Furniture and Health Equity
By Teresa Spangler, Estate Store & Development Assistant
When Charles reached out to Community Warehouse this fall, he was struggling during stay at home orders: “I was sitting on one of them camp chairs since I moved in the place three months ago.” Because his case manager through the Native American Youth and Family Center wasn’t aware that Community Warehouse had reopened, he was unable to get furniture. With determination and resilience, Charles contacted us directly.
Community Warehouse delivered furnishings to Charles free of charge, thanks to a generous grant from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). Black, Indigenous, and people of color are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Using federal Cares Act money, OHA offered $45 million to local nonprofits to reduce health inequities. Out of hundreds of applications, Community Warehouse won a $113,000 health equity grant to help reduce the health and economic effects of the pandemic.
OHA Health Equity Grant
What’s it for?
The OHA grant waives program fees for Indigenous/Native American families through the end of the year. Also, it helps CW serve another important group: our staff.
“In order for CW to continue to help the community, we have to take care of our own,” says Community Relations Coordinator Veronica Booth. She co-wrote the OHA grant application with Executive Director Dunetchka Otero-Serrano. Veronica explains that 40% of Community Warehouse staff have school-aged children. 82% of those staff are BIPOC – herself included.
The leadership team at Community Warehouse worried that employees with children would face unexpected absences due to increased demands at home, impacting our ability to provide services. Without stable staffing, our critical work to furnish empty homes could be in jeopardy.
As part of the OHA grant, staff members with children under age 18 are now receiving $300 weekly stipends through December to help with family support, such as child care or tutoring. The stipends help lower the achievement gap for the children of CW staff during this trying time. It is one more step towards equity with the power we have to make a difference.
How does it keep our community healthy?
COVID-19 threatens the health of Community Warehouse in many different ways. The cost of increased sanitation, storage for donated items, and temporary closures of our Estate Stores are among the negative impacts we face. The OHA grant helps us keep our staff and the families we serve healthy. The grant is purchasing brand-new pillows for our clients. Funds will purchase proper masks and gloves for our staff, as well as cleaning supplies to make sure the items we give to families are safe. Our trucks, Warehouses, and Estate Stores will receive professional cleaning multiple times per week to keep our staff and our community healthy.
Celebrating Health and Success
Community Warehouse’s inclusion as one of the grant awardees is a testament to the essential services our furniture bank provides. As Patrick Allen, OHA Director, says: “We are deeply aware how these organizations’ linkages and knowledge of their communities and the challenges they face are so important to bringing resources to help. We look forward to the collective work to continue to meaningfully address the systemic racism and structural inequities that have caused so much health disparity, especially relating to COVID-19.”
Veronica says Community Warehouse winning the grant “blew my mind.” As a mother of 5 children, she will benefit from the staff stipends, but her own family was not the primary motivation. “I care deeply about our organization, and it’s easy to communicate its needs.”
Community support through grants, individual giving, and the hard work of our staff brings optimism about the future of CW, even during the pandemic. People like Charles provide our motivation.
In his words: “Every time I go out there and see the little table and eat dinner, it feels like I am really at home.