MOUNT VERNON — Over the past two years, HopeNow Furniture Bank of Knox County has given out hundreds of beds and pieces of furniture to more than 400 Knox County families, helping an average of eight families per week.
HopeNow also has a thriving wood shop in its warehouse at 1025 S. Main St., where volunteers — mostly retirees with carpentry and woodworking skills — make dressers, tables, chairs and bedframes for clients. Yet the non-profit organization, which subsists mainly on donations and small grants, had never received a substantial monetary contribution either from, or passed through, Knox County government.
But that all changed Thursday. Knox County Commissioners Teresa Bemiller, Thom Collier and Bill Pursel approved a resolution that will provide $10,000 this summer in federal funds to help families in need of furniture who qualify for federal TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) assistance. Last week, in an unrelated activity, commissioners toured the spacious HopeNow warehouse building accompanied by program Executive Art Schad and numerous HopeNow volunteers who staff the facility — more than 30 of them, eight woodworkers alone. But no funds were available through county commissioners because county funds for area senior programs had already been assigned for the year.
The $10,000 in TANF funds are appropriated locally through Knox County Job and Family Services, which serves families on social services public assistance like TANF, Medicaid, and Food Stamps. Families must contact HopeNow by phone to become program-eligible and arrange tours of the warehouse site in order to select furniture.
“I think this is a win-win for everybody,” said county Administrator Jason Booth.
More families served by JFS will make it a busy summer at HopeNow. The federal funds distributed from JFS will provide up to $300 per family with furniture assistance, and up to $400 for families with more than three members.
Schad said HopeNow uses a verification process to determine furniture clients’ names, ages, addresses, number in household, and how many times they have previously been assisted by the furniture bank. Clients are responsible for picking up their own furniture. If that becomes a burden, HopeNow tries to help find arrangements through volunteers.
The HopeNow warehouse is located next to the railroad tracks on South Main. Schad said HopeNow pays its own operational expenses including fuel, truck operations and maintenance, utilities, forklift and other equipment, insurance, and other expenses. Those who donate furniture to HopeNow are asked to make their own delivery arrangements.