Staff Sergeant Mora with his wife and children enjoying their completely refurbished living room set from Living Spaces. Robin Phillips/Courtesy
Furnishing Hope is a nonprofit organization that furnishes homes for disabled veterans and mothers with children who are experiencing homelessness. They also provide a nurturing environment for families that may need to recover and adjust to their disabilities and build their future.
They partner with nonprofits throughout California, military hospitals and the Veterans Affairs. Together with sponsorship donations from retailers like Living Spaces, real estate stagers and furniture manufactures, they have furnished over 850 homes for transitional families since 2004 when the organization was incorporated.
Beth Phillips is the founder and director for Furnishing Hope. Her daughter, Robyn Phillips, runs the day-to-day operations for the organization and also manages their furniture store at The MarketPlace in Tustin. Linda Tuggle has been a volunteer for the organization for more than seven years. Rick Brown, former regional vice president and director of sales at ABF Freight Systems assisted Beth in transporting furniture from coast to coast for wounded warriors and their families.
Beth Phillips, founder and director of Furnishing Hope shares her inspiration and passion for helping those who have served in the military
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I have been an interior designer for over 35 years in Orange County and have always felt that I wanted to give something back to my community.
What was the motivation to start Furnishing Hope?
I watched clients throw away thousands of dollars in furniture when construction was completed on their new homes. After seeing such a waste, I saw it as a way to bring people who had so much come together with people who had too little.
How did you begin your charitable work?
I began working with Habitat for Humanity in 2004. Our first project was in Costa Mesa. From 2004 to 2010, we furnished every home they built — 60 homes. In 2010, Habitat for Humanity built 27 homes in San Juan Capistrano — a development of homes for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan which was done in three phases.
How does it make you feel working with veterans?
The young people coming back from war broke my heart. I found one vet who was burned over 80% of his body and jackhammering at a construction site. I saw first-hand the needs these vets faced and I said to myself, “That’s not gonna happen on my watch.”
Beth’s daughter, Robyn Phillips describes her role at Furnishing Hope
What do you do at Furnishing Hope?
As the program director I pretty much take care of all of the operations from the store to the installations. My main job is running installs and managing crews. My mom and I pick out everything for the home including sofas, rugs, art work and whatever else that might be needed. A team is coordinated that goes out to the install— that is where we actually deliver the furniture.
What happens at the install?
After we arrive at their home and meet the recipient, we ask them to leave for a couple of hours and move everything in. We have between two and six volunteers on every project.
Prior to COVID-19 we would sit down and talk when they return. Now we have phone conversations with the recipients after they have settled in. During the past three to four months of coronavirus we have furnished 75 homes.
How do your recipients come to you?
After an individual or family has worked with HUD, Section 8, the VA or another nonprofit and receives a housing voucher, an advocate or mentor contacts us initially. We have been out to Camp Pendleton and Balboa Hospital to let veterans know about our program at Furnishing Hope. The process usually takes between two to three weeks. If a veteran is being released from the hospital we can usually make it out there in a day or two.
How do you know what furnishings to give to the recipients?
All of our recipients fill out a questionnaire. We ask them what are their favorite colors, what do they need, do they have children and what is their favorite relaxation activity. If they have children we find out what their favorite colors are and what their interests are. We use their answers to pick out the decorations and furniture in their homes. We believe every child should have his/her own bed and know exactly that what we give them is theirs to keep.
How has this experience changed you and your outlook on life?
Every time I go into an install, I feel I get to step out of my life and walk into someone else’s to make it a little bit better, more comfortable. Sometimes that feels like a mini-vacation and then you come back to your day-to-day routine. Doing this makes you feel rejuvenated every time you get to help someone else.
Robin Phillips (top left) with her mother Beth Phillips from Furnishing Hope in a completely redecorated living area designed for a wounded warrior. Living Spaces/Courtesy
Linda Tuggle, one of Furnishing Hope’s volunteers, talks about her work with Furnishing Hope
How did you become a volunteer for Furnishing Hope?
I was looking for something to do with my time and a girlfriend told me about this organization after she had read about it in The Orange County Register . I’ve been with them ever since. I love the organization and what they do.
How long have you been volunteering?
For the past seven to eight years I have been a volunteer at Furnishing Hope and have loved every minute of it. Their dedication to helping people is extraordinary.
What do you do at Furnishing Hope?
I primarily prepare the space for installation and my favorite part is actually going out to the site and meeting the recipients. The military vets returning home from war have my heart.
What is your definition of success?
Success comes when we see a smile on their face–sometimes even with tears of joy in their eyes and no words to express their gratitude–and the relief in knowing they will have a place where they can heal and thrive.
A welcome home sign awaits a family with new furniture and decorations. Robin Phillips/Courtesy
Rick Brown, former regional vice president and director of sales at ABF Freight Systems, shares how this company took Furnishing Hope’s goodwill cross country
What did you do to assist this organization?
I am retired now, but when I worked at ABF Freight Systems, I coordinated moves with operations and transportation. When I met Beth Phillips in 2015, she had been offered jobs in Florida, Texas and parts of the midwest. She asked how she could get the furniture moved across the country.
How did you go about coordinating the logistics of the moves?
I contacted the transportation department vice president of operations. This project for the wounded veterans would take a trailer to the warehouse, load it, build a false wall in the truck to protect the furnishings and drive it across the country. The drivers which we called a “Pony Express” would arrive, deliver, unload and set up the home.
How many moves and installs has ABF done for Furnishing Hope?
ABF participated in about 20 to 30 coordinated moves over the span of two to three years while I was still there. The president of the company was ex-military and more than happy to provide these services to the vets. The company is a very large corporation with over 10,000 employees and 350 facilities in the U.S., Mexico, Canada and Hawaii. They have a sophisticated tracking capability with ongoing communication. ABF is still helping Furnishing Hope with moves across the United States.
Rick Brown (left) and wife Patricia at a Furnishing Hope fundraising gala in 2018. Rick Brown/Courtesy