Friday, March 21, 2008

LIGHTING UP LIVES




WITH THANKS TO BRENTWOOD WEEKLY NEWS (NEWSQUEST ESSEX)
We live in a throwaway society Often - on mere fashion whim - some decide to change their home colour d├ęcor. Others are forced by circumstance to downsize to smaller properties and have to dispose of often-perfect pieces of kitchen appliances or precious pieces of furniture. .

Brentwood-based Brian Darwood knows a thing or two about this problem that is constantly clogging our landfill sites. His pioneering idea to solve it is simple - but clever.

Back in 1994, Brian and several friends from his church began collecting and delivering good quality furniture to homeless people and those in personal crises. The furniture had been donated by the general public. Calling themselves “The Furniture Exchange”, members of this pioneering team were often seen around town on Saturdays towing their box-trailer piled high with furniture, behind a volunteer’s car. Brentwood Council allowed them to store items in lock-up garages around the town.

Successful fund-raising over the decade enabled Brian and colleagues to replace their ancient vehicle with a new Luton Transit van, complete with tail-lift which took the strain off their backs. They became “Lighthouse Furniture Project Limited” a Not-For-Profit scheme. Now with charity status, they are a successful organisation, winning the coveted BT Chairman’s Outstanding Achievement Award. Liaising with Brentwood Borough Councillors and Citizens Voluntary Scheme members, this very ‘green’ project has gone from strength to strength.

“A few years ago we were awarded a grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Community recycling and Economic Development Programme,” said Brian. “This enabled us to move into our current premises on the Hutton Industrial Estate. Here in the warehouse we can display items and offer clients a choice. We operate a two-tier pricing system so those on means-tested benefits are eligible to buy at the lower price. We work in conjunction with several referral agencies including Social Services, Basildon & Chelmsford Women’s Refuge, three local Night Shelters and local churches. We provide a caring, supportive and professional service to people in need, without discrimination nor prejudice. Our service is driven by the needs of our clients and delivered by people with total commitment to community service.”

Lighthouse is open 5 ½ days a week with seven full-time and five part-time staff, plus volunteers and there’s always a steady stream of people milling about in the sales warehouse, which is open to the general public. Brian and his team are members of Faithworks, a national organisation encouraging best practice across faith-based organisations engaged in social action. www.faithworks.info.

So - if you have household goods or furniture in good condition for disposal, contact Lighthouse and they will find a new home for them. Tel: 01277 222050