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A Groton Family’s ‘Extras’ Could Be Another Family’s ‘Only’

Since Opening in 1990, Household Goods of Acton Has Furnished More Than 42,000 Needy Homes For Free
  Ed note: According to data just released by North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, 60% of Groton households have annual incomes exceeding $100,000, thus making Groton one of the wealthier area communities, on par with Harvard. Since many Groton families seek opportunities to help others, this story makes readers aware of a great way to donate unwanted used furniture and household goods to people in need, people struggling in Massachusetts towns and cities. In addition, this story is an example of social action ‘entrepreneurship,’ demonstrating that visionary society-changing ideas are not only business-related but apply to social action too.
Imagine what it’s like to find a place to live after being homeless, or escaping domestic abuse or having lost everything in a house fire. You would likely own no furnishings – no beds, tables, chairs, pots and pans, lamps, no couch, bookshelves, dishes or linens – and do not have the means to purchase them. 
     This scenario is the harsh reality for many families each year who rely on Household Goods to help them furnish a home with the essential household items they desperately need but simply cannot afford.
     Throughout Massachusetts, thousands of individuals and families are living without the basic furniture and household goods most of us take for granted. For those fortunate enough to secure housing, the high cost of rent, utilities, medical care, child care, transportation, food and other ongoing needs often make purchase of even the most essential furnishings – beds and bedding, a bureau, a kitchen table and chairs, a sofa – simply impossible.
     For 30 years, Household Goods, located in Acton, has been furnishing homes free of charge for people in need. Every year Household Goods furnishes 2,600 homes for 4,000 adults and 3,000 children.
     The people who need Household Goods could be veterans getting back on their feet, those emerging from homelessness or fleeing abuse, people living with illness or disability, workers getting by on minimum wage and those who have experienced personal crisis such as a fire.
     Household Goods started in 1990 when Barbara Smith put a notice n her church bulletin asking for furniture donations so she and her husband, Ira, could help a woman and her children who fled the violence in El Salvador.
     When the Smiths became aware that the need for furniture and household essentials extended far beyond that one family, they decided to continue collecting donated goods in barns and garages around Acton, to help one family at a time furnish a home and begin a new chapter in their life. They also discovered that local residents were extremely generous and willing to help by volunteering and donating.
Since Barbara and Ira Smith began, Household Goods has furnished more than 42,000 homes. Household Goods began with the founders’ single act of kindness and has since grown into a thriving, volunteer-driven community resource.
     Having an empty place to live is still one step away from having a home. Household Goods helps people make that next step to stability – providing furniture and household essentials free of charge to families in need. They welcome donations that are clean, functional and in good condition.
     The following are always needed items: mattresses (no stains), box springs, bed frames, dressers, nightstands; couches and living- room chairs, coffee tables and end tables; kitchen tables (no glass top) and chairs, sets of dishes, glassware (no stemware please) and flatware, pots and pans, bakeware, toasters, coffee makers, microwave ovens and lamps; sheets, blankets, comforters, mattress pads, kitchen, bath and hand towels.
     To receive furniture, individuals and families are referred by a community or social service agency in Massachusetts. They arrive to their scheduled appointment with a rented or borrowed truck, and volunteers are ready to greet them and help them select and load the household items they need.
     Household Goods provides furniture to clients seven days per week by appointment only.
     Household Goods depends on the generosity, compassion and collaboration of so many – volunteers, referring agencies, donors of household goods, and financial supporters – coming together for one simple purpose: to help people in need make a home. The process has far-reaching community benefits. People who are moving, downsizing, or clearing out a home have a place to donate their items, knowing they will go to good use.
     Hundreds of volunteers feel that their time is well spent - working with people of all ages and abilities to help people in need in a very direct way. The environment benefits because thousands of items are kept in use and out of landfills. Financial donors know their money is helping locally. But most importantly, each and every individual walking through the door is treated with dignity and respect, welcomed, and assisted as they select the items they need most to furnish their own living space.
     They are often surprised that their experience at Household Goods is so simple, with so much thoughtfulness in the organized display of items, and so much kindness shown to them throughout the process.
     Each year 900 volunteers work an astounding 42,000 hours to help people make a home. They fulfill all the essential roles that keep Household Goods running. People of all ages, from teens to seniors, contribute their skills and time. Here are just a few of the jobs they provide: process donations, from welcoming donors to unloading vehicles to sorting, organizing and displaying items; help clients find the goods and furniture they need and load their trucks; assist agencies to schedule client appointments; schedule and make donation pick-ups; manage donation and client shifts; serve on the Board and the supporting development, marketing and communications,
operations, IT and volunteer committees.
     Financial support is critical. Household Goods must raise $500,000 each year continually to receive, process and provide a full range of furniture and household items, free of charge, to help thousands of people in need make a home. Any amount will be gratefully reeived, and will help someone living without household furnishings take an important step toward a more stable and successful future. A donation of only $200 will furnish an empty home.
     Household Goods has very limited pick-up service in the immediate Acton area. Household Goods does not pick up furniture in Groton, but donations of clean, usable furniture and other household items can be dropped off on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon at 530 Main St., Acton, MA 01720. Household Goods will be closed December 21 - January 1 for the winter holidays. For more information and for a complete list of donatable items, visit their website at or email info@householdgoods. org.
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