat them with respect and dignity and help them out as best we can.”

Word of mouth has brought in donations, and area agencies funnel people in need to Furniture Mission. It’s made the last few months extra busy.

“I don’t want to say our hands are full, but we’ve got pretty much all we are able to handle until we can get more volunteers and open more hours, Van Engelenhoven said.

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The furniture consists of basic items for families in need.

“We need beds, kitchen tables and chairs, couches, night stands, bureaus, lamps,” Van Engelenhoven said.

The organization doesn’t take patio furniture, six-foot-high entertainment centers, appliances, stereos, TVs, or hide-a-beds.

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One of two large rooms in the north Fargo warehouse space occupied by Furniture Mission of the Red River Valley, pictured Monday, Sept. 28, is given over to kitchen tables, chairs, hutches and other wooden furniture. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)

Furniture Mission picks up donations on Wednesdays, and they’re restricting the furniture moving to pulling it out of the first floors of homes. Fetching items out of basements has proven to be too tough.

Still, “we’ve gotten a positive response from people who donate furniture because they want to find a meaningful way to go ahead and donate furniture to other people that will make a difference,” Manesis said.

The group also doesn’t deliver except in extraordinary circumstances. Clients have to arrange their own vans or trailers and their own moving muscle, Van Engelenhoven said.

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On the long list of people that Manesis and Van Engelenhoven thank for their support is local real estate investor and philanthropist Monte Kjos. Kjos supplied more than 6,000 square feet of warehouse space free of charge. Tables, chairs and other wood furniture are in one area, another larger room holds couches and chairs, and a smaller area is full of mattresses.

Their cube van for moving was donated by Fix-It-Forward Auto Care of Moorhead as part of its Fix It Forward Ministry.

“We’re very grateful for that, because without that, we wouldn’t have had a moving van,” Manesis said.

Furniture Mission is a registered nonprofit in Minnesota and North Dakota and it has 501(c)3 status, meaning donations are tax deductible.

It doesn’t handle requests for aid directly. Instead, the group relies on referrals from local social services agencies and callers trying to contact Furniture Mission directly are pointed back to those agencies.

The bulk of client referrals are from five agencies: the American Red Cross, Churches United for the Homeless, New Life Center, Frasier Ltd. and the YWCA Women’s Shelter, Manesis said.

They also work with another 16 groups, among them the Jail Chaplains, the Fargo Housing & Redevelopment Authority, CCRI, and Southeast Human Service Center.

About 95% of the group’s operations are in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area, though “we’ll sometimes stretch out of that,” Manesis said.

The group’s website is www.furnituremissionrrv.org .

To arrange a donation and furniture pickup, email evertvane@yahoo.com or call 701-729-1410.

Related Topics: SMALL BUSINESSFARGO
Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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