Sofas (and More) Shuffled from Students to Charlottesville Residents

May 24, 2007 -- When there’s a bargain, people line up before the store opens.

That is what more than 100 community residents did, so to speak, on Saturday, May 19, arriving several hours before the 10 a.m. start time of the first annual Sofa Shuffle. The event was an opportunity for departing college students and their families to pool their cast-off furniture and have people from the community pick it up.

“This is a way for community members to benefit directly,” said Jim Fitzgerald, assistant director of the University’s Office of Community Relations. “This project provided U.Va. students the opportunity to donate their furniture and other household goods to help area families in need, saving the items from being discarded into dumpsters or left on the side of the road.”

“Everyone who was there to collect something left with something,” Fitzgerald said.

About 70 truckloads of furniture and household items were dropped off at the Management Services Corp.’s clubhouse on 780 Madison Avenue, where the Sofa Shuffle was held. Many of the items never touched the ground. People claimed them before they came off the truck, and they simply transferred them to other vehicles.

“Donations were steady and generous, but there was never a pile of furniture,” Fitzgerald said.

The Sofa Shuffle avoided about $3,000 in dumping fees and redistributed in the community furniture that would have cost more than $10,000 had it been purchased new.

“The idea for an off-Grounds recycling program came from meeting with residents in neighborhoods bordering the University,” said Ida Lee Wootten, director of community relations.
“We started the recycling effort with twin goals: enhancing neighborhood relations by eliminating debris, and helping the community by making the household goods available to residents.”

While the event was organized by the community relations office, in partnership with the City of Charlottesville, The Salvation Army, Woodard Properties, Management Services Corp. and 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, U.Va. student volunteers Mike Maddox, David Leggett, Raeanne Tatem, James Paradis and Jay Pendrak proved vital.

“These students were tremendous in their commitment to the community,” Fitzgerald said. “They played a definitive role in the success of this event.”

This is the fourth year U.Va.’s community relations office has held an end-of-the-year, off-Grounds recycling effort, but the Sofa Shuffle is the first of this kind.

“Since this was the first year, we had little idea what to expect,” said Fitzgerald, who was surprised by how many people had gathered by 8 a.m. “We used every avenue to reach out to the community and nonprofits as well as to the students and their parents.”

Among the items that were redistributed were a hide-a-bed, four twin beds and frames, a swivel captain's chair and stool, 27 sofas/loveseats, two double beds and frames, two compact disc stands, two bookcases, five lamps, three coffee tables, two futons and a recliner.

This recycling effort is modeled after an on-Grounds recycling program called “Chuck It for Charity.” During the annual “Chuck It” event, held each May, U.Va.’s Division of Recoverable and Disposable Resources collects and donates to local charities about 70 tons of material from students as they leave University housing.