True to their tagline, “Transforming our community, one Nest at a time,” greeNest of Winston-Salem invites us all to realize how much we can play a role in changing others’ lives.
It’s by giving and receiving that all can flourish – and that is the very definition of community.
“greeNest participants’ homes are not the only ‘nests’ to be transformed, as donors also find homes for items they no longer need or use,” said Executive Director Julia Toone. “Donors also experience the personal impact as they see posts on social media of their own previously loved items being chosen by program participants.”
Here’s how it began: Through their volunteer work at a winter overflow shelter for the homeless, sisters Jan Barbee and Joanna Britt realized families and individuals transitioning from homelessness to housing often lacked the resources to obtain essential home items.
Also recognizing the generosity of the Winston-Salem community, it seemed only natural that those two elements meet in an initiative that encouraged those with extra furnishings to share. All those things we might be blessed with but can no longer use, might be even larger blessings for those moving into sustainable housing. Gently used furnishings can be donated for new home dwellers to choose from, shopping to make their new surroundings feel more like their own! For a nominal fee, participants, accompanied by caseworkers from various partner agencies, will choose donated items that best suit their needs and preferences, thus providing dignity and prioritization skills. Participants then will become “owners,” not merely “recipients.”
Jan and Joanna launched “Finally Home,” greeNest’s signature program, in 2015 and, a year later, were contacted by a school social worker. The request was a basic one: Could they also provide beds for children whose families lacked resources to buy those for their children?
Soon came “Up Off the Floor” which provides new beds for children in Forsyth County from birth to 18 years of age. Local case workers at partnering agencies identify children who may be sleeping on the floor or in an unsafe sleeping space, and greeNest supplies both twin beds and pack-and-plays at no cost to families. While bed donations must be new, still-wrapped mattresses, box springs and bed pillows, the community is encouraged to donate twin-size bedding – plus much-needed items such as queen bed frames, microwaves, cooking utensils, cleaning supplies and gently used sofas. (See greenestws.org/we-accept for suggestions.)
More than 100 community partners work with greeNest, including the Salvation Army and Family Services, local churches, the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School System, the local health department and more. Also supported by many local businesses with both monetary and in-kind donations, greeNest was awarded the 2023 Joel A. Weston, Jr. Award for Nonprofit Excellence.
Approximately 250 active volunteers currently help at every level of the process, from collecting, supporting and repairing furniture donations to assembling packs of tableware and cookware as well as bed and bath packs. Volunteers might also be asked to work in the front office or help with fundraising events, and they also arrange the showroom floor and assist program participants when they come to shop – enjoying the one-on-one interaction to share ideas! Two volunteer orientations are held each month, and there’s also a new, fun way to become involved.
“We are launching a pilot for an ambassador program for greeNest supporters who want to get more involved in promoting our mission,” said Julia. “We call it ‘Porch Party,’ where participants will host a gathering at their homes of neighbors, friends, family and colleagues to help spread the word about how we work. We can only do so much in our space, and this is a way supporters can take an active role in widening our reach.”
During the holidays, look for greeNest Dewey’s bakery pop-up shops – always a popular way to lend your support!
For more information on greeNest programs, call 336.661.8091, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit greeNestws.org where donations can be made online, and you can find a list of items that can and cannot be accepted. Hours are Tuesday through Friday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., and Saturday 9:00 a.m. – noon, at 630 Brookstown Avenue, Winston-Salem, NC.