Angels Reuse Furniture to Re-New Hope and Lives
We downsized considerably when making the move from Houston to Nashville two years ago. Sorting through piles and years of stuff, we mainly boxed up only those things we truly loved. Not only is it emotionally hard to part with your belongings, it can be physically difficult as well. We had a tough time finding organizations and people willing to inherit all the beautiful, in our opinion, things we chose to leave behind. We donated and sold and gave away, but a program like Nashville’s Re-New is ideal. It’s a great feeling to know your special items are helping women and children create a new life for themselves.
Julie Davis and Cheryl Hays are the women who drive Re-New, a transitional housing program of the Nashville YWCA. They and their volunteer “angels” (see a sampling of these “angels” in photo above) totally furnish homes for women and children who have escaped from their domestic violence abusers and are completely starting over. Cheryl is articulate and matter-of-fact as she tells me the average woman will return to her abuser seven times before she has the resources and confidence and independence to make the final break. Heart wrenching to hear, the women and their children arrive at their new apartment or house – directly from the YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter – with no personal belongings at all.
As Cheryl gives me the grand tour of the organization’s warehouse, I have the feeling of being in a department store. Stocked with everything you need to set up a home from scratch, the items are meticulously organized – separate rooms brimming with linens, lamps, bath supplies, kitchen equipment. A toy and book section. A large space full of sofas, tables, cribs, beds and more – all in remarkably good shape.
Quick to spread compliments and credit, Cheryl praises her Re-New partner, Julie, and her creative expertise. When it is time to decorate a home, the talented interior designer selects all the parts and pieces from the Re-New “department store.” Recently celebrating Re-New’s seven year anniversary, Cheryl and Julie don’t advertise at all. Donations come entirely by word of mouth, through friends of friends. Cheryl, the logistics guru, manages the inventory and is picky about the donations she accepts. “The first year or so, we accepted anything and everything,” she remembers. No need to do that any longer. “If you wouldn’t put it in your daughter’s apartment, we don’t want it either,” she laughs.
Reflecting her unflappable demeanor, Cheryl says she and Julie learned to be flexible many years ago. At different times they’ve needed various supplies, “but God always seems to provide them in some amazing way.” A former emergency room and helicopter nurse, Cheryl is adamant about brand-new mattresses, mattress pads, and pillows in each home. “These women deserve the dignity of sleeping on a new mattress,” she reflects.
She points out the stack of towels donated by the Omni Hotel in Nashville. Although the pile is dwindling, the 1800 pounds of towels kept Re-New bathrooms supplied for quite some time. A local dentist contributed 1000 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste. A graduate student at a nearby college spearheaded a highly successful holiday drive for, of all things, feminine products. The student realized the high cost of these necessary items and wanted to help. As Cheryl remarks, “toiletries are expensive on a fixed income.”
A group of volunteers unload the moving van and turn the apartment or house into a home in about three hours. Disappearing before the client arrives, the “angels” leave chili simmering in a crockpot and the refrigerator stocked with food. Fresh flowers welcome the new family; for many women, this is their first time to receive flowers. A case manager sends a note from the client later, and “it always brings a tear to my eye,” says Cheryl.
Re-New has come a long way since operating out of Cheryl’s garage in 2010. To date, Cheryl, Julie, and their “angels” have furnished homes for close to 200 women and nearly 300 children. Outfitting 2-3 homes a month, the group works at a steady and rapid pace. Although Re-New seems to be a unique feature of the Nashville community, Cheryl and Julie frequently talk with corporate, civic, and religious groups to increase awareness and encourage others to start a program in their locality. I am happy to report they are currently working with an enterprising woman in Houston to, hopefully, set up a program there.
To learn more about the Re-New program, please visit www.ywcanashville.com.