Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany, created in 1917 to help those in need at all stages of life, will discontinue its relatively new furniture program sometime in September.
Jenn Hyde, executive director of Catholic Charities Tri-County Services since August of 2013, confirmed Tuesday that the program, designed to provide good, quality furniture to those in need, will be eliminated. The program was created in 2006.
“We don’t have the funds to sustain the program at this time,” said Hyde. “Catholic Charities has a formal process that is followed when considering the closure of a program. We conducted a thorough analysis, and once that was complete I made the final recommendation to the board of trustees. Then the board gives its final approval.”
Catholic Charities is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that functions separately from the Albany Diocese but operates under the authority of Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, who serves as chair of the board. Scharfenberger was in meetings all day and unavailable for comment Tuesday, but Kenneth Goldfarb, director of communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, did issue a statement regarding the closure.
“One of the important factors considered in the review process is whether there are other resources outside of Catholic Charities that can provide the same sort of service,” said Goldfarb. “In this case, such programs do exist and those who now request assistance from this program are being referred to these other sources.”
Goldfarb added that the funds used for the furniture program, which had a yearly budget of $102,000, will be funneled into the community through other essential programs run by Catholic Charities, such as services involving homeless shelters, senior care, developmental disabilities and food panties, to name a few. Last year, according to Goldfarb, the furniture program served less than 400 households.
The warehouse in Rotterdam is operated by one full-time employee, one part-time employee and six volunteers. “We’re here in the warehouse Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we’re out picking up stuff the other three days,” said Adam McQueen, who has worked at the site for two years. “Along with the furniture, we have a lot of bedding, lamps, small televisions, microwaves and other small appliances.”
Those using the program must pay a $10 enrollment fee.
“We’re still meeting the needs of the folks that had already been part of the process,” said Hyde. “But at this point we’re not taking on any new consumers and we anticipate being able to close the warehouse by the end of the summer. People do have other alternatives in place and when they reach out to us we share that information with them.”
The program opened its furniture warehouse at the Rotterdam Industrial Park in November 2012. It had been housed in Rensselaer at what was formerly St. Anthony-on-the-Hudson Seminary.
Jack Beckett of Rotterdam was retired in 2009 when he took on the job of running the program, a part-time position.
“I wanted to give a little something back, but I got a little frustrated with Catholic Charities and I left in April of 2013,” said Beckett. “It was a great program. Everybody who volunteers falls in love with it. But it really needed someone working for it in a full-time position. I don’t think they tried hard enough. There was an enormous need. When I left I had 270 phone calls to return from people looking for furniture. But I felt like Catholic Charities was more concerned about returning the donors’ phone calls than the people who were looking for help.”
The furniture was typically donated by individuals or businesses, then made available to those in need.
“We called it ‘gently used’ and our philosophy was that we never took any furniture that we wouldn’t have wanted to use in our own house,” said Beckett. “We didn’t want to downgrade the people we were serving.”