Meubles et Monde (Furniture and World)

I am SUPER PROUD of my friends Julien and Andrea!!! Their new NGO, Meubles et Monde distributes furniture to new immigrants in their community, Park Extension in Montréal. The following article appeared in the Montreal Gazette last week. It tells a good bit of the story of this amazing young family.  Sanan and I were around Montreal back when they decided to move into this highly diverse immigrant community. We were their sounding board as they shared with us their initial dreams, victories, frustrations and failures. We’ve walked the streets with them and have met many of their neighbors and friends. They are the “real deal”. To me, they are the example of what a Follower of Jesus looks like in the 21-st century.

Also…if you’ve got some extra cash laying around, or have come into some unexpected money recently, seriously consider passing some of it on to Meubles et Monde…..and they’ll pass it on to others……

Community builders: Meubles et Monde goes on weekly furniture run

MONTREAL – Park Extension resident Julien Desrochers found it absurd that so many local families were living in unfurnished apartments, while quality, used furniture could be found all over Montreal.

So last fall he launched Meubles et Monde. Once a week, he rents a truck and picks up donated furniture and brings it to the homes of families in Park Extension who can put it to good use.

Previously, the 32-year-old father of two worked at a local community centre, where he was involved in after-school programming for kids. Through his work, he says, he became familiar with the local groups and people who support vulnerable families. “It was easy to see what is being done, but also what is lacking in the neighbour hood in terms of services,” he said.

Desrochers says he kept hearing from newly arrived immigrants and refugees, who after several months in one apartment, still lacked a bed, or other furniture.

In the fall of 2010, he attended a local social justice conference where he shared the issue and what he figured was an obvious solution – all that was needed was a truck and someone available to do the hauling. An audience member approached him afterward and said she’d coordinate a moving truck through her husband’s company and post a call for used furniture through churches she knew.

Desrochers was quick to agree to the one-day pilot project and contacted social workers at the Park Extension CLSC. Within a few days, he said, about six social workers connected him to local families. All the furniture – about 40 pieces – was spoken for. Following a day of successful deliveries, he was getting new requests.

“It just proved to me that it was a need and it was doable,” he said. He began developing the idea for the service with his wife, Andrea Beverly.

“It was important to jump into action first,” he said. He now rents a storage locker in Park Extension and covers that expense, as well as the weekly truck rental, through nominal donations. Since January, he’s also been able to pay himself a small salary and Meubles et Monde has been incorporated as a non-profit association.

People from all over the island have contacted Desrochers to offer quality used furniture, and he’d like to connect with local businesses who have surpluses. Dormez-Vous recently granted him access to an ongoing supply of used, clean mattresses. With a record of positive results, and a regular service that’s more and more in demand, Desrochers said, he’s now looking for long-term, stable funding.

Desrochers holds his baby, his young daughter nearby, watching Snow White on a laptop, as he talks about the project in his modest apartment. He delivers furniture to at least one family per week, he says, and finds the best strategy is to determine a family’s specific needs, then find the right furniture. Single moms, he says, often those who have recently left a partner, are the most common demographic he serves. And there are constant requests for good quality items for babies.

“I don’t want to do just pure charity, just giving furniture to people and saying ‘bye’,” Desrochers said. “There’s a way to go farther.”

Community building is part of the Meubles et Monde mission. Desrochers says he’s introduced neighbours to one another, and furniture recipients often ask what they can do in exchange. Depending on the situation, he might suggest they come help with the next delivery.

Paul Omer Yao, 34, moved to Park Extension less than a year ago from the Ivory Coast. He and his wife were looking for separate mattresses for their four year-old boy and two year-old daughter. The children had been sharing a queen, and Yao says they didn’t have a lot of money to work with. He and Desrochers met at a time when Desrochers was looking for someone to help him pick up donated mattresses.

“It came at a good time,” Yao said. His kids are happy to each have their own proper bed and can now arrange their belongings as they like around their beds, he says. And it gave him pleasure to help Desrochers with his cause.

“I found that very kind that he’d decided to help people like that,” Yao said of Desrochers. “I think they will be very successful.”