Used BU residence furniture supporting community charities

May 29, 2020

A row of people stand in a parking lost beside a building with pieces of furniture
Brandon University staff bring used furniture out of McMaster Hall for curbside delivery.

A long awaited furniture renewal in McMaster Hall will benefit more than the students who move into the Brandon University (BU) residence.

The old furniture that made generations of BU students feel at home will continue to be put to good use, helping hundreds of community members.

McMaster Hall is getting 230 new sets of furniture, replacing beds, desks, dressers and night stands that in some cases have been in McMaster Hall since it opened in 1971. While the furniture is old, it was also extremely well built, meaning that a lot of it still has life and value left. To that end, Ancillary Services office is partnering with local charities, as well as BU staff and faculty, to find new homes for the furniture where it is greatly needed.

The University is donating more than 175 pieces of furniture to the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation (BNRC), nearly 100 items to the Community Health and Housing Association, 10 to the BU World University Service Club and at least a half-dozen items to Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba.

Additionally, BU staff and faculty were given the offer to purchase pieces, raising $955 for the United Way Brandon & District.

“This has been the best ‘feel-good’ project we have been able to do in a while. It has certainly lifted many spirits!” says Jackie Nichol, Ancillary Services Manager at BU. “Much credit goes to Cindy Sisson in our Ancillary Services office, who had a real passion for keeping things out of the landfill and came up with the charity sale for staff and faculty.”

The furniture chosen by the CHHA will be sold in its Building Re-Fit Store in Brandon. The Building Re-Fit store has been in operation for 28 years, selling good, reusable furniture and building supplies while providing work training and employment for disadvantaged individuals. The store has been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic but is scheduled to reopen on June 16.

“The Building Re-Fit Store is stocked entirely through donations, so the support of the community, including partners like Brandon University, is vital to what we do,” says Erin Coleman, Health and Housing Support Worker for the CHHA. “The store supports those in need and helps save the planet by collecting the used furniture and building materials and making them available to people of the Westman area at an affordable price. Every donation makes a difference in a lot of ways.”

The BNRC will make its furniture available to individuals experiencing homelessness to support them as they move into housing. It will fit well with a mattress program that the organization already has in place with Sleep Country.

“We will work with our partner agencies like the Manitoba Métis Federation’s Housing First Program, the CHHA and others to ensure that those who finally get a place don’t have to sleep on the floor because they don’t have furniture,” says BNRC Executive Director Carly Gasparini.

“This is such a great re-use of this furniture and will have a major impact on the community.”

Ancillary Services has been setting money aside for the project for years, and when the replacement furniture for McMaster Hall was ordered last fall no one could have predicted the impact that COVID-19 would have locally, closing the Brandon University campus and reshaping the way that transactions are made for the foreseeable future. Nichol says that has been taken into account, with staff at BU setting up contactless payment and curbside pickup from the parking lot outside McMaster Hall.

“A huge thanks to our Ancillary Services and Building Services teams who have already moved out more than 100 pieces of furniture,” Nichol said. “They have been troopers, making sure that we can safely get the furniture out to where it will help the most.”