CUYAHOGA FALLS: Economic stimulus is at the heart of this bank's operation.
But it's not getting. It's giving.
Community Outreach Resources Exchange is a furniture bank, a faith-based charity that distributes used furniture and household goods to people who can't afford them.
For 11 years, CORE has been quietly helping what it calls neighbors in need — fire victims, battered women, people working their way out of homelessness, refugees and others who need help outfitting a household.
On Saturday mornings, CORE opens its doors to clients who have been screened to verify their need. Typically, 30 to 40 families show up for the weekly giveaway, where they can choose from donated furniture, mattresses, linens, appliances and other items.
Each family comes with a voucher identifying its needs, and a volunteer escorts the family through the warehouse and helps it choose. More volunteers — many of them from Truly Reaching You Ministries, a transitional program for people leaving prison — move the selections to a loading dock and help the family load its vehicle.
On Oct. 31, Akron resident Jennifer Bolar waited for volunteers to haul away a couch that matched the plaid wing chairs her escort had helped her pick out. Bolar, who is unemployed and keeping her grandchildren, was also on the hunt for mattresses.
''I think it's a good thing that they're doing here,'' she said as a cadre of volunteers scurried around the spare, concrete-floored warehouse. ''With the economy the way it is, a lot of people can't afford to buy brand-new stuff. I know I can't.''
Surrounding Bolar were rows of sofas and upholstered chairs. Mattresses leaned against one wall, and dressers and desks were stacked nearby. Steel shelves held an array of TV sets, kitchen supplies, lamps and the like, as well as some one-of-a-kind items, such as an old phonograph, a school desk and a child's tricycle.
Clients may choose a limited number of items, but the number can change depending on the volume of goods available and the number of people who show up. Their vouchers are good for 30 days, so they can come back if they don't find what they need on the first visit, volunteer Bill Macchione said.
Clients must provide their own vehicles to haul the items home, a requirement that demonstrates their willingness to take responsibility, his wife and fellow volunteer, Jodie Macchione, said.
''We have absolutely no idea what we're going to get'' in any given week, she said. But on most Saturdays, the warehouse is almost empty at the end of the day.
Volunteer Jimmy Morgan figures that's no coincidence. ''The way I see it, God's in charge,'' he said. ''If people need something, it'll be here for them.''
CORE was started in 1998 by the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Bernard Church to provide mattresses and bed frames to people in the Hispanic community, said Phillip Howard, a retiree who volunteers as CORE's unofficial general manager.
Eventually, the organization grew into a furniture bank and in 2002 moved from a storage facility at Canal Place in downtown Akron to a warehouse adjacent to the Marc's store in Cuyahoga Falls. Howard said it used to pick up donations in a step van loaned from Shaw Auto Care until it was able to create its own fleet of two trucks this year, thanks to a grant obtained by Hudson Community Chapel and a donation of a box truck from Catholic Charities.
The furniture bank works closely with 63 churches, agencies and other organizations that provide support and refer and screen clients, he said.
CORE serves about 1,400 families a year and distributes around 6,400 major pieces of furniture. It receives items from individual donors as well as other agencies and a few businesses, and it gives clothing and other items it can't use to charities that can.
Jodie Macchione said economic struggles have increased the need for its services. ''We're trying desperately to get the bank to grow,'' she said.
Occasionally, a client will refuse what CORE has to offer, but most are grateful, she said.
Penny Boggs is one. On disability after a heart attack, Boggs turned to CORE for help furnishing her Akron apartment and then gave back by becoming a volunteer.
Boggs said she's been with CORE three or four years and oversees its linen area. She's typically at the warehouse every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday ''and any other day that they might need me.''
''I like to be able to give people what they need,'' she sad.
Howard said CORE's aim is to be good stewards of God-given resources by keeping usable items out of landfills and distributing them to those who need a hand up.
''We're not here about decorating,'' he said. ''We're here about helping people get over a huge gap in their lives.''
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or email@example.com.
Community Outreach Resources Exchange accepts donations of used furniture, appliances and other household items.
Items don't have to be in pristine condition, but they do have to be usable and in working order.
The organization will pick up furniture for free, mainly in Summit County. How far it will travel depends on the type and quantity of items being donated.
To request a pickup, leave a message at 330-379-3188, or fill out the form at http://www.corehelp.org.
Donors may also drop off items during limited hours at the CORE warehouse at 2900 State Road in Cuyahoga Falls, on the north side of the building that houses the Marc's store. Items may be placed on its loading dock on Wednesday or Thursday mornings or late Saturday mornings. The only exception is the week before a national holiday, when CORE is closed.
Other drop-off times can be arranged by calling CORE and leaving a message.
CORE has a particular need for used mattresses, microwave ovens, dressers and dining tables and chairs.
People who need furniture and household items may call CORE or fill out a separate form on the Web site. Clients must undergo a home visit and receive a voucher before they can get items from the furniture bank.