Bruce C. Murison’s voice gets thicker as he describes one young mother who came to Mission of Deeds to pick up furniture to help her start a new life.

Bruce C. Murison’s voice gets thicker as he describes one young mother who came to Mission of Deeds to pick up furniture to help her start a new life.

As agency workers helped her load a bed for her 11-year-old son, Murison recalls, the woman suddenly started crying. He asked why.

“He’s never had a bed of his own,” she said, between tears.

Murison is executive director of Mission of Deeds, the Reading-based agency that provides beds, furniture and other household essentials for people in need from Middlesex and Essex counties -- and he has seen many people like the woman whose story he recounts.

Since its inception in 1993, the nonprofit group has helped more than 7,000 families – many of them struggling mothers leaving shelters with their children, victims of fire or other tragedies, elderly residents without families, mentally ill people building independent lives, and middle-aged men and women who have lost their homes.

And the need keeps growing.

From the 27 clients served in 1993 to the 500 or so helped two years ago, the demand has increased to more than 700 families in 2008, Murison says.

That is why the agency has been designated as this year’s Gifts of Hope recipient.

The Gifts of Hope program, now in its 17th year, is sponsored by Community Newspaper Company to aid less prosperous families in the community. Community donations received by the newspaper go directly to the charity.

In the case of Mission of Deeds, the money is going to an agency which relies strictly on private donations for its $278,000 annual budget and which receives no funding from state, federal or United Way sources. Some $90,000 of the budget goes for new mattresses and box springs alone.

In addition to cash donations, the agency accepts gifts of furniture, such as tables and chairs, bureaus, coffee and end tables, linens, lamps, pots and pans and other household items.

It also relies heavily on volunteer help. Some 150 people offer services ranging from fund-raising to folding linens to driving the 15-foot box truck used to pick up donated furniture. Thirty to 40 of them volunteer time every week.

Their labors go to help a population which much of the world seems to have forgotten.

“They’ve spent their life working with bureaucracy -- you can see it in their eyes,” office manager Paula Goss says of the clients who come to pick up their furniture at the office. “They don’t look up at you. But they come in here and we laugh with them, we treat them with respect… They walk out of here with their head held high. When we walk out of here, boy do we feel good.”

Ninety-five percent of the clients pick up their own goods at the agency’s Chapin Avenue warehouse. That allows them to pick out the furnishings that they like – and “We don’t think it’s a bad idea for somebody to take a couple of steps to help themselves (by coming to the warehouse),” says Murison. They are only allowed to come once.

Only clients who have been referred by other agencies receive help, so their need can be confirmed. Referring agencies range from state departments like Children and Families or the Department of Mental Health to churches and temples, housing authorities, the Red Cross and Salvation Army and charities like St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Charities.

“We probably get 100 referrals a month and we service 50 or 60, so there’s a constant backlog,” adds Murison.

On the agency’s wish list is a new warehouse to replace its present crowded, 5,000-sqare-foot headquarters. A new facility of 15,000 square feet with office space and multiple loading doros would allow Mission of Deeds to double or triple the number of clients served, staff members say.

In the meantime, workers at the agency say, they will continue to help provide life’s essentials to members of the community who need it most – especially as the holiday season approaches.

“It’s a group of caring people coming together, neighbors helping neighbors,” says Murison.


To contribute to this year’s Gifts of Hope campaign, please make out your check to Mission of Deeds only and send it to: Community Newspaper Company, Attn: Gifts of Hope, P.O. Box 9191, Concord, MA 01742-9191. Donations are tax-deductible.