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Iowa City organization making strides in giving beds, furniture to families in need

The co-founders want to turn their organization into a full time business and raise money for their own truck to transport the furniture in the future.

Two Iowa City moms are helping bring more resources to families in need in their community, particularly beds.

"Everyone should have a bed to sleep on," said Salina McCarty.

That simple motto still carries weight for McCarty and Lucy Barker, the two women who founded Houses into Homes. It is an organization that took off in February 2018 with a simple idea to give beds to families who have gotten out of tough situations, like homelessness, but who still struggle to obtain resources for their new home.

Both McCarty and Barker noticed that need while volunteering within the Iowa City Community School District.

"That was mostly my motivation behind it, was kind of seeing kids in school tired because they had slept on the floor or hadn't slept because they were on the floor," said McCarty.

"It started out with just a couple of us and our husbands, and they were doing all the heavy lifting," said Barker.

Since then, dozens of volunteers, and local groups have helped them assist nearly 100 families get the resources they need to start over. Volunteers deliver the pieces of furniture every other Sunday as items become available to families.

Organizations and donors across the corridor contributed nearly 200 beds and countless furniture that have since been delivered to those families. Yet, the bedding and furniture do not just go to families transitioning out of homelessness.

"Some of the families are coming out of a domestic violence situation, so they may have moved to their apartment with only some clothes, and there are refugee immigrant families," said Barker.

'I think it is surprising to many people in Johnson County to know that we do have quite a few families who are experiencing homelessness or temporary living," said Shannon Miner.

Miner is a student and family advocate at Alexander Elementary. She refers families in need within her school to Houses into Homes. She said, until now, there has not been a service like this in the community to help some of the most needy families in the school district.

"It's really important that children have a place to call their own and feel cozy and warm and safe before they come to school each day," she said.

"Some families are overjoyed. We just actually got a message from someone we delivered to this morning who said this is the best Christmas present ever for her kids," said Barker.

However, the organization is considered more than just volunteers loading up furniture and dropping it off to families.

"We spend time getting to know the families. We come visit families and individuals before a drop off and kind of talk to them about their story," said McCarty.

"We feel like it's important to help our community out," said volunteer Riley Uthe.

"It's really interesting how much a difference just a bed can make for a child," said volunteer Zoey Smith.

With each trip to a new home, McCarty and Barker hope they can keep building a stronger community and close the gap in resources for people in need.

"At some point we [want to] grow to the point where we can take all of the burden off of other agencies, and we're just the ones taking care of this," said McCarty.

Houses into Homes recently won a 100+ Women Who Care: Hawkeye Chapter third quarter donation, which helped fund for a bigger storage facility for a full year, but they say they still want to find more ways to raise money and find an even bigger storage space for the furniture.

The co-founders also want to turn their organization into a full time business and raise money for their own truck to transport the furniture in the future.

Information on how to volunteer or donate resources to their cause can be found on the Houses into Homes website.

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