Jackie Craig and Beth Smoot had set out to start a business venture. The pair wanted to help people looking to sell their house “stage” their home to lure prospective buyers.
But a different mission emerged from their efforts. Craig and Smoot formed The Green Chair Project, a Raleigh-based nonprofit that helps families in need get furniture.
“I saw a trend of people needing to get rid of some of the furnishings in order to sell a home,” said Craig, 51, of Cary.
Most of the people who come to The Green Chair Project are victims of domestic violence or are down on their luck. Some lost their belongings to natural disasters or fire.
Clients are referred to The Green Chair Project by 30 partner agencies. School social workers are often the first to notice that a family is in transition.
Stephanie Veeder, a preschool social worker for Wake County schools, makes a note in her files when she visits a family in crisis and realizes there is a need.
“This program has helped families who are moving into their own apartments after leaving domestic violence or homeless shelters,” Veeder explained. “Sometimes it is a family raising children that are not their own due to the biological family’s own struggles.”
The stories behind each family keep Craig working so hard. Once, Veeder referred a client in need of beds for two young girls.
“The 10-year-old never had her own bed and was so moved that she also got to pick out sheets and a comforter,” Craig said. “It’s one God story after another, and I have learned to let go of expectations by resting in this being God’s plan for our community.”
The Green Chair Project is celebrating its third anniversary in a new location with more than 17,000 square feet of warehouse space that looks more like a high-end furniture store than a collection of unwanted home goods.
It’s hard to imagine that the nonprofit began as a few items collected in a closet at Raleigh’s Edenton Street United Methodist Church.
“When that room overflowed, we took over a Sunday School room,” said Craig, who in 2010 was leading a Bible study at the church and wanted to re-enter the workforce after raising two daughters.
When they started the venture, Smoot and Craig figured The Green Chair Project was a fitting name.
“Green” refers to the fact that many of the furnishings would have ended up in a landfill otherwise, Craig said.
“Chair is a reference to the belief that everyone deserves at least a chair to call their own,” she added.
And “project”? It “embodies the need for partnerships with volunteers, community groups and businesses to make this a successful outreach,” Craig said.
More than 20,000 volunteer hours have been recorded, and an estimated 207 tons of furnishings have been saved from the trash. Volunteers are always needed to dust furniture, organize items and donate goods.
The Green Chair Project stepped up two years ago when the group helped victims of the tornadoes and deadly storms that ripped through North Carolina on April 16, 2011.
“God helped us be there at the right time,” Craig said. “The donations to help the disaster survivors kept coming in and propelled us to know that our work is transferrable to crisis efforts too.”
It’s all about helping people enjoy the comforts of home.
“My faith grows every day by bringing people alongside us who can do what we aren’t equipped to do,” Craig said.
She has the Isaiah 32:18 verse framed as a reminder of God’s promise that “my people will live in peaceful dwellings, in secure homes and in undisturbed resting places.”