Thank You South Shore Furniture!
This pandemic has provided us with time to reflect on the accomplishments over the last six years. In particular, the progress around creating a collaboration network for organizations like Furniture Bank. With over 140 furniture poverty reuse organizations in North America we have looked for sustainable ways to create a collaboration network work for both these charities, and businesses looking to redirect returned goods away from landfills and to families who desperately need these items to create a home. While their support ended in 2018, I wanted to acknowledge that their funding and personal contributions were transformational to Furniture Bank, and in turn have created the beginnings of the Furniture Bank Network we discussed all the way back in 2016.
To the Laflamme’s and the staff at South Shore Furniture thank you.
South Shore Furniture is a 75 year old family owned company founded in Ste.Croix, Quebec and manufactures pieces of furniture for adult bedroom, juvenile bedroom, baby bedroom, entertainment, storage, and home office. With over 800 employees located in two plants in Canada, two plants in Mexico, and a warehouses in the USA and Mexico more than 1 million pieces of ready-to-assemble furniture are sold yearly to consumers in Canada and United States, through internet retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Wayfair, Cymax, Overstock etc.
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From 2016 to 2018 Furniture Bank was fortunate to meet a new corporate supporter – South Shore Furniture – who discovered us and was aligned with our vision and mission of ending furniture poverty across Canada, and creating a wider collaboration network of furniture banks in the USA and Canada that could accept retailer furniture returns for social good, rather than dumping returns in landfills.
In 2016 and 2017 South Shore funded a new position to support myself and the management team to research, analyze and plan for what a network might become. This included providing their time and networks to provide professional guidance, and financial support around small pilots to expand our program offerings. Most importantly South Shore was very involved in contributing to our three-year strategic planning process alongside our Board of Directors. This plan focused around four central pillars of activities:
- Expanding Furniture Bank’s Financial Sustainability with a combination of social enterprise expansion, new automation options to support a national network.
- Broadening our Organizational Capacity with expanded skill sets on the Board and management team to support a national reach.
- Building Awareness of our Program Services through expanded promotion, awareness and sector-related development in the GTA, Ontario and across Canada and the USA.
- Beginning Social Replication with new training and programs to support ending furniture poverty in new communities across Canada, and provide supports to furniture reuse organizations across North America.
By 2018 with the strategic plan approved – South Shore Furniture Foundation stepped forward to support a multi-year funding commitment to allow new scaling social investments which we publicly announced at our annual fundraiser Chair Affair. This restricted gift focused on scaling related investments beyond the original Toronto focused operation and included adding new staff positions, accelerating marketing, upgrading existing IT systems, and creating new programs that over three years aimed to create a formalized a Furniture Bank Network of the hundreds of organizations similar to Furniture Bank.
One of the early concepts the South Shore funds support was for a ‘Housing to Home’ corporate volunteer experience program to engage employees in directly addressing furniture poverty in the community. Modelled after programs in the USA, the engagement had corporate volunteers spend a day in the community transforming empty housing into a complete home, then welcoming the family into their new home. We conducted four trials in 2018, with South Shore sending their own staff to experience it themselves. Furniture Bank partnered them with award winning designers Collin & Justin to help Mallory and her two children get a complete housing to home experience.
The South Shore Team
Unfortunately as the detailed implementation steps and associated financial planning occurred it became very clear that to accomplish the bold scaled up vision outlined in the strategic plan would require significantly more funding than originally assumed and require a very different implementation model than originally conceived. We could not find a solution that would meet the Foundation’s goals, and we were forced to end our relationship with the Foundation and South Shore stepped back from its multi year gift.
This forced a ‘Big Pivot’ on Furniture Bank at the beginning of 2019 with cuts and adjustments to our operations but we proceeded with the plan. However the foundations for a more impactful Furniture Bank had been laid and we continued our scaling out program with the resources we had in hand. The goal remains the same to formalize a sustainable Furniture Bank Network that can engage commercial partners with Furniture Link as a solution provider for the Circular Economy while ending furniture poverty across Canada. While a formal relationship is over, we are deeply appreciative of South Shore ensuring returns to our Greater Toronto Area get to Furniture Bank still – you make amazing products and once assembled are always loved by families.
Thank you South Shore for your support over the years!