The Neighbourhood Furniture Store is a charity second-hand furniture re-use project operating throughout Swale and the surrounding areas. The goal of the organisation is to offer good quality furniture and electrical appliances at affordable prices. One of the benefits of this is that waste is diverted from landfill, reducing the need for fly tipping, whilst at the same time providing furniture for those in need.
Everlyn Saunders is the Project Manager at Neighbourhood Furniture Store, and has worked there 12 years. She discussed why she was so proud of what her organisation was doing: “Not only do we enable people create better homes, reducing the need for credit or loans, but we also support personal development by promoting and referring to training courses, income support and beneficial community events. We have been operating since 2005 and provide a valuable community resource. We offer ex-offender, volunteer and work experience positions, giving valuable references to potential employers, and signposting to further training. We also support local initiatives run by church or community groups.”
Whilst NFS initially restricted their customers to those on low income and benefits, it soon became apparent when the recession hit that working households who were “just managing” were surviving without a contingency fund, meaning that suddenly having to replace essential items such a white goods could put them at risk of entering debt.
The organisation also offers services to other vulnerable groups, including working closely with local women’s refuges. Often, when women are fleeing from domestic violence they are moving with nothing to a new area that they do not know. NFS supports them working closely with the local housing association and other agencies by getting them set up with furniture so they can make a fresh start. The surplus that was made in the start-up years has funded two child councillors.
With over 67% of customers based in Swale, Everlyn feels that Neighbourhood Furniture Store is a local organisation that deserves to be recognised at the 2018 Swale Business Awards. She commented: “I believe our customer service speaks for itself as to why I believe we deserve an award. Our customer satisfaction has remained consistently excellent at around 98%. Since we have been operating we have clocked up over 41,000 hours of volunteer work from 191 volunteers. We have collected over 1250 tonnes of furniture – about 110 double decker buses. We’ve sold over 21,500 items to 4,900 households and we have over 6,400 Facebook friends. We have become an essential part of the Swale community and these numbers reflect that.”
Neighbourhood Furniture Store
07876 457 584