Dorm furniture aids Afghan evacuees

Furniture which made boarding students feel at home for more than 25 years is now doing the same for area evacuee families from Afghanistan. Iowa School for the Deaf’s boarding residents had used the sturdy, all-wood twin bed frames, dressers, wardrobes and desks in its girls and boys dorms, providing single bedrooms and floor lounges for enrolled students who live up to six hours away from the Council Bluffs campus.

Grants and private donations to Iowa School for the Deaf Foundation, plus some funding from the state of Iowa, allowed ISD to purchase replacement furniture which arrived in December and January. Primary funding was made possible through the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, the Oliver and Ferrol Barklage Foundation and Hy-Vee.

The school’s purchasing agent, Iowa State University, connected ISD with the Iowa Waste Exchange, and through them, Habitat for Humanity of Council Bluffs became involved.

“We were hoping to find another use for the furniture instead of going through the state auction system,” said Scott Mauch, facilities manager at ISD. “When we learned families in Omaha needed the beds, it was satisfying to know we could provide something for our community because it has always been so supportive of us.”

David Klitz, ReStore director, said they moved the first set of beds, about three dozen, out of ISD’s storage unit on the coldest day of the year. He connected with Restoring Dignity, which is working with the 900 individuals who are entering the United States with refugee status. “Twin size beds are really needed so it was perfect timing,” said Klitz. Mattresses were already secured; they just needed the frames.

Fifty sets of bedroom furniture, plus several lounge sets, will pass through ReStore’s hands by the time the furniture replacement project is complete. Some will be sold in Council Bluffs; and if space allows, the dressers, wardrobes and desks will be distributed to affiliate ReStores in the metro area for resale. Profit from those sales support programming in areas served by Habitat, offsetting administrative costs and helping more buyers become mortgage-eligible, said Klitz.

Klitz noted donations like this from Iowa School for the Deaf bring area partnerships together. This endeavor alone involved at least six separate organizations, including The Furniture Project, and will end with distribution by the Refugee Empowerment Center. “It also keeps materials from the landfill and expands our store inventory,” he said.