FAIRMONT – Couches, pots, pans, tables, chairs and appliances all lay dormant in the Fleming Mansion.
While the historic structure has many time pieces in the furniture that decorate the interior, the basement is populated with a hundred more items others have tossed in the trash or left on a curb.
The used goods lie in wait for someone in need who may be getting into a house or apartment of their own for the first time, according to Woman’s Club President Marcella Yaremchuk.
“This space has never been used as long as I’ve been in the Woman’s Club, so why not use it for something,” Yaremchuk said. “This is a yard sale you don’t have to pay anything for.”
Yaremchuk calls this collection of gently-used goods “Blessings in the Basement” and it began in June of 2018 with the leadership of Scott Place Shelter.
The Shelter, which helps those who were once homeless obtain suitable housing, had a need and the Woman’s Club had the volunteers who were willing to step up and fill that need. However, a lot of times the housing Scott Place helps people with are places that are often unfurnished.
“She gives us furniture to give out to people who get out of Scott Place,” said Tim Dawson, Shelter manager. “She has been a real boon to Scott’s Place since starting that.”
Yaremchuk works with the Woman’s Club, as well as her church and the Fairmont Rotary Club to collect everything from kitchen utensils to furniture – everything a person needs to live in a home on their own. Yaremchuk said everyone helped by Blessings in the Basement comes from a different set of circumstances.
For example, victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse who are referred to the Woman’s Club by HOPE Inc. may have nothing because they had to pick up and leave their dangerous situation on a moment’s notice.
“A couple people have had problems with landlords not keeping their apartments bug-free so they have had to move out and leave their belongings,” Yaremchuk said. “These are problems for some folks who are not able to just start over. They need help, need a hand to start over.”
Dawson said that being without a home can lead people to further, long-term problems with their health and social situations, so housing is a big focus of the mission of Scott Place. Once they help a person find a more permanent residence, an individual can begin working to improve their life, so it helps for them to have a chair or bed to sit on.
“Everybody that comes in the shelter, we work with them to find income, employment and housing – most importantly housing,” Dawson said. “They also need plates, silverware, cups; they need furniture. Marcella helps us get all that.”
Having helped people from different backgrounds, such as veterans and victims of domestic abuse, Yaremchuk said she could take just about anything to keep stocked in the Woman’s Club basement.
“The VA will buy them a bed or a mattress and springs, but they don’t give them the sheets to put on the bed,” Yaremchuk said. “So that’s where we come in; we try to help with the sheets and the blankets and the dishes and pots and pans.”
Sometimes, Yaremchuk will bring people down to the basement for them to pick out their items on their own. She said she has seen several times how furniture recipients will walk round and around the room until they see an item they truly love.
For her, that moment of awe is the best part, because some people may never have had their own rug or wall art.
“You just don’t realize little things like that until somebody mentions it,” Yaremchuk said. “They have all been appreciative, humble, thankful people, and it’s a needed project.”
Although she doesn’t ask any personal questions of the people she helps, Yaremchuk has only one request of them. Blessings in the Basement is made possible by the efforts of multiple people and organizations, so Yaremchuk just asks them to pay it forward.
“That’s what I say ‘When you get on your feet, you just pass it on however you can,’” Yaremchuk said. “Why else are we on the earth? Just breathing and taking up space – you’re supposed to be helping each other.”