Twin Cities furniture bank bridges gap from homelessness to home

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Acquiring housing is only the first step toward making a home. Since 1987, Bridging has helped to supply nearly 60,000 clients with basic household supplies as they transition from homelessness. The Bloomington-based group offers goods ranging from simple blankets and pots and pans, to larger furniture items such as kitchen tables, mattress, and sofas to those who are re-acclimating to private living conditions.

Founded by Fran Heitzman, the non-profit acts as a “bridge,” using existing social services to provide goods to those in need. With third party agencies assuming the task of client verification, Bridging is able to focus its energy on the collection and distribution of items. Bridging is currently the largest furniture bank in North America, with a second warehouse in Roseville. Clients walk through the facility with a shopping cart to make their selections. Personal choice is a key element, Executive Director Sara Sternberger explains, but treating clients with dignity by not questioning their choices is of equal importance.

Some 87% of Bridging-serviced households earn less than $15,000, and oftentimes simple needs are not met. For example, the agency is often able to donate one mattress for two people, but only one pillow to match. In a recent Pillow Drive with the Coldwell Banker Burnet Foundation, the partnership was able to raise 3,227 pillows to distribute. The housing and hospitality industries have been excellent partners, with furniture donations from the likes of Slumberland, HOM Furniture, Red Lobster, and more. Bridging “is a good fit for a real estate company,” says Leonard MacKinnon, Director of Marketing for Coldwell Banker Burnet. Customers who are moving often have items to donate.

Bridging reaches out to all who find themselves in transition, including domestic abuse victims, refugees, and people affected by natural disasters. The agency has helped 74 households as a result of last year’s tornado in North Minneapolis.

By promoting re-use, the organization keeps 110,000 items out of the landfill annually. Sternberger explains, “It we can’t use it here, we send it to other organizations who can or we recycle it.”

Bridging is always in need of mattresses, box springs, dressers, and kitchen furniture. Lightly used and new donations are accepted at their facilities and, for a fee, pick-up can be arranged. Additional events to mark their twenty-fifth anniversary will be announced throughout the year.

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