In 2022, husband and wife Pashk Sokoli and Amanda Reilly-Sokoli launched the Pennsylvania Furniture Mission. It’s dedicated to serving the needy in Lancaster, Lebanon, Dauphin, York and Berks counties.
The Furniture Mission provide furniture for households in transition, who are trying to break out of the cycle of poverty and furnish a new home.
The couple described the objective as promoting a “warm and welcoming” space and helping recipients to overcome the financial barriers that are holding them back.
United Way of Lancaster County is providing a $10,000 Level Up & Launch grant to help with startup costs.
It will allow the Furniture Mission to provide client services, including pickup and delivery, and will cover some warehouse costs.
As a social worker and community organizer, Amanda said the new project is very personal to her.
“Not everybody has the same start in life,” she said. “People come with different backgrounds and different experiences.”
Pashk spoke about his personal experiences in his native Albania with homelessness and the chaos it involves.
“I come from a country that does not have a lot of resources,” he said. “We want to reach as many people as we can.”
The Furniture Mission is making a point of only stocking quality items in good condition, Amanda said: “It’s our duty to provide the opportunity for people to create safe and warm spaces.
Both Amanda and Pashk talked about the “dignity of choice”: The importance of families being able to pick out furniture themselves, selecting what they really want.
The PA Furniture Mission is also saving resources by diverting waste from landfills.
Statistically, furniture is the least recyclable household item, Amanda said. To date, the mission has diverted 70 tons from the waste stream. All items are sanitized and refurbished as needed.
Amanda and Pashk moved to Lancaster County from Chicago, where Pashk was the director of operations for the Chicago Furniture Bank.
When he started, it was a small team with eight people and five trucks, and had served, according to his estimation, about 250 households. By the time he left, it had 60 people, and 14 trucks and had served 5,000 households.
The Chicago Furniture Bank provided a tractor-trailer full of donations to help the Pennsylvania Furniture Mission get started. It wasn’t easy, though: Pashk and Amanda loaded the truck themselves and drove it overnight from Chicago to Columbia.
The PA Furniture Mission is looking to acquire its own box truck, ideally one 16 feet to 26 feet long. Right now, it is renting trucks from U-Haul.
A truck of their own “would be a huge help,” Amanda said.
Besides the two of them, PA Furniture Mission is employing one part-time delivery person. Eventually, they want to bring more people on board, Pashk said.
“It’s our goal to employ from the community we serve,” he said.
PA Furniture Mission is a small operation now, but the Amanda and Pashk have big goals and an ambitions vision.
“When people actually have (the ability) to choose, they get hope,” Pashk said. “It empowers people. It provides stability.”