Charities' collaboration aids Orange County flood victims

jwise@newsobserver.comJuly 20, 2013 

  • How to donate

    The Green Chair Project is located at 1853 Capital Blvd. Donations are regularly accepted from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information:

— Bureaus, chairs, mirrors, rugs, lamps and all kinds of other household goods flowed into The Green Chair Project storerooms on Saturday. By this time next week, a lot of it will have been made showroom-ready, picked out and hauled away to furnish new homes for victims of Orange County’s floods.

“They need everything. They have truly lost everything in their homes,” said Abby Cameron, a disaster services specialist with the Triangle Red Cross.

Cameron stood amid scurrying volunteers at Green Chair, a Raleigh nonprofit organization that held a “Love Your Neighborhood” donation drive Saturday for about 50 families in Carrboro and Chapel Hill who lost their homes and household goods in the June 30 floods.

“We usually help most in Wake County, but Chapel Hill is still our neighbors so we extended our reach a little bit,” said Jackie Craig, the Green Chair’s co-director and co-founder.

“It seems like a lot of stuff coming through the door,” said Scott Goldsmith, one of about 50 volunteers helping unload, catalog, assess and store donations.

Green Chair takes donations of household furnishings, cleans and repairs as needed, and distributes them to those in need through about 35 partner agencies such as Wake County Human Services, Catholic Charities and Red Cross.

At the same time Saturday, Catholic Charities was taking furniture donations at St. Thomas Moore Catholic Church in Chapel Hill. The Durham nonprofit group TROSA will be transporting those goods to Green Chair on Monday.

“It’s an example of a great collaboration between the four agencies,” Craig said.

“Instead of giving it to Goodwill, this seemed like a better way of getting it where’s it’s really needed,” said Mike Nelson of Apex after dropping off some items.

By 4 p.m. Saturday, Craig estimated that Green Chair had taken in enough to furnish 20 households, and a similar amount had come in at Chapel Hill where, she said, “At times cars were lined up end to end.”

Green Chair is the collection point for furnishings, and Red Cross is in charge of distribution. Once a family has a place to live, they get an appointment at Green Chair and can pick out whatever sofas, bedding, tableware and so forth they need.

Red Cross covers the cost, and, if needed, pays a first month’s rent. Catholic Charities covers security deposits, Cameron said.

Craig said the first flood victims came through Green Chair last week.

“They had lost everything, including their two vehicles,” Craig said. “They looked out their trailer that Sunday night and started to see the cars floating. And the next thing they knew the trailer was flooding.”

According to the National Weather Service, seven inches of rain fell June 30 at the Horace Williams Airport in Chapel Hill, most of it within two hours.

“It was very quick, very devastating,” said Cameron. “We’ve had people talk about being in their homes and being waist deep in water. ... We were very fortunate not to have any loss of life.”

Cameron and Craig said Green Chair will be taking donations for some time to come.

“We have appointments scheduled for the next several weeks already,” said Cameron. “Nine to 10 appointments a week, so they’re going to come in and they’re going to clear (the donations) out as quick as they can bring it in.”

Craig and partner Beth Smoot started Green Chair in 2010. They were working together staging houses for sale, an occasion when sellers typically need to reduce the amount of stuff on view. Craig said she had been a volunteer helping women who needed to set up households and, “When I told (clients) I knew about people who needed their stuff ... it was easier for them” to give it away.

Smoot and Craig started storing the goods they collected in a closet at Edenton Street United Methodist Church, then had to take over a Sunday School room. Now, Green Chair occupies a 20,000 square-foot building on Capital Boulevard. Saturday was Bill Stephenson’s second anniversary as a Green Chair volunteer. Usually, he works at making repairs, he said.

“I’m a closet woodworker and it sounded like fun,” he said. “But the best part of the day is when families come in, pick out their stuff, fill a trailer and drive off to a new home.

“The joy they have at that time is wonderful.”

Wise: 919-641-5895

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