A strong community reaction to a crime in Etobicoke gave a charity the chance to recover much quicker than first thought.
Surveillance cameras captured two men tearing out the catalytic converters from delivery trucks owned by the Furniture Bank around 8 p.m. on Feb. 27. The charity gathers donations of used furniture and redistributes it to people in need around the city.
Catalytic converters, devices that control emissions from vehicles, are targeted by thieves for their trace amounts of precious metals that make them a hot ticket item. The theft of the converters would have hit the charity hard.
It would have also hit families who had no furniture and expecting the donations their deliveries on time.
“To take from a charity, that’s very low,” said Adrian Lee, who worked as a mover at Furniture Bank for two months. He said he found this job through his job agency and was interested in having the chance to make a positive impact in the community.
The charity’s director Dylan Kershaw said the organization discovered the thefts on Saturday morning. He said the first priority continued to be their clients, and the recent theft would cost Furniture Bank around $20,000.
“We had three trucks that were scheduled for doing deliveries. So we had about 24 families who were expecting furniture who at that time had no furniture,” said Kershaw, adding the charity was also victims of a similar theft in November.
They thought they were in a jam, but others rallied and pitched in to ensure the deliveries were made on time.
Noah Kravitz, the Furniture Bank’s Community Manager and Fundraising Coordinator and a Humber Lakeshore 2013 grad from the postgraduate Fundraising and Volunteer Management program, said the furniture company Leon’s reached out.
Leon’s donated two trucks and movers to help them pick up and deliver furniture while they raised money to fix their trucks.
“One thing that’s really amazing is we can say confidently since last week we were able to do all our client delivery and donor pickups on time, it’s really been the community stepping up,” said Kravitz.
A fundraising effort began on the Monday following the theft. As of March 10, Furniture Bank had raised $19,500 to replace the stolen catalytic converters.
“The world threw us lemons, and we did our best to make lemonade. We’ve been very fortunate, “ said Kershaw.
He said fix or six companies in the immediate area have experienced catalytic converter thefts.
“All the furniture delivered to a home was selected by the clients,” said Kravitz said
“All the items our clients are selecting are free of charge,” he said.
Kravitz said there is a delivery fee of $150, but depending on the referral agency clients could have their whole home furnished for free.
He said the delivery fee was an important part of Furniture Bank’s social enterprise.
Kravitz said Furniture Bank is a charity, but the pickup service charges donors a fee in return for a tax receipt, and has a business model.
“That’s run like a business, but all the funds we raise through the social enterprise, or the pickup service is what’s funding this charity,” Kravitz said.
The delivery service is the part of the charity most affected by the thefts of the catalytic converters.
Kravitz’s career in the non-profit world began at Humber Lakeshore.
“I got my eyes open to fundraising,” he said. “It was a very much a professional field, and work that was very much needed in the non-profit sector.”
Kravitz enrolled in the postgraduate Fundraising and Volunteer Management program at Humber College and immediately realized it was for him.
Through networking in this program Kravitz made his way to Furniture Bank.
“There are tens of thousands of people in the city that for various reasons all linked to poverty are living without furniture,” said Kershaw. “We don’t really realize how much we love furniture until we don’ t have it.”
“It’s really the community bounding together and doing something that we understand is bigger than all of us,” said Kravitz.
Two weeks prior to the theft, Furniture Bank hosted the city of Toronto’s announcement of $86 million in extended financing for homelessness initiatives.