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Welcome Home, devoted to helping families in need, expands in West Newton

Inside nonprofit Welcome Home's new 1,600-square-foot West Newton location.Sheryl Kalis

Every month, Newton-based nonprofit Welcome Home distributes like-new, donated household items to roughly 75 families experiencing hardship. Among them are immigrants who are new to the area, people in domestic violence survivor programs, and families moving out of shelters into affordable housing. Most of the families it serves are large, intergenerational households, said Welcome Home founder Julie Plaut Mahoney. “There’s something really beautiful about that amplification. You give one woman one pan, but how many people is she making eggs for?”

In May, Welcome Home received the 2022 Green Newton Nonprofit Leadership Award, acknowledging its role in community service and climate action — the group’s work not only helps people in need but keeps usable household items in circulation and out of landfills. The nonprofit also moved into a brand-new home of its own. After more than three years in a 250-square-foot space in Newton Centre’s Trinity Church, Welcome Home relocated to a 1,600-square-foot space that formerly housed Newton Fire and Flood on Washington Street in West Newton.

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The new rooms are organized and thoughtfully curated — one is full of essentials, from dishes and cookware to linens, lamps, and vacuum cleaners; another filled with decorative items like artwork, cushions, vases, throw rugs, things that can make a living space feel like a home.

“It allows them an expression of who they are,” said Welcome Home board member/volunteer Lynne Cohen-Friedman. “Watching people choose special items from this room [of decor] — it can bring tears to your eyes.”

To receive items from Welcome Home, people in need can fill out a detailed wish list of requested items on the organization’s website. Basic items like linens and dishes are pre-packed for clients to pick up at their arranged appointment, during which they can also pick from the new rooms on-site.

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The organization’s 80-plus volunteers — women, men, and children — unload, sort, organize, and repack donations to keep the location stocked. And some take items home to clean or repair. With demand soundly outpacing capacity, Welcome Home currently has an eight-week waiting list for client appointments to receive goods, but continues to welcome donations. “Stuff goes out as quickly as it comes in,” Plaut Mahoney said.

The new facility affords Welcome Home the space to accept more donated home goods — more than 200 boxes each month — as homeowners and renters clear out items they no longer use. Donations often come from decluttering projects, attic clean-outs, seniors downsizing, and families moving. Drop-off days are currently Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday with a reservation and any items Welcome Home can’t use are repurposed, recycled, or donated to agencies like homeless shelters and animal rescues. Plaut Mahoney said the organization is also starting to cultivate corporate givers, like Waltham-based home accessories retailer Ambesonne, which donates overstock linens, and the New England Patriots, who donate themed twin blankets and sheets.

As a private nonprofit organization, Welcome Home requires no proof of need from clients, unlike many governmental agencies.

Partnering with a network of social workers, service organizations, and agencies allows the organization to extend its reach. Through these partnerships Welcome Home supplies basic home goods for veterans’ residences and maintains a presence at the Newton Food Pantry, among other ventures.

Jewish Family & Children’s Service frequently works with Welcome Home to set up needed items for families, often delivering to people without transportation. Ellen Jawitz, the service’s family resource coordinator, recalled one family — a mother, father, and newborn — who had just moved from a shelter into subsidized housing. “They had literally nothing, no dishes, no sheets,” said Jawitz. “When we delivered a box of items from Welcome Home, the mom unwrapped each one and she was crying. This was helping her set up a home for her family; that every item was beautiful and wrapped with care held a lot of meaning for her.”

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