A furniture recycling business in Penzance has scooped a Community Stars award.
GOFA, which stands for Good Old Furniture Available, is a non-profit making charity which supports people of all ages, in need of help to furnish their homes.
The charity provides donated furniture and household electrical goods at affordable prices, and plays a key role for people in need of support when furnishing their homes, particularly when moving into their own home for the first time.
GOFA, which was set up in 1995 by a retired schoolteacher originally as a church project, has 17 volunteers working for them and supports people across west Cornwall from the ages of 16 through to pensioners.
GOFA’s community work was recognised after being named as one of two group winners in the latest round of our Community Stars awards.
Graeme Stevens, Project Manager for GOFA Furniture, said: “We are over the moon with the award and extremely grateful to have been nominated by a resident.
“We don’t really see ourselves as Community Stars, but just people who have a desire and drive to help and support others.
“It has been a challenging 18 months for us and we are getting back to normal now.
“We are seeing an increased demand for our services amongst people who are struggling to make ends meet.
“Some people have seen their hours cut and others have lost their jobs during the pandemic. The low incomes in the area mean the cost of new furniture is out of their reach. That is where we come in.
“We regularly get phone calls from people looking for beds, sofa, ovens, fridges and freezers.
All of the furniture is donated and we are so thankful for people’s kindness.
“But we do pride ourselves on providing good-quality furniture.
“Around 60% to 70% of people that come in our warehouse pay for the items they take away, albeit at a low price.
“Our aim is for people to have good mental and physical wellbeing and surrounding yourself with good furniture and appliances can make you feel better in yourself.
“I have always had a heart for the community and people and this is the best thing I have ever done.”
GOFA has a link with NHS Bolitho House, helping people who are experiencing mental health issues.
GOFA also helps with The Ark Project in Camborne, YMCA, Konnect Communities, Social Services and a women’s refuge, NHS Treliske Hospital and many other local charity shops who all seek to help within the community.
Graeme added: “During the pandemic we helped their clients move from one property to another, ensuring that the flats were furnished and equipped before they arrived.
“We come across vulnerable people all of the time and, for us, it’s not just about delivering furniture and leaving, we ask if they are okay and look out for them.
“We also give the opportunity for them to pop into the GOFA warehouse if they ever need a place to have a cuppa and talk to someone.
“We would like to do more with another vehicle but we only have the one van at the moment so we are limited in what we can help with.”
We have provided financial support for GOFA Furniture to grow over the years, donating £5,000 towards the cost of a new van and a further £1,000 grant when Covid-19 broke out.
Graeme, a former teaching assistant at a primary school, added: “The award is a credit to the wonderful group of volunteers we have here.
“Many of them have been with us for years repairing the furniture. There is a gentleman who does our PAT testing who used to work for the Ministry of Defense.
“We have retired carpenters, ladies that come in and do some painting and youngsters who want to get some experience in the charity sector. Without their loyalty and heart they have for the community, it wouldn’t be possible to do what we do.
“Some of the volunteers just need something in their life and a purpose. They come in from all backgrounds and situations and it is fantastic to see their self-esteem and confidence rise as a result of doing something that makes such a difference to people’s lives.
“We are extremely grateful to LiveWest for their support for GOFA and the relationship we have with them is great. To be able to support their residents goes some way to repaying the generosity they have shown towards us.
“I would also like to give thanks to Cornwall Council who we rent our warehouse from as we are grateful to be able to operate from the center of the town in Penzance. They have given us tremendous support, may this long continue”
The furniture reuse project was nominated by a resident for a Community Stars award – a quarterly award which we run to recognise extraordinary acts of kindness since the pandemic.
Leanda Flower, our Community Investment Manager, said: “GOFA Furniture play a leading role in helping to provide affordable furniture for residents in west Cornwall.
“It has been great to be able to support this fantastic charity. The grant we issued last year was to help them identify people who have an urgent need and are in poverty.
“The service they provide undoubtedly benefits our residents and this award is deserved recognition for the sterling work they do in our communities.”