Volunteers from several King County cities recently helped refurbish old furniture to help Afghan refugees at the Repair Economy Washington’s (REW) Furniture Fix-it Fair in mid-July.
Over the course of the three-day event, 31 volunteers contributed 197 hours of work. In total, 39 furniture pieces were refurbished.
The furniture was then donated to four families (13 people in total) from Afghanistan who recently relocated into, at the time, unfurnished permanent housing.
Approximately 3,500 pounds of discarded furniture was rescued from the landfill, helping avoid 3,500 pounds of carbon emissions.
There are three major steps REW takes to put on their Furniture Fairs. Step one is to rescue old furniture through collection events and scheduled pick-ups.
Next, organizers coordinate repair events where capable craftsmen guide volunteers from the community in cleaning and refurbishing the furniture.
Lastly, the organization donates like-new furniture to families in need, specifically refugees who have recently been relocated to permanent housing in Washington.
REW is a new project by Zero Waste Washington (ZWW) which is paid for by a public participation grant from the Department of Ecology.
“No matter from what angle you’re looking at the project, it’s benefiting everyone,” said ZWW Waste Reduction Programs Director Xenia Dolovova.
She explained that by reusing furniture, the program keeps waste out of landfills. At the same time, they are using items that would have gone to waste to help people in need and who would have otherwise gone without.
The donated furniture helps these families start to settle into their new homes and begin to build lives for themselves.
“We’re providing, in a way, a welcoming hope to families who now feel that they are supported,” said Dolovova. “The kids who I’ve talked to, they’re very optimistic and they want to be doctors, dentists, engineers.”
Although ZWW recently adopted the Fix-it Fairs program, similar programs have been hoste for over six years now, according to Dolovova. Volunteers would organize events for people in the community to bring their broken items to be repaired for free.
However, with limited resources and space, the Fix-it Fairs did not have the capacity to do the amount of work they wanted to in the community.
Last year, the Department of Ecology awarded a grant to expand the project. Since then, REW has been working to grow and develop their program.
The revamped program’s first official Fix-it Fair was held at the Tacoma Dome on April 18, where approximately 60 pieces of furniture were restored and donated.
The next Fix-it event is expected to take place in September or October in King County.
REW hopes to find a more permanent base of operations to carry out repairs so they can reach more vulnerable populations in the community.