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Free home furnishings may help some rebuild

Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity officials are steadying themselves to help displaced community members eventually reclaim a sense of home sweet home.

Fire victims, with any luck, will have a ready supply of comfortable beds, couches, recliners and other furniture to “shop” for free at Habitat for Humanity’s new furniture center. Brandon Thoms, programs and operations director, announced the debut of the new service this week for victims of the 2020 fire season.

The plan is to amass quality furniture to help put lives and homes back together once the region figures out how to replace the more than 2,600 homes that were lost in the Almeda fire and others.

Partnering with Gates Home Furnishings in Grants Pass, Habitat for Humanity will collect gently used furniture to fill replacement homes, affording comfort and dignity “for those who have lost so much,” said Thoms.

The partnership with Gates Home Furnishings will also provide new mattresses via less-than-wholesale sponsorships of $100 each under the Gates Mattress Bank program (gatesmattressbank.com).

Thom said he and his team watched in horror as the fires devastated much of Phoenix and Talent Sept. 8. Almost immediately, they brainstormed how to help.

“Day two and three after the fire, we came up with ‘tool share.’ We saw a husband and a father digging through the rubble of his home, looking for the urn with his child’s ashes,” Thoms said.

“He was wearing flip-flops and he had no gloves. That’s how we decided to provide tools and (personal protective equipment). As a team, we always try to determine a need in our community and then we figure out how to fill it.

“When that dwindled down a little bit, we started thinking, what can we do next? We realized we didn’t have much we could do as far as temporary housing, but we thought, OK, these people have nothing left and we know how to make a home, and we know what we need to have to furnish it. Let’s do that next.”

While many families are still displaced, Thoms said, the early launch of the furniture center would allow for time to amass quality items and receive applications from families as need arises.

“It’s going to be a long, very slow process. The Paradise fire, one year later, there were 14 structures either built or in process of being built we have a lot to do,” Thoms said.

“We’re not ignorant to the fact it’s going to take the number of impacted people a significant amount of time to even find something temporary, but we are in it for the long haul.”

Nick Gates, co-owner of Gates Home Furnishings, said the company has provided mattresses to those in need before, but recent fires hitting “too close to home” have pushed the company to formalize the program.

“We started up the Gates Mattress Bank in direct response to people needing new mattresses right now, but the reality is throughout the years and the decades there are always people in need of bedding and places to sleep,” he said.

“We preloaded our inventory with about 100 mattresses to kind of start the process, but we’ve already, at this point, had 40 or 50 mattress go out. We sent 20 mattresses to Eureka for the folks displaced from the Slater fire and we’ll do another load soon. We’ve been around for 74 years, and we’re a huge part of the community only because of the people in the community, so we try to give back in as many ways we can.”

Thoms said Habitat for Humanity would accept furniture center donations — separate from ReStore donations — at Habitat for Humanity administrative offices, 2201 S. Pacific Highway, in Medford.

“It is huge for us to help these fire victims but also to continue our mission to build homes. This is why we’re making it clear that we still need to operate our ReStore, and we have a very fundamental list of items we feel are crucial for furnishing a home,” Thoms said.

“The ReStore still provides the ability for us to build homes, which there is going to be a huge need for and which we know we will be assisting in building. We want to honor people’s designation and be sure that items end up where they intend for them to be.”

Thoms urged donors to bring only newer or high-quality items.

“I don’t want to give someone temporary furniture that’s just in OK condition to fill a temporary space,” he said.

“I want to give someone furniture they can come in and shop for and maybe will even make them happy. We want to provide something that will give them a little bit of dignity back after losing everything they owned in these horrible fires.”

Furniture center donations are accepted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Needed items include dressers, couches, recliners and chairs, dining table sets, lamps, end and coffee tables and bunk beds.

Donors with questions about items, or who have items they think a family displaced by fires could use, can send an email to programs@roguevalleyhabitat.org.

Impacted families that have found long-term housing and are interested in receiving items from our furniture center, email programs@roguevalleyhabitat.org or call 541-779-1983.

Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity host a dedication ceremony for the Nielson family, left, and the Brownlow family right for their new homes in Rogue River. Bianca Brownlow takes a moment while thanking the crowd. file photo