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Liberty Furniture To The Rescue

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Liberty Furniture's Jason Brian signing the check for his company's donor-advised fund.

The Village Connection’s point-of-care room for DFCS get a makeover.

By Cory Sekine-Pettite

If there’s one thing we can count on regarding our neighbors, it’s their willingness to help others in times of need. We often hear stories of selfless deeds, and we wish that we could publish information on all of them. Every once in a while, news of a good deed comes our way that we simply have to share. This time, the charitable act is the complete makeover of the Department of Family & Children Services (DFCS) point-of-care room by the Village Connection.

Village Connection Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that serves children in foster care and homeless in our community. “The Foster Care Point of Care Room is a room [at DFCS] where children go while they are waiting to be placed with a foster home,” explained Village Connection co-founder Everlean Rutherford. “They also go into this room for various other reasons. Some children may even have to spend several hours in this room. The room hadn’t been updated in years. There was even a VHS player and tapes in there [as well as] outdated and broken toys. It needed a complete refresh.

“My husband and I started Village Connection Inc. because we saw the need to do more for foster kids,” Rutherford continued. “We are foster parents and also adopted through the foster care system. We do respite care and see the trauma kids go through right after being removed from their parents. We wanted to do all that we could to help all that we could.”

In order to revive the 800-square-foot room, Rutherford searched online for potential grants or other assistance and came across the Cobb Community Foundation (CCF). The Foundation’s website features its own “Connection” — The Cobb Community Connection — which connects organizations serving the community with people who want to help. Rutherford posted her needs on the site and connected almost immediately with two ladies who wanted to help. Lucky for Rutherford, those ladies happened to work for CCF. The first to answer was Catherine Gankofskie, resource manager at CCF and a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in Cobb County who works with children in the foster care system. “So I took off my Cobb Community Foundation hat and just called Everlean and said, ‘Hey, I’m interested in being one of your volunteers,’” said Gankofskie.

From there, CCF Executive Director, Shari Martin, heard about the project and knew exactly how to add even more assistance. Liberty Furniture, which already had established a $1-million Donor-Advised Fund through CCF to fund specific charitable initiatives, is a very community minded, philanthropic organization, Martin said. “When we found out about [The Village Connection’s needs], we reached out to Liberty and said, ‘Hey, this is going on. You’re always looking for ways to make a difference,” she said. Thus, Martin suggested they provide furnishings for the updated space. “And while this really has nothing to do with [Liberty’s] Cobb Community Foundation fund, it has everything to do with the relationship that we have with them, knowing what they want to achieve and the difference they want to make, and pairing them with an opportunity that existed in the community that is just a perfect way for them to reach out,” Martin added.

“When we met Shari, we couldn’t have been more certain that the partnership would help Liberty to extend our charitable outreach,” said Liberty’s President and CEO, Jason Brian. “Cobb Community Foundation has a clear purpose within Cobb and Douglas counties, which is where the majority of our employees live. Their expertise outside of Cobb was also extremely impressive.”

Founded in 1992, Liberty Furniture is based in Fulton County, but Brian is a resident of Cobb. The company’s full line of bedroom, dining, living room, and office furniture is sold exclusively through a network of authorized dealers. Earlier this year, the company was recognized as one of the best furniture brands in the world by Home Refinery, an online publication for the furniture industry.

The renovations took place the weekend of October 12. “Our motto is ‘It Takes a Village’ and [the volunteers] definitely proved that to be true,” Rutherford said. “The Cobb Community Connection was an awesome way for the community to come together as a village.” Among the 16 volunteers who pitched in to move furniture in and out, shampooing the carpet, repainting walls, etc., was Village Connection Project Manager Isaiah Wilcox, CASA volunteers Gankofskie and Sara Winograd, and the director of Cobb County DFCS, Carmen Nance. Replacing metal shelves, plastic cabinets and a toddler bed (the only bed available even for teenagers) are the furnishings provided by Liberty: a bookcase, daybed, two night stands, storage trunk, and sideboard. “The Village Connection Project really hit on our core values to help children in need,” Brian said. “These are the rooms that kids experience first during an extremely traumatic time, and due to budget reasons, the rooms had not been updated in years. Liberty was really excited to be able to provide some of our furniture to brighten the space.

Renovation volunteers, including Everlean Rutherford (center).

“It is so rewarding to see what a relatively small donation can do to make a large impact,” Brian continued. “The pictures tell the story and bring joy to our hearts that Liberty could be a part of it.”

Additionally, Rutherford said the freshly painted walls keep the room light and bright with minimal fuss. “It’s an inviting and vibrant room,” she said. “We want the best for kids in foster care. There is a daybed for older kids to sleep on, and cots for the younger children.”

“When these children are removed from wherever they are and come into DFCS’s care, that’s traumatic,” said Gankofskie, who describes the new space as peaceful. “And sometimes they leave with their items in a trash bag — and that is traumatic. Now to be able to come into a room that has textures and pretty colors, it kind of takes that level of anxiety from super-high down to being kind of OK.”

Whether you’re a business owner looking for ways to give back or an individual who wants to make a difference, you, too, can set up a fund through CCF or browse the Cobb Community Connection for volunteer opportunities. CCF’s mission is inspiring charitable giving, building resources for the future, and connecting donors who care with causes that matter. “We fulfill that mission every day for our fundholders. We can accept charitable contributions from a donor, hold and invest those contributions in a charitable fund advised by that donor, help identify causes and organizations that are of interest, then turn around and make a ‘grant’ from the fund as the donor requests,” Martin explained. “However, our mission does not just apply to our fundholders. It applies to everyone, and that is why we created The Connection: to connect anyone who wants to help with organizations who need that help.” Learn more at cobbfoundation.org.

“Liberty is a family-oriented business, devoted to employees, customers, and the community,” Brian added. “Every year, our goal is to give back sizably to a select few charitable organizations in the community that we live and work in. We are excited to have a partner to help us navigate our money and give money or volunteer at fully vetted organizations where it really counts.”