DOWNERS GROVE - Sharing Connections, a nonprofit furniture bank based in Downers Grove, had a positive impact on 11,402 individuals in 2019, an increase of 15 percent over last year.
Households with one or more individuals served by its on site client care specialists grew by 10 percent in 2019 with the remaining increase attributed to its expanding bulk-share mobile-service initiatives. Adults and seniors impacted grew by 10 percent and children benefiting rose 22 percent over 2018.
Led by its motto, “We Furnish Hope, “individuals and families transitioning out of a crisis represented the largest share [47 percent] of people served by Sharing Connections in 2019. These include veterans, recently homeless and victims of domestic violence. Those challenged more generally by poverty [39 percent] and expecting/new mothers [13 percent] in need of help made up the other largest client categories, followed by those affected by fire, flood or other event.
Households served in its home county of DuPage rose by 15 percent and, notably, Sharing Connections was also able to benefit 38 percent more people across 10 other counties than it did in 2018—nearly doubling individuals impacted in Will and Kane counties.
“Our ability to serve more of our neighbors in crisis is fueled by the generosity of residents and organizations donating items,” said CEO Ryan Varju. “If we have more to give, we can give to more people and the community comes through for us year after year.”
Program Manager, Lilly Grimm, agreed that donations are the fuel and added, “Volunteers and partnering agencies are the engine.”
The nonprofit partners with more than 200 agencies and 600 social workers—adding 170 of those professionals in 2019—and more than 460 volunteers donated 13,400 hours in 2019.
“We’ve seen tremendous results in our outreach for volunteers, seeing a 44 percent increase in engagement this year,” said Volunteer Coordinator Cindy Johnson.
The rise in donations and volunteerism has allowed Sharing Connections to grow its program to reach more people in significant ways.
“It’s allowed us to not only serve more clients in-house but also to go outside our four walls into the community to serve,” said Grimm.
This year, the organization began its “On the Road” bulk-share mobile-service program where, in just six months, it partnered with another nonprofit, church, police department and two school districts to serve families in their own hometowns.