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Community Service Pays Off At Rotmans

Furniture World Magazine


Rotmans and its customers have recycled over 10,000 pieces of good reusable furniture to the neediest in the community.

Editor's Note: Most of the articles Dan Bolger writes for FURNITURE WORLD deal with transportation, logistics and warehousing. This month Dan diverges from his usual format to look at Rotmans Furniture and Carpet, an Independent furniture retailer that supports their local community with ideas, skills and financial resources.

Rotmans Furniture and Carpet is located in Worcester Massachusetts, about 45 miles from Boston. In 1964, Murray and Ida Rotman started Rotmans at its present location by leasing 10,000 square feet in the former Whittall Carpet Mill. Between 1964 and 1980, they were joined by sons Steven, Barry and Bernie. Murray and Ida are now in their early 80's and semi-retired. The combined showroom and warehouse space now exceeds 200,000 square feet containing all categories of furniture and accessories.

You could turn your local news on any night of the week and hear another story revolving around homelessness. Whether the people are fire victims, elderly on fixed incomes, terminally ill, disabled, or single parents living in shelters, your heart goes out to them. Secretly you say to yourself, "Thank God, that's not me". While the public is aware of the problem with homelessness, many think, "What can I do about it?" Here's what happened In Worcester.

Since the year 1985, the Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance (CMHA) has overseen Donations Clearinghouse (DCH) which provides furniture and household goods to families referred by area shelters, neighborhood centers, and health and human service agencies. Donations are also distributed to families leaving shelters who are ready to move into an apartment of their own, those on limited incomes, fire victims, the elderly, disabled, and people with long term health problems. The two-person staff of DCH and a dedicated network of volunteers run the entire operation with very limited over-head. It is one of the most cost-effective volunteer based programs serving Worcester county.

The Rotmans, who have been life-long residents of Worcester, are deeply concerned with the state of homelessness in Massachusetts. It's been said to "think globally, act locally", and that's just what they did.

In 1992, Bernie Rotman read a research study which claimed that a large number of prospective furniture shoppers do not buy new furniture because they don't know what to do with their old furniture. That was interesting to Bernie Rotman, whose store received almost daily calls, asking for the donation of clearance and damaged furniture to people in the community who desperately need it... fire victims, newly disabled, unemployed, etc.

It didn't take long before a light went off in Rotmans head that he could become a "match-maker" between his prospective customers and those in desperate need of home furnishings. After a few calls to local social service agencies, Rotmans was put in touch with a fledgling group called Donations Clearing House which existed within the Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance. The DCH was picking up furniture, appliances, and household goods for distribution to those in need. They were intrigued with Rotmans "big idea" plan and a partnership was struck.

Rotmans partnered with Donations Clearinghouse and the Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance to provide its customer the opportunity to take the furniture they're replacing and donate it to a local family in need. From this alliance Rotmans Furniture Exchange program was born. For the last eight years, Rotmans has provided funding to pay for a driver and has helped to secure a truck to make this program possible. Each day that truck heads out, another family has the hope of starting over in a home of their own.

How does it work?
The Rotmans customer who wishes to participate in the program must simply declare that their old furniture is in good, recyclable condition and that it is free from any tears, bare spots, or structural breaks. They call the DCH and schedule a time to have the furniture picked up. Rotmans provides the support DCH needs to pick up the furniture, warehouse it and make sure that the donated furniture reaches the home of the people who desperately need it. Since 1992, thousands of individuals and families have benefited from this program.

Donated items are sorted and maintained in a warehouse, and immediately made available to those who cannot afford the costs of keeping an apartment adequately furnished. Since its inception, the requests for services provided by the DCH have grown to over 1,000 families and individuals per year.
You can help

By assisting with people's basic needs, the DCH helps ease the transition back into a stable and self-sufficient environment for formerly homeless families. For people who are at risk of homelessness, DCH assistance helps keep people's lives stabilized with basic household furnishings so that they can avoid the downward spiraling trap of loss and despair that leads to homelessness.

Rotmans and its customers have recycled over 10,000 pieces of good reusable furniture to the neediest in the community. "It's a win-win" says Rotman. The public wants to do business with companies that care about people. In addition, the customers who purchase and recycle can feel good knowing that the furniture they are replacing will go to someone who really needs it and will appreciate it. The customer also gets a write-off on their taxes, which makes it an even greater win-win. The DCH is well worth supporting. For every $1 contributed to operate the DCH, $10 worth of support can be provided to families in need.

Rotmans has received numerous awards for its Furniture Exchange Program. According to Rotman; knowing you can be both successful in the market, and sell to the public, while at the same time improve the lives of so many in need, is the ultimate reward for any retailer doing business today.

If you are Interested in establishing a similar program in your community, additional Information is available a

t Rotmans web site www.Rotmans.com and by contacting Rotmans Furniture & Carpet.

Daniel Bolger of The Bolger Group helps companies achieve improved transportation, warehousing and logistics. Questions can be directed to Mr. Bolger care of FURNITURE WORLD at bolger@furninfo.com.