Recycled Items ‘Make A Home,’ Thanks To Local Couple’s Efforts
By Nancy K. Crevier
Dan Telesco and Anita Pettengill are in the business of giving, but they would not mind taking a donation themselves, in order that their organization, Make A Home Foundation, can continue to give to those who need help most.
“A donation of a box truck is what we really need, capable of covering 100 miles a day,” said Ms Pettengill. “We have a pickup truck, but it’s on its last wheels, so the delivery of big items is a problem for us. We have items that people need, and we can’t get them delivered,” she said. They have rented delivery trucks, but it is an expensive proposition.
Make A Home Foundation is dedicated to providing free furniture, appliances, clothing, and other items to veterans, families, and individuals who are homeless, either due to temporary circumstances or those problems that are on-going. The two Newtown residents started Make A Home almost by accident, said Ms Pettengill.
“We are both avid tag-salers,” she said, “and people used to ask us to ‘pick up this or that,’ or ‘I know someone who needs this…’ Friends in social services would tell us, ‘We have a family who needs…’” But what really got them going was one Saturday last year, when arriving at a tag sale at the end of the day, they realized the homeowners were loading up all of the unsold items to bring to the dump.
“We said, ‘No, there are things that others can use,” she recalled. So, they filled up their vehicle and put it all in their own garage, and began distributing it to those they heard were in need.
“We collect everything that is not ripped, stained, torn, or broken,” said Mr Telesco. “We’ll gladly take or pick up just about anything. There’s a need for everything that we collect, whether it is furniture or toys or candleholders. We take it all, because we want people that we help to feel like they are making a home, not just homeless people living in a room somewhere,” he said.
The business quickly outgrew the space in their garage at 87 Church Hill Road, so most of the items that are donated are now stored in an empty office building in Waterbury, and in a space provided by the owners of the New Colony Diner in Monroe.
Their designation as a 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization is currently pending, but they are affiliated with several agencies in the state to help determine where the donated items will go, including United Way of Waterbury, CRT in Hartford, the Continuum of Care in Waterbury, the Department of Children and Families, Family and Children’s Aid in Danbury, Waterbury Health, the VNA, the West Haven Veterans Association, and the Veterans Association of Rocky Hill. Receipts for donations are available.
“We ask the agencies to qualify whoever they send to us,” said Ms Pettengill, “using a ‘needs’ sheet that we supply.” The recipients must go through some sort of a state, federal, or local help agency in order to receive goods from Make A Home Foundation, said Ms Pettengill, but if an agency is not aware of the relatively new organization’s existence, the prospective client can provide the agency with contact information and have the agency get in touch.
What Make A Home Foundation is most in need of at this time is donations of large appliances in good working order, bed frames, mattresses, and cribs. Bedding linens, towels, dishes, and silverware are also desperately needed, as are pots and pans, and cooking utensils. They will gladly pick up donations of portable items, but currently must ask donors to bring appliances and large scale furniture to them.
The foundation also takes couches, chairs, tables, bookcases, small appliances, small television sets, clocks, radios, lamps and lamp shades, cleaning supplies, toys, clothing, sleeping bags, holiday decorations, and hygiene products. Because it is just the two of them collecting, sorting, and distributing items, they do not have time to test every single item donated. It is essential that donated items be in good working order, and clean. “We don’t want to become a junkyard,” stressed Ms Pettengill.
Make A Home has become a second full-time job for Mr Telesco and Ms Pettengill, who also operate ACT Management, a real estate investment management company. “We could use volunteers to sort through donated items,” said Ms Pettengill. Most of the sorting is done in Waterbury, so volunteers must be willing to travel.
Many of the donations are smaller items and clothing, so last, but not least on their wish list, is the gift of large plastic storage containers to store and organize donations, and sturdy clothing racks.
Make A Home Foundation is also able to place office furniture and equipment with other nonprofit agencies that need desks, chairs, and filing cabinets. Information on doing so can be found at their website, makeahomefoundation.org.
Mr Telesco and Ms Pettengill see the organization as being beneficial to the environment, as well. “People are filling up landfills with things that other people need. It’s such a waste to throw it away,” Ms Pettengill pointed out. “It’s a little of that saying, ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,’ I guess,” she said. Ms Pettengill and Mr Telesco emphasized that there is never a charge of any kind for any of the items provided by Make A Home Foundation, nor do they ask for a donation, which they believe would only make some recipients uncomfortable or unwilling to ask for help.
They are extremely grateful, they said, for the generosity that has been shown so far by residents of Newtown and Sandy Hook, from whom they estimate nearly 85 percent of their donations have been received. “Here in Newtown, we have the privilege of getting tired of our things and just replacing them with something new. But there is someone out there who will appreciate what we’re ‘tired’ of,” said Ms Pettengill. “We’ll take whatever people want to donate.”
For information about Make A Home Foundation visit makeahomefoundation.org, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Pick ups of donations or a time for drop offs can be arranged by calling 203-270-5501.