Ottawa charity opens furniture depot for Syrian refugees

A furniture depot for newly-arrived families from Syria opened its doors in Ottawa's east end today, and is ready to take donations.

Volunteers help collect, sort, distribute donated goods destined for newly-arrived families

Ikea employees deliver donated merchandise to Helping With Furniture's new depot for household items for Syrian refugees in Ottawa. (Stu Mills/CBC)

A furniture depot for newly-arrived families from Syria opened its doors in Ottawa's east end today, and is ready to take donations.

The depot on Star Top Road gives Helping With Furniture, a charity that's been providing used household goods to families in need since 2005, a venue to store and distribute donated items during what the group is calling HWF613, a short-term partnership with coordinating agency Refugee 613.

Merkburn Holdings, an Ottawa-based property management company, has donated the 7,200-sqaure-foot commercial space for six months. 

Helping With Furniture has helped to furnish the homes of 61 Syrian refugee families so far, with another 31 families scheduled to receive donated goods in the coming days.

About 100 volunteers assist the organization with picking up, sorting and delivering the household items.

Hundreds of refugees yet to arrive

The charity anticipates a surge in need, with about 750 individuals fleeing the conflict in Syria expected to arrive in Ottawa in the coming weeks.

"People are going to be able drop off their furniture donations here and sponsor groups are going to be able to pick up packages of furniture and household items. Having this space was critical to meeting the demand," said Refugee 613's Louisa Taylor.

Nathalie Maione, President of Helping With Furniture, hopes Ottawa residents will take advantage of the depot by donating gently-used furniture to the charity.

We think Ottawa should start spring cleaning early this year. Like, now.- Nathalie Maione, president of Helping With Furniture

"We think Ottawa should start spring cleaning early this year. Like, now," Maione said. 

"And if you should come across gently used items that you no longer need? We'll be happy to take them off your hands and give them a second life with a family that will truly appreciate them."

The single-storey warehouse space in an industrial mall already houses a handful of couches, some chairs, children's toys and other housewares.

Ikea donation

Ikea Canada increased that inventory substantially today when staff from the furniture chain's Ottawa store unloaded $5,000 worth of donated Ikea goods.
Ikea Ottawa's Isobelle Auclair. (Stu Mills/CBC)

"There's pots and pans, we were asked to give lamps, so there are a lot of lamps, there's dressers, coffee tables, dishes, linens, towels, a few toys," said Ikea's Isobelle Auclair as store staff wheeled heavily-laden carts into the new space.

"This is going to be a great Canadian moment, when Syrian refugees use an Allen key to put together a bed and a dresser," joked Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. "Thank you Ikea."

Senator Jim Munson, who belongs to a local group sponsoring a Syrian family, was also on hand for the opening.

"We have to fill this place with toys, with joy, furniture — you name it — but we're also filling with it our hearts, your hearts," Munson said.

  • To donate or to find out more about Helping With Furniture and HWF613, click here.