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Chard's Furnicare on the brink of closure
A PIONEERING furniture re-use project which has helped thousands of people on low incomes is on the brink of disappearing from Chard.
Furnicare, which has a shop in Boden Street, was the original furniture recycling facility in Somerset, set up 21 years ago.
It collects furniture given by people who no longer need it and sells it at a low price to those most in need, with the money from the sale funding the operation.
South Somerset Association for Voluntary and Community Action (SSVCA), the charity which runs it, is undertaking a consultation on whether to close the Chard branch.
Six paid staff work there, while 13 colleagues look after the day-to-day running of the Yeovil branch, which could take on the extra work resulting from any closure.
Maureen Pasmore, joint chief executive officer of SSVCA, said: “We are consulting staff regarding a proposal to close the Chard outlet and develop our Yeovil outlet to provide a service to a wider group of residents across South Somerset.
“We are reviewing feedback from staff and have informed key stakeholders, which include Chard Town Council, South Somerset District Council and local residents’ groups.
“Furnicare is completely reliant on the money it generates from its operations and, after 21 years providing donated furniture to people on low incomes, is struggling to support two large warehouses.”
The charity cites a number of reasons for Furnicare’s financial losses in recent years, while being unable to find suitable new premises has added pressure.
SSVCA chairman Nigel Engert added: “Economic uncertainty has meant that many people who would previously have replaced items and donated the old ones to Furnicare have not been buying new.
“At the same time, grants to help us meet our costs have all but disappeared.
“As a result of this pressure on charities’ funding, the number of us selling secondhand furniture has increased, so there’s more competition for the stock available.
“We are sad to be considering leaving Chard but we believe the changes we are planning will not only secure the future of Furnicare but also make its products available to even more people on low incomes in our region.”
But Cllr Jill Shortland, who represents Chard on Somerset County Council, believes closing the Chard branch would hit people hard.
She said: “I am shocked. I have recommended many people to Furnicare. There is a desperate need for this service out there and when you are in desperate need you can’t travel to Yeovil. It’s going to be really tough.
“How desperate are people going to have to get before others realise they can’t do without this? I think this will be a big kick for the people who use it.”
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