Catholic mom trio sets out to furnish new residents with dignity

Members of Furnishing Dignity move furniture into an apartment. (Courtesy photo/Furnishing Dignity)
Members of Furnishing Dignity move furniture into an apartment. (Courtesy photo/Furnishing Dignity)

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Furnishing Dignity

Provides basic household items to individuals and families in need. Accepts gently used items, volunteers and donations.

Info: (480) 340-3417 or Furnishingdignity.org

[/quote_box_right][dropcap]I[/dropcap]nstead of the smells of a juicy barbecue, the splashing of water games and cracks of sparklers that typically mark the Fourth of July, there were aromas of freshly vacuumed carpet in an empty apartment and the sounds of furniture pieces being steadily trekked up two flights of stairs.

Three Catholic moms spearheaded the move-in an effort to restore a life of independent living for a single-parent family. The moms plan to make this type of assistance a regular effort and they by no means are limiting it to holidays or days off. It’s now their life.

St. Benedict parishioners Joyce Petrowski, Lisa Campbell and Anita Buckel — plus Petrowski’s husband Greg stepping in as treasurer — formed Furnishing Dignity, a nonprofit that provides basic household goods to those in need. They network with existing nonprofits for pre-screened client referrals.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation and Angels on Patrol, a cooperative effort between Phoenix and Tempe police officers who identify families and children facing extreme financial hardship, supported their effort early on. The agencies are known as Dignity Partners.

Will and Stacey Lykins of Lykins Properties, also St. Benedict parishioners, allow Furnishing Dignity to use their moving truck whenever it’s available.

Clients have been grateful. A single mom of two teenaged sons was in tears. An elderly woman wrote a heartfelt thank you praising their compassion.

“As a homeless individual, your spirit is ground down daily. And sometimes you wonder can it ever by revived again? The streets are so cold and brutal. Your compassion, efforts, thoughtfulness, consideration, generosity, attention to detail and love shown to a total stranger mean more to me than I could ever tell you. I loved everything,” the woman wrote.

Furnishing Dignity spearheaded four move-ins since obtaining nonprofit status earlier this year. That included two in one week in early August. They moved in a mom and her three children referred by Angels on Patrol plus a single man who transitioned out of medical respite care through Circle the City.

Furnishing Dignity founders, from left to right, Lisa Campbell, Joyce Petrowski and Anita Buckel. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Furnishing Dignity founders, from left to right, Lisa Campbell, Joyce Petrowski and Anita Buckel. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

The seed was planted more than three years ago. Petrowski repeatedly encountered an elderly woman who visited a St. Vincent de Paul dining room. When she learned the woman was moving into a senior apartment, Petrowski reached out to friends to furnish it.

One Christmas, Campbell supported a parishioner’s request to help provide an adopt-a-family effort with bunk beds. It wasn’t until the Catholic moms set up a convent for the Consolata sisters in Sacaton on the Gila Indian Reservation last fall that Furnishing Dignity began to solidify.

“It was on the drive back that we looked at each other and said, ‘We need to formalize this so we can reach out and help more people,’” Petrowski said.

Furnishing Dignity’s website went live on Good Friday with a launch party following in June. Even though it wasn’t a fundraising event, some of the guests felt moved to support its effort on the spot.

Funds support ongoing needs such as mattresses, which have to be new. Gas too. At this point, Furnishing Dignity goes to wherever there is a need in the metro Phoenix area.

The moms know it’s worth it to create a livable space for individuals or families transitioning into stable housing following a period of homelessness, domestic violence, natural disaster, aging out of foster care or other traumatic circumstance. Campbell said home could be one place to be comfortable and count your blessings.

“That makes you feel human. Everything else can be falling down around you,” she said.

The Furnishing Dignity moms, who met nine years ago while fulfilling roles at St. John Bosco School, will host a party this fall for Arizona Friends of Foster Care. Its guests — all who are aging out of foster care and won’t have a family to fall back on financially — will leave with portable, non-furnishing household items to set them on their way.