Furniture Sharehouse Celebrates 15th Anniversary Serving Westchester County
Mary Prenon | April 11, 2022
WHITE PLAINS—Furniture Sharehouse, one of the many charities supported by the Hudson Gateway Realtor Foundation, recently celebrated 15 years of serving Westchester County at its modest location at the Westchester County Airport in White Plains.
“We could not have reached this amazing milestone without the incredible support of the HG Realtor Foundation and others who have made this organization possible,” said Kate Bialo, Founder and Executive Director of Furniture Sharehouse. Currently, the organization receives no state or county funding. About $50,000 of its budget comes from grants and the remainder is from individual donations.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer, along with other elected officials, was on hand at an April 6 reception at the Furniture Sharehouse headquarters to congratulate Bialo and her many volunteers. “So many of us have a good idea—something that we think will really help someone else. But how many times do you ever see that good idea actually become a reality?” asked Latimer. “But Kate Bialo and the people around her took an idea and turned it into this, which has helped so many people throughout our county.”
Latimer also presented Bialo with a special Westchester County Proclamation acknowledging the work of Furniture Sharehouse over the past 15 years. “Thank you for all you have done. It’s a magnificent accomplishment,” he added.
Since its inception, Furniture Sharehouse has helped more than 16,000 people, including some 7,800 children, by providing basic home furnishings like sofas, chairs, kitchen tables and beds. In 2021, the non-profit helped almost 300 families.
It was back in 2006, that Bialo started to formulate the idea for Furniture Sharehouse. As a past President of the Junior League of Westchester, she was involved with the Golden Shoestring thrift shop in Larchmont. “They didn’t handle large items like furniture and I thought it would be nice if we had a space to hold furniture for so many people who are really in need of it,” she recalled.
After obtaining funding from the Junior League, as well as the Westchester County Emergency Shelter Grant Program, Bialo began to search the county for affordable spaces. “Nothing seemed right, but then someone showed us our current space at the airport,” she said. “At the time, I had my seven-year-old daughter with me and she just looked at me and said, ‘Mommy this is it.’”
Furniture Sharehouse held its Grand Opening in 2007, and within just days, a severe storm flooded parts of Mamaroneck. “All of a sudden, people wanted to donate furniture, but we also had to raise money to buy new mattresses,” she said. Within six weeks, they were able to furnish 65 families who had lost their belongings in the flooding. “It was that event that actually put us on the map here in Westchester,” she said.
What started out with just 2,000 square feet in 2007 has now grown to 6,500 square feet. Today, Furniture Sharehouse works with more than 30 member agencies who refer clients to them. Most of the staff consists of about a dozen volunteers, with the exception of a paid part-time administrator, and a driver to deliver the furniture. While the furniture is free to those who qualify, there is a $75 curbside delivery fee or a $150 fee for moving the furniture into the home.
A basic furniture package for a household with nothing includes two beds, a table, chairs, sofa, arm chair, coffee table, end table, dresser, a mirror, lamps and some household items. “Some of the people we help are those moving out of homeless shelters, young people who have aged out of foster care, people who have been the victims of flooding or fires, domestic violence survivors, and others with physical or mental disabilities,” Bialo noted.
“The thing that I feel most often is gratitude, when I get to the warehouse, look around and see people doing so many things,” she said. “It’s heartwarming to see these amazing volunteers come here week after week to this place that’s either freezing cold in the winter or boiling hot in the summer, with no running water or a bathroom. We’ve had to rely on a Port-o-Potty for years!”
Now that the pandemic is winding down, Bialo looks forward to having clients come back in to choose their own furniture, instead of having volunteers select it for them. “We like being able to do in-person appointments and provide that personal touch,” she said.
And as for the furniture recipients, Bialo described “binders of thank you letters” in appreciation. “One of my favorite notes is from a young man who had just gotten out of prison,” she remembered. “He was in a very low place in his life and heard about us from a caseworker. He couldn’t believe a place like this existed and he said it restored his faith in the world.”
Furniture Sharehouse accepts monetary or furniture donations. The items donated must be in good condition and must also be “apartment-sized” for people living in small apartments with narrow halls and stairways. Donation guidelines can be found on their website at www.furnituresharehouse.org.
The HG Realtor Foundation has been providing both financial and volunteer support for Furniture Sharehouse over the past several years. Both Gail Fattizzi, Hudson Gateway Realtor Foundation President, former HGAR President and Regional Manager of ERA Insite Realty Services, and Meg Callaci, a Realtor with Corcoran Legends, serve on the Furniture Sharehouse Board of Directors.