Central Campus may be closing down, but its furniture will live on in homes around North Carolina.
The Green Chair Project, a Wake County nonprofit that provides furniture to families recovering from homelessness, crisis or natural disasters, has received a donation of several hundred pieces of furniture from Central Campus apartments. Some of the furniture has been given to families in Wake County, while some will be sent to the coast to help families who are rebuilding after Hurricane Florence.
“It’s been a tremendous gift,” said Analia Wehe-Lehmann, director of logistics for The Green Chair. She said the donation included “really everything that families need and that we provide families now in our program.”
A donation receipt that Wehe-Lehmann provided to The Chronicle listed 188 dressers and 124 tables, along with coffee tables, side tables, lamps and lampshades, sofas, chairs and bookshelves.
Duke’s Logistics Coordinator Rori Ray said that the donation was set in motion when “some of [her] local contacts outside of Duke University” provided her The Green Chair’s information. One of those contacts then gave Ray’s contact information to Jackie Craig, The Green Chair’s executive director and co-founder.
Once Duke got in contact with The Green Chair, TROSA Moving Company moved the furniture to a parking garage at 300 Swift, Ray wrote. Wehe-Lehmann said employees of The Green Chair made about four trips to Duke to pick up donations.
Wehe-Lehmann said that some of the donated furniture has already gone to a warehouse in Wake County, where the pieces are displayed so that families can choose the items they want for themselves. She added that some of the donations would become a part of the organization’s disaster relief effort.
The Green Chair Project has been active since 2010, according to its website. Although its website states the nonprofit has now helped more than 2,300 families in Wake County, Wehe-Lehmann said that it had a humble beginning.
“Our current director, Jackie Craig, is one of [the founders] and a good friend of hers, Beth Smoot [was the other], and they started out of the basement of a church collecting items from parishioners and people that had to give,” Wehe-Lehmann explained.
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She said that Craig and Smoot “saw a need in the community” among families who were recovering from homelessness and other crises—who had secured housing but had nothing to furnish it with—and worked to meet that need. Once their efforts began, the organization did not stay small for long.
“It evolved to where they had to get a facility to be able to store some of these items and now we’re in this beautiful warehouse… where we have a space to showcase all the items that get donated by the community,” Wehe-Lehmann said.
Today, she said that The Green Chair works with more than 50 agencies in Wake County to find the families that will receive what she called a “once in a lifetime gift.” According to its website, the chosen families pay “a small fee” to select “furniture, linens, cookware and accessories to outfit their new homes.”
“It really does help with restoring… dignity [for] that family,” she said.
In the wake of Hurricane Florence, state officials and relief agencies reached out to The Green Chair to help the more than 7,000 families that lost their homes in the disaster. Wehe-Lehmann said that the organization is now active in 14 counties and has helped more than 150 families since December as part of the relief effort.
She added that such a large impact wouldn’t be possible without donations like the one from Central Campus.
“It’s because of donors like [Duke] that we can really impact families in Wake County and help as much as we [have],” she said.