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Warehousing

From trash to treasure: CARITAS opens warehouses to the public for free

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — This holiday season, Richmond nonprofit CARITAS is giving the gift of green.

No, not money, but instead an event in which everything taken by the community was given by the community.

The doors of two CARITAS warehouse spaces were scheduled to open at noon on Tuesday. But by 11:45 a.m., a line of local residents was wrapped around the buildings, everyone looking to take advantage of the free items that lay inside.

People wait in line to get into one of the warehouses where CARITAS was giving away items for free. (Photo: Olivia Jaquith)

“It’s a green event,” CARITAS Chief Operating Officer Karen O’Brien said. “We were getting ready to leave our warehouse. We’ve given up our lease. We’re moving into an exciting new space up the road, and so we decided that we would bless the community with the things that they’ve generously given us, and we took everything we needed and could fit. And so we opened it up to the community and said, ‘Come get what you want.’”

O’Brien says CARITAS receives many donations for the Furniture Bank throughout the year, but those items don’t always meet the needs of the program, which works to help those who have experienced homelessness get back on their feet in a dignified way.

“People generously donate to us, but it’s not always things that our clients can use,” O’Brien said. “They live in small places and sometimes they just can’t fit it, so it accumulates. So it’s sort of like cleaning out the attic.”

The lease for CARITAS at the warehouses on Gordon Avenue is up at the end of the year.

The nonprofit has just opened up a new space, the CARITAS Center, to provide more room for the Furniture Bank, an expanded state-of-the-art classroom space, The William M. Walker Healing Place for Women, and the permanent Women’s Emergency Shelter, among other things.

An artist’s rendering shows what the new CARITAS Center will look like. (Photo: CARITAS)

“We want to restore dignity, so we want nice things and things that don’t have broken legs or arms,” O’Brien said.

But for someone ready to get crafty, she says, “this is a rehab paradise.”

From all the donations received, CARITAS takes the “essentials” — couches, dressers, mattresses, kitchen tables and chairs, and the like. The rest of the items were kept in the warehouses on Gordon Ave., which has served as a temporary storage space.

“I love that it’s not all going to go back in the landfill,” O’Brien said. “We don’t have a place to put it, and we need to be out of here, then it would have to go in the dump. So we’re excited that maybe 80 percent of it could go to a new home, and then maybe we’ll have to throw a little bit away. So that’s exciting and the community has really — they’ve blessed us so, that it’s nice to be able to give back.”

Residents of the greater Richmond area took full advantage of this gift to the community, clearing shelves of TVs and lamp shades in minutes.

“I was expecting a slow stream [of people], and I think we really got more of a deluge, which is exciting,” O’Brien said. “I’m glad people can enjoy it.”

The warehouses will be open again Wednesday at 9 a.m.

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