Chicago Furniture Bank Helps Homeless Furnish Their First Homes

In just eight months, three recent graduates of the Chicago Furniture Bank have shattered their first-year goals. The new nonprofit, which provides furniture for homeless families, hoped to service 400 families in their first year and have reached 600 with four months to go.

Griffin Amdur, James McPhail, and Andrew Witherspoon founded the Chicago Furniture Bank after Amdur spoke to his family about antique china. The three young friends met at the University of Pennsylvania and, in May 2018, were granted one of the school’s $100,000 President’s Engagement Prizes to make their idea a reality.

McPhail told The North Star that the organization aims to provide “comfort and dignity” to clients, who typically find themselves without furniture at new homes after being homeless. The Chicago Furniture Bank has grown exponentially over the past year.

In less than twelve months, the company has gone from its three founders to 16 full-time employees, many of whom come from workforce development programs. McPhail said the organization has also established relationships with 150 nonprofit partners and receives hundreds of donations from residents around the Chicagoland area.

McPhail said the trio were inspired by furniture banks around the country and chose Chicago because it was severely in need of one. Amdur, who grew up in Chicago, and McPhail work behind the scenes coordinating financial and furniture donations. Witherspoon, meanwhile, is in charge of running the day-to-day operations.

Their first big donation came from DePaul University, which gave them 50 couches, 30 armchairs, and 20 dressers, the Chicago Tribune reported. Since then, McPhail said they have worked with a number of businesses, including hotels and bedding companies, to fill their warehouse. The co-founder said they hope to continue working with universities this upcoming summer.

When they first started, the trio were able to take just a handful of clients a day. That has risen to about nine a day, McPhail said. Each client is given about an hour to choose all the furniture they’ll need for their new homes. McPhail said that they work with inspiring and heartwarming clients “every day.” He was particularly moved when the furniture bank was able to help a 12-person family who had been impacted by a house fire and lost two of their children. McPhail said that tears and hugs were shared by all.

After quickly surpassing their initial goal of servicing 400 families in their first year, the trio now have a new goal in mind: reaching 1,300 families by the end of 2019. McPhail told The North Star that they are well on their way to reaching that goal. Now, they are hoping people around the Chicago area continue to help their organization grow, therefore helping Chicago’s homeless population.

The Chicago Furniture Bank is a “super young company” in dire need of financial and furniture donations, as well as volunteers, McPhail said. Their website states they are looking for shopping assistants, organizers, individuals who refurbish furniture, and people who can host a furniture drive. He promised potential volunteers that it would be a “rewarding volunteer experience.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.