Families can rest easier with cribs, toddler beds

Eighteen-month-old Giovanni Chavez goes down for a nap in his crib that his mother, Karisa James, received from Furniture for Families.
Eighteen-month-old Giovanni Chavez goes down for a nap in his crib that his mother, Karisa James, received from Furniture for Families. lsterling@sacbee.com

Like all expectant mothers, Karisa James wanted everything to be perfect for her baby. But with a monthly income of $600 and two other children to support, she had no hope of affording that most basic family item – a crib.

“Every mother wants nice things for her baby, and I felt so sad in my heart that I couldn’t provide her a crib,” James said. “It made me feel like a bad mom.”

Enter Jan Voy and the nonprofit organization she founded in 2001, Furniture for Families. After learning about James’ situation, Voy’s volunteers got to work and made sure baby Ava had a safe and cozy place to sleep when she arrived.

By collecting and distributing cribs and other household furniture in good condition, Voy’s organization fills a need that is often overlooked.

“A lot of our families transition out of homelessness and manage to get a place to live, but then they have nothing to put in it,” said Voy, a registered nurse. “You go from elation to depression. It’s hard to have a positive attitude about getting a job and turning your life around when you and your kids are sleeping on the floor.”

With no paid staff and a corps of 35 volunteers, Furniture for Families has served nearly 2,700 families – almost 12,000 people – since its launch.

After filling out a furniture wish list, clients make appointments to visit the organization’s Rancho Cordova warehouse to make selections. Much like a furniture store, the warehouse has rows of sofas, tables, nightstands, upholstered chairs and new mattresses donated by Sleep Train. Tableware, glassware, paintings and other decorative items also are available.

“Nobody deserves junk,” Voy said, “so we don’t accept donated items that are stained, torn or broken. We want this to be a special, exciting experience for our clients.”

Excited is precisely how James felt when she received her crib. Because of liability and health and safety concerns, Furniture for Families cannot accept used baby furniture, so it relies on donations to purchase new cribs.

“I was expecting something used, which would have been just fine with me,” said James, 23, who lives in Antelope and will complete dental assistant school next year. “So when they walked out with this brand new crib in the box, I couldn’t believe it.”

That wasn’t all. After learning that James was expecting a girl, volunteers presented her with a seven-piece bedding set: “It’s beautiful,” James said, “with butterflies, ladybugs and flowers in pink, green and yellow.”

Furniture for Families is hoping Book of Dreams readers will contribute toward the purchase of 23 additional cribs for needy babies like Ava.

Across town, meanwhile, managers of the Volunteers of America Bannon Family Shelter near Cal Expo have a similar wish. The shelter is one of the few in Sacramento that accommodate families, serving up to 62 people – many of them children – at any one time.

With temperatures dropping, the shelter is brimming with families, and the need for one item is particularly acute – toddler beds.

“Toddlers are too big for cribs and can roll out of bed if they sleep with a parent,” said Lisa Thibodeau, marketing and communications officer for Volunteers of America Northern California & Northern Nevada. “So they often wind up sleeping on the floor.”

The Bannon Shelter, which also provides clients with food, clothing and job readiness services, is hoping for $2,000 this season. The money would allow managers to purchase 10 new toddler beds and ensure children seeking refuge under their roof have a safe place to sleep.

Needed: Funds for cribs for Furniture for Families, toddler beds for America Bannon Family Shelter.

Cost: $2,500 for cribs and $2,000 for toddler beds.


For more than 25 years, The Sacramento Bee’s Book of Dreams has helped people and organizations in our community realize their dreams. Their needs can be as simple as a pair of shoes for someone who is homeless; holiday baskets for low-income families or a shiny, new bike for a child. Whatever the dream, you can help by making a donation today.

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* To claim a tax deduction for 2014, all donations must be postmarked by Dec. 31. All contributions are tax-deductible and none of the money received will be spent on administrative costs. Partial contributions are welcome on any item. In cases where more money is received than requested for a given need, the excess will be applied to meeting the unfulfilled needs in this Book of Dreams. Funds donated in excess of needs listed in this book will fulfill wishes received but not published and will be donated to social service agencies benefiting children at risk. The Sacramento Bee has verified the accuracy of the facts in each of these cases and we believe them to be bona fide cases of need. However, The Sacramento Bee makes no claim, implied or otherwise, concerning their validity beyond the statement of these facts.