“I just called to say I love you.”
There were shelves crammed with glass bowls, tinted chalices, brass candleholders and lamps without shades.
“I just called to say how much I care.”
Chests stacked on top of cabinets and dressers. Couches touched the ceiling, resting upon tables, chairs and bed frames.
“I just called to say I love you.”
The office, if it could be called that, was a tiny 6-by-8 space cluttered with papers, computers, Post-it Notes and three people.
“And I mean it from the bottom of my heart,” sang the Stevie Wonder song over the speakers. This is Uhuru Furniture, a non-profit store of used and pre-owned collectibles.
Manager Ruby Gittelsohn considers shopping at Uhuru, located at 1220 Spruce St., a “win-win-win situation” for Temple students. Students and other Philadelphia residents can pick up their furniture at cheap, reasonable prices. All proceeds of this eco-friendly endeavor go to the African People’s Education and Defense Fund, based in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Gittelsohn has been working with the organization for 27 years. Its mission is to address issues concerning healthcare, human rights, education and the overall disparities between white and black communities. This collective fundraiser supports programs in Africa as well as in the United States.
Kristy Schneider, a Temple graduate student in social work, has worked at Uhuru for nine months.
“The mission drives me to come here,” Schneider said. “You really don’t have to travel around the world to find problems that need solving.”
Other Uhuru stores are planted in St. Petersburg and Oakland, Calif. Within the St. Petersburg community, Uhuru provides tutoring services, classes on hygiene and gym facilities. The store in Philadelphia is also working toward these features, Schneider said. She explained the importance of these services to build economic development and promote progression within African communities.
Schneider was a part of the Uhuru movement for a year before she was hired. She started out volunteering with the movement on Temple’s campus.
Gittelsohn explained that volunteer opportunities are always available, even at school, whether it’s spreading the word, learning grassroots marketing, repairing furniture, or getting a good workout by lifting it.
“It’s real collective work that we have,” Schneider said.
She explained that Uhuru does not function in the traditional way of bosses and employees, but in a more cooperative manner. Schneider also admitted that it’s hard not to shop there.
Gittelsohn described the store as an “ever-changing array of merchandise.” As new donations are brought in – and purchases are made everyday – the store changes from week to week.
Although there are always new people who visit, Schneider said that there is also a solid base of regulars that have been coming everyday for years. She also mentioned that the store’s location in Center City provides “a tremendous amount of foot-traffic.”
Aside from variety, Uhuru also promises quality and originality. Not like IKEA, Gittelsohn said, where the furniture all looks the same.
“If you like IKEA, we have their stuff, but at half the price,” she said with a smile.
Not only do some Temple students help out, they like to shop at Uhuru, too. Junior advertising major Samm Miller enjoys the eclectic style of the furniture.
Even more, customers enjoy the extra value of their dollar. Gittelsohn found that the customers are people who deliberately shop there because their money goes to a worthy cause.
“It’s better to help an organization than a corporation,” Miller said.
Sarah Sanders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.