In August, 2004, a woman felt called to stop her car on a side street of Wilkinsburg to inquire about the needs of a mother and 2 small children. She discovered that the family had virtually no furniture, and that they were literally eating and sleeping on the floor. Certain that no one should live in such conditions in this place and time, she and others from her church in Mt. Lebanon located the items needed among themselves and their friends, and formed a caravan of various vehicles to deliver them. The mother informed them that most of the families in homes attached to hers were in the same dire straits. By the time they had met the furniture needs of those families, Off the Floor Pittsburgh had been born.
Off the Floor Pittsburgh is a local Christian nonprofit ministry which recycles gently-used furniture and delivers it free of charge to poor families with extensive furniture needs. The families that have been helped were without furniture due to fire and flood, mold and bug infestations, domestic abuse, drug and alcohol addictions, disease, divorce, incarceration, and simply long-term poverty. OFP rents warehouse space at the Pittsburgh Presbytery, owns a truck for furniture pick up and delivery, has two staff persons and about 130 active volunteers. It achieved IRS nonprofit status in 2012.
Those involved in this ministry take seriously Christ’s teaching in Matt. 25, when you do it for one of the least of these, my brethren, you do it unto me. This is not an obligation, but an opportunity to do something for Christ. The families who are eating and sleeping on the floor have been put before us as people in great need; they are beloved of God, and we feel called to do everything we can to meet their needs. Meetings and furniture delivery trips begin with prayer; recipients are encouraged to connect with a local church for their spiritual growth and support; a copy of the New Testament is offered to each family; and we pray with them before we leave, praising and thanking our loving God, who is always near at hand with grace and support. It is not our intention to be simply efficient recyclers of furniture. OFP is a vehicle by which we witness to God’s love in our lives and, so far as we are able to do so, extend the Kingdom of God in our region. In the words of The Rev. Dennis Molnar, Wallace Memorial Church of Greensburg, “We don’t just deliver furniture. We deliver comfort and hope.”
To date, OFP has delivered furniture to over 800 families, including over 1,500 children in Allegheny County. They were not all as desperate as the first family, but the mission is to find and help those families where possible. More than 20 local social service agencies are currently partnering with OFP to identify them from among their clients. In 2012, furniture deliveries were made to 169 individuals and families, the most families helped in a single year and a 50% increase over 2011.
OFP Board members, volunteers, and staff are active members in a number of local churches, predominantly Presbyterian. We have found that local churches are our best resource for locating volunteers, furniture donations, and funds to support our ministry. Their enthusiastic endorsement of our ministry is another constant reinforcement that God is blessing our efforts. Currently there are eight local churches that make annual financial contributions to OFP and field a team of furniture movers. Two parishes of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (St. Andrews in Highland Park and Calvary Church) have been full partners with OFP for a number of years. Each parish fields a team of volunteers that picks up and delivers furniture on Saturdays according to a rotating schedule. Members of those parishes have contributed used furniture, attended the annual fundraiser luncheon, and made personal financial contributions. Each parish has made financial contributions for several years. In addition, Episcopal Church Women and the Social Justice and Outreach Committee of the Diocese have provided grants to OFP.
Local churches have been critical to the growth and success of OFP through financial support, providing volunteers in many areas of the ministry, and holding furniture and linen drives. Our hope is that many more parishes in the diocese will become church partners with OFP. Volunteers are available to meet with parishes that want to explore becoming involved with this unique local hands-on ministry.