In April of 2015, the doors of a remarkable endeavor opened with the purpose of serving some of the most deserving individuals in our community with a service they never dreamed of receiving. Since that opening date not too long ago, more than 350 families have been touched by greeNest.
“Like all good projects, greeNest started as a perfect storm of ideas: Our church, Augsburg Lutheran, was gearing up for the winter homeless overflow shelter and we knew well the struggles and obstacles that face the guests there,” said Co-Founder Joanna Britt. “Several years before, a friend of ours had started an organization called The Green Chair Project in Raleigh that had uncovered and served a greater need than they ever imagined. We modeled closely after them but knew there would be challenges in Forsyth County that would be different from those in Wake County. My sister, Jan Barbee, was considering retiring from teaching high school, and I am an artist and we wanted to work on a project together. This was it!”
Joanna and Jan knew they would need to partner with others to make their dreams of changing lives a reality. “Since we opened, we have partnered with 45 social service agencies and faith community care teams who have, through greeNest, assisted their clients in furnishing their homes,” said Britt. “These relationships have been invaluable in connecting us with the great need that is in Forsyth County. We assist families that are moving into sustainable homes from a variety of crisis situations, including insect infestations, fire or another catastrophe, those fleeing domestic violence, coming out of incarceration or aging out of foster care, among others. We are constantly humbled as we realize how much these folks have been through and how hard they have worked to get to the point of being ready for our services. We have met so many wonderful families and individuals, many veterans and lots of children!”
Even though greeNest has partnered with other organizations, there is still a great need for help from the local community. “To ‘keep our lights on,’ we have depended on financial donations from individuals in the community and grant funding,” said Britt. “We love that this is a community organization…funded and operated by generous donors and volunteers. Because of the way the concept has been embraced by our donors, partnering agencies and those in the Rapid Re-housing network, we have outgrown our space and are looking for new space that will allow us to be more active in procuring items for our participants. We have received items from Wake Forest and NC School of the Arts, as well as a few local hotels and several consignment and furniture stores, but we have also had to turn down donations because we simply did not have the space at the time to store them. New space is definitely one of our top priorities this year!”
Donations of time are always appreciated, as are financial donations, but there are other ways to help as well! “We accept donations of gently used furnishings from the community and work with case-managed programs in Forsyth County that are helping families move from crisis into sustainable housing as they furnish their home,” said Britt. “For a small furnishing fee (about $150), a family can furnish a one-bedroom apartment. This furnishing fee gives the participant a true sense of ownership. As one of our participants said (through tears), ‘Now my family can sit around the dinner table and talk about the day, because we HAVE a dinner table to sit around!’”
GreeNest has also developed a program known as “Up Off the Floor” which has served more than 47 families (more than 100 children) so far. “Through grant funding, Up Off the Floor provides twin bed frames, mattresses and bedding for children identified by WSFCS social workers in Title One schools as sleeping on the floor,” said Britt.
Interested in volunteering? “There are a variety of jobs to do around the warehouse, from cleaning and processing incoming donations to arranging and dusting furniture to creating cooking and dining packs,” said Britt. “We have had several high school students and entire families that have joined our ranks on a regular basis. Also, spread the word about greeNest! We are so happy to take your gently used home furnishings and get them into the homes of those in our community who need to make their house a home! We accept not only furniture, but cookware, dishes and silverware, towels, sheets, comforters and small appliances. And, to keep those lights on, we will gladly accept financial donations!”
For more information about greeNest, visit the website at greenestws.org, or call 336.661.8091. You can also find greeNest on Facebook.