Property managers give back, create a new nonprofit focusing on housewares for new homes
by Suni Jo Roberts
An identified need for furniture assistance in the community inspired property managers and private property owners from the Washtenaw Area Apartment Association to form a new charitable nonprofit organization called Grace Outreach of Michigan.
The organization kicked off their first fundraiser this October; it was a reverse trade show that raised between $2500-$3000 according to Amy Khan, founding board member and Property Manager at CMB Management. They also recently received their 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.
Grace Outreach of Michigan seeks to give back to the renters that the Association serves by providing furniture and other household items to those in need. Khan mentioned they have a special focus toward assisting single parents and single grandparents and will assist both men and women.
The board of directors consist of five members who are a mix of property managers and private property owners. They are each in a unique position to be able to donate household items that renters sometimes leave behind at their properties.
“Instead of allowing people to just throw things away when they move out, we are able to utilize our jobs, in the industry we are in, to help recycle goods and put them to good use,” said Kristin Lewis, board member of Grace Outreach of Michigan and Executive Property Manager at Village Green.
Alice Ehn, founding board member of Grace Outreach of Michigan, mentioned donating a houseful of furniture to a family in need was a goal the organization had when talk first started around forming the organization earlier this year.
“Right off the bat it was a goal to provide furniture for a family, and we did that within the year,” Ehn said.
That goal to provide furniture was accomplished on Saturday when they donated furniture to a family that–when it came to furniture, “had nothing at all,” Ehn said.
When Grace Outreach arrived, the home was empty and when they left the cupboards had dishes pots and pans; the living room had couches, tables and a christmas tree. The mother and her three children all received beds and linens.
On Saturday, Dec. 10, board members of Grace Outreach of Michigan, Chris Heaton, Amy Khan, Alice Ehn, Kristin Lewis and other community members carried in furniture, linens, pots, pans and other household items into a family’s new apartment for the organization’s first drop-off event, which depending on which board member you talk to–some full of enthusiasm to give back and some more cautious–could happen up to once a month, or as they are able to.
Lewis discussed with Khan how often they will be able to do furniture deliveries.
“My goal would be that we would be able to do one a month,” said Khan. Then, Lewis told a story about another, more careful, board member, Alice Ehn, saying the organization would take it one at a time.
Grace Outreach of Michigan teamed up with SOS community services of Ypsilanti, another nonprofit agency to get help identifying a family to receive assistance. They plan to continue collaborating with other nonprofit organizations in the area to identify families in need.
Also in Grace Outreach’s future is Grace’s House Party which will take place on May 20, 2017. The organization is working on a website to be up soon with more information; currently available through its hosting Nonprofit agency, Washtenaw Area Apartment Association’s website, under the tab “Outreach.”
Inside the family’s home on Saturday, boys bounced off the newly donated couches, playing catch with each other. Next up, a board member volunteered to take the family’s picture so they could hang it on their wall.
Growth may come as potential donations arise with each
tenant change, the 21,000 housing units in the association are now seen as potential
goldmines, board members agreed.
“As this grows we can do it more and more. It’s a good way to rethink people moving in and out. Every month people are moving out of apartments,” Lewis said.
“For our first time, I think we did good,” Khan said. “I hope we make her life a little bit smoother and I know the kids are happy.”