Led by a group of dedicated volunteers including founders Roz Babener and Fineke Brasser, Oregon Community Warehouse incorporated in January 2001 and began regular pick-ups of donated items in the Portland metro area. Excess goods were kept in storage units and in space donated by the YWCA, one of the first Warehouse partner agencies. In May of that year we moved to a 4,000 sq.ft. warehouse in southeast Portland. The larger space allowed efficient storage for donated mattresses, sofas, tables, dressers, kitchen items and small appliances. It was here that the first Estate Sale was held. Volunteers met case managers two days a week to distribute requested items to 10–15 households. The value of distributions in the first year was $200,000, and our budget was $0.
In 2002, with of a grant from Oregon Community Foundation, a part time Case Manager Coordinator was hired. Adding paid staff led to regular hours for serving clients, which had increased to 30 households a week. The value of distributions for 2002 was $400,000. The Warehouse moved again in 2003, this time to a 7,000 sq.ft. space in NW Portland which had space for Estate Sale fundraisers, more room for storing donations, and a loading dock. The truck picked up donations two days each week. That year the Warehouse distributed $500,000 in home furnishings, serving 40 households each week.
Distributions through the Warehouse exceeded $700,000 worth of home furnishings in 2004, helping more than 50 families a week. The truck picked up donations three days each week, and a second staff person was hired to screen donations and route the truck. In November of that year Executive Director Kristy Wood was hired, thanks to a grant from Providence Health Systems.
In April, 2005 the Warehouse moved to north Portland. This new location again offered more space, plus a second loading dock. In October, 2006, the Board of Directors dropped the word “Oregon” from our name to highlight services to families from both Oregon and southwest Washington. In 2007, periodic Estate Sales grew into a regular weekend retail operation, called the Estate Store. Funds were raised to purchase our own truck and increase pick-up service to five days a week.
In 2009 the Warehouse launched a capital campaign to purchase our current building at at 3969 NE MLK Jr. Blvd. We now have three trucks, providing pick-up and delivery service five days a week, and in 2010 we served almost 6,000 clients. Community Warehouse is currently the main resource from Vancouver to Corvallis for low income individuals and families seeking essential household furnishings. Its founders continue to be involved in the daily activities and continued growth of the agency.
Community Warehouse is one of many furniture banks involved in a nation-wide effort to distribute furniture and household goods to families and individuals in need. To learn more, please visit Furniture Banks Across America at furniturebanks.org.