Juggling Act: Detroit woman becomes 'Uber' of gently used furniture, home goods

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
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A chair changed the course of Erica Guido’s life.

Guido, a mom of two, was donating some old furniture to a local organization several years ago when she met a woman who wanted a chair she was dropping off. Guido said sure but there was a problem. The woman had no way to get the chair to her apartment.

“We said we’ll bring it to you,” remembers Guido.

Volunteers with To Detroit, With Love load up donated furniture to give to those who need it.

When she dropped it off, Guido noticed the woman’s entire apartment was empty. So she set about changing that: She solicited donations and furnished the woman's entire place.

Today, she says she’s like the “Uber of gently used goods.” Since 2017, Guido has helped hundreds of Detroit families in need of furniture, appliances, housewares and more through her nonprofit, To Detroit, With Love.

The concept is simple: People reach out to her with specific furniture needs. Guido posts messages of what she’s looking for on her “To Detroit, With Love” Facebook and Instagram accounts and donors from all over Metro Detroit respond. They either drop items off on her porch or she or other volunteers pick them up. The items then go directly to families who need them.

“I’ve found in my work that so many families will just sit on the floor, eat on the floor, sleep on the floor” because they don’t have furniture, said Guido who has been featured on CNN. “We have such an abundance of things to give. How do we get the items not to a warehouse but to the people who need them?”

Martez Dujuan Duncan, a single father of six from Detroit, calls Guido “an angel from God.” He met her through his sister when he was trying to get custody of his kids. He found a house but had no furnishings. Guido helped furnish his entire house, from beds to linens.

“Meeting Erica has been life-changing for me and my babies,” he said. "...We didn’t have anything. No bedding. No silverware. When she put out the word on our page, so many people were bringing us stuff I was overwhelmed. It was like a warehouse here."

And Guido’s giving goes beyond furniture. When one Detroit woman lost her son in June, Guido crowdsourced money for funeral expenses. If a family can’t afford birthday presents for a child, Guido helps find a way.

Guido said transportation — or the lack thereof — is a big reason why a lot of families struggle with furnishings. She primarily works with families in Detroit but has also made donations to Warren and Eastpointe.

“Transportation is everywhere and thrift stores are everywhere but the delivery is so essential,” she said. “People will say ‘I’ll just get one piece at a time’ and they just wait.”

Guido knows what it’s like to struggle. Raised in Detroit by a single mom, they lived paycheck to paycheck. Secondhand items were a way of life.

After she married and had children (she’s since divorced), the family moved to Grosse Pointe. Seeing the material stuff people posted on Facebook, Guido wanted to find a way to get those items into the hands of people who really needed it.

“Once I had that life where I was living on the other side — in Grosse Pointe — I really wanted to give back,” said Guido, who now lives in Detroit.

Residents in need reach out to Guido via text message — the number is listed on the group’s website, todetroitwithlove.org — and fill out a simple form of what they need. Guido also relies on referrals.

“My philosophy is if you say you need it, you get it,” she said. “There’s no qualifying, there’s no red tape... There’s so much to give and there’s so much need.”

One thing Guido needs right now is a cargo van, which will make dropping off donations to multiple homes or furnishing an entire house in one trip much easier. The truck she previously relied on was recently totaled.

Even more than giving away gently used furniture, Guido says what she’s doing is creating connections. She said sometimes donors will ask about what will happen to their donated goods but she tells them not to worry.

It’s that “human connection,” said Guido, who would love to see volunteers create similar groups in their own communities. “That act of kindness will outlive anything you give.”

mfeighan@detroitnews.com

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