March 12, 2012

Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts – Decluttering to Help Neighbors in Need

Go Inspire Go (GIG) is proud to present this month’s Social Good Spotlight, to raise awareness of individuals and organizations doing good in their communities in order to inspire others to take action and ultimately make real social change. GIG believes everyone can find inspiration in helping others, whether it’s through doing small acts of kindness or working at an organization dedicated to making a difference. If you know of an individual or organization that you think should be featured, please contact Marcia and help us forward their stories to inspire the world.

GIG Social Good Spotlight:
Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts – Decluttering to Help Neighbors in Need


By Marcia Estarija Silva


An HGRM client selects towels for her family.

What is Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts?
Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts (HGRM) is a nonprofit organization based in Acton, MA, that provides household goods to people in need. Volunteers receive, sort and distribute items to individuals and families from 130 communities in eastern Massachusetts.

What is HGRM’s mission? What big changes is it trying to make?
HGRM’s mission is to accept and distribute donated, recycled household goods free of charge to individuals and families who are facing hardships and need a break. Reusing household goods also benefits the environment. The latest facts and figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency show that, on average, Americans generate 4.43 pounds of waste per person per day. Durable and non-durable goods (e.g., glass, plastics, wood, textiles, plastics) make up 41% of municipal solid waste (e.g., trash) and it is estimated that 55 percent to 65 percent of all municipal solid waste comes from residential locations.

Working with more than 300 social service agencies, more than 3,000 families a year receive assistance to rebuild their homes and start their lives over. Providing home necessities such as towels, cooking utensils and lamps really helps people in need and/or dealing with crisis to get back on their feet. Diverting these still useful items from landfill to people who need them is good for society and Mother Earth.


An HGRM client using her new dresser in her now furnished apartment

How is HGRM using its power to help others?
The people served by HGRM have at least one thing in common — they need help during a difficult time. They come from communities in eastern Massachusetts, including many of the more affluent towns.

HGRM clients are individuals and families in transition who need help to rebuild their lives. They include:
• victims of fires or floods
• women and children escaping abusive domestic situations
• people coming out of shelters or halfway houses
• war veterans
• refugees and recent immigrants to the U.S.

Over the years, the need for HGRM’s services has grown exponentially. What has HGRM’s impact been? The numbers are astounding. In 2011 alone, HGRM distributed 36,477 large items as well as 14,235 boxes & bags of smaller items. This would not have been possible without HGRM’s 8,000+ donors, 600 volunteers and community partners assisting more than 260 families a month.


HGRM founders Ira and Barbara Smith in action

What inspires HGRM to do this work?
HGRM began out of the garage of Ira and Barbara Smith in 1990 when they helped a refugee family resettling nearby with nothing but a roof over their heads. They realized that they and others were keeping useable furniture and household goods they no longer wanted but didn’t know what to do with, and had an idea. By sending out a call for help to neighbors and friends and designating their carport as a collection site for donations, they were able to collect enough items to furnish the refugee family’s home with goods left over. Word of the Smith’s collection site spread, and goods kept flowing in, growing to fill other garages, a church basement, and even a barn. News of their efforts reached people trying to get help for victims of fire or flood, families emerging from homelessness, struggling war veterans, and mothers with small children fleeing abuse.

Today, Barbara and Ira, at 81, have attracted loyal volunteers who run a collection and distribution center with 14,000 square feet of space in Acton, MA. The founders continue to be deeply involved with donors, clients, volunteers and everyday logistics of the operation.

“Barbara and Ira have never asked for anything in return,” said Sharon Martens, Executive Director of HGRM. “It’s enough to know that because of HGRM, every day a child who had been sleeping on the floor will have a bed and bedding, a family will gather at a kitchen table for a meal or a war veteran or victim of violence will find a comfortable chair and a lamp for reading, curtains, and art for the walls. That reality alone keeps the Smiths and hundreds of volunteers inspired and invested in HGRM day after day.”


A loaded pick-up truck leaving HGRM for drop-off at a new home

What is HGRM focusing on now?
HGRM is a single, simple, ongoing project to collect gently used furniture and household goods and distribute it to people who need them.

HGRM is planning an exciting event scheduled for April 29 to raise funds and community awareness. Friends and supporters will be looking for sponsors as they participate in a four hour indoor cycling event with lots of other fun activities planned. Details will be posted on www.HGRM.org soon.

How can GIGSTERS get involved and support HGRM?
• HGRM is always looking for volunteers and donations (household goods and monetary).

Donations from large volume suppliers of household goods - HGRM is actively seeking large volume suppliers of furniture, towels, bedding, pots and pans, and kitchen items. HGRM is looking to maintain a steady supply of items through the predictable ebb and flow of the donations cycle. It just takes one good lead to change so many lives!

Start a donation drive or center in your community - One simple program gives donors a place to bring usable but unwanted items and gives clients the items they desperately need. It also serves our planet well, keeping tons of functional items in use and out of landfills. It is the Smith’s long-term dream that people all over the country will get word of how easy it is to get a furniture bank like HGRM started in their own area. “Remember, it started with one person in need, one collection point, and one person to alert the community,” said Sharon Martens, HGRM Executive Director. “If one retired couple from Acton, Massachusetts can do it, anyone can!”

Please visit HGRM’s websitefor more information on how you can help their cause.

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