Leftover furniture sale provides used goods to students and families

By Brendan Deady

As the clock approached 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan Eidelson looked out over the Amherst Commons at the leftover furniture from another successful Trash to Treasure sale.

In between dishing out orders to the handful of volunteers Eidelson, the former president of the Amherst Survival Center’s executive board, said she predicted this year’s take would be similar to those in the past.

“I’d probably say about between 15-20 thousand [dollars],” Eidelson said.

This was Eidelson’s ninth year running the annual furniture sale for the Survival Center.

Volunteers began collecting furniture from residents, charities and local stores throughout the past spring and summer. Usable pieces are cleaned and stored for the event described on the center’s website as a rite of fall in the Pioneer Valley.

“This is the community giving support to each other,” Eidelson said.

Volunteers began laying out the cleaned furniture on Friday in preparation for the next day’s six-hour sale. At the start, dozens of bookcases, desks, couches and bureaus sat in neat rows under a circus sized tent.

At the end, a few stragglers wandered among a handful of the furniture pieces with the heaviest signs of wear.

“A lot of the items end up going to students and families. People stock offices, apartments, second homes. They’re great deals and all the proceeds go to the Survival Center. It’s a win-win.” Eidelson said.

Since 1976 the Survival Center has provided food, clothing, healthcare and entertainment free of charge to low-income families and homeless people. According to the center’s website they serve about 6,000 people a year and rely on the service of over 200 volunteers.

The annual Trash to Treasure furniture sale is one of their biggest fundraisers, and goes a long way to keep the center operational, said Eidelson.

“This is great for students and struggling families, another benefit is the green aspect. We’re saving a lot of furniture that would end up in the dump. Everything’s still in great shape and it all goes to people who need it,” Eidelson said.

Local businesses donated to pay for tents and administrative equipment. Fraternities and sports teams from the Five Colleges handled the heavy lifting and delivery runs, according to Eidelson.

Although this year was expected to provide around the same level of necessary funding, Eidelson said that the donations have declined over the years.

“With the economy people are buying less, especially big purchases such as furniture. Or they choose to use Craigslist or Amazon to shop online,” Eidelson said.

As the tents started to come down about a dozen pieces remained, doubling as impromptu playground equipment for a few children.

“A little secret, we usually just give what’s left over out for free to whoever is left around. The rest just goes to a second-hand store. It’s a nice little cycle,” Eidelson said.

 Brendan Deady can be reached at [email protected]