After leading NW Furniture Bank for the last 15 years, co-founder and current Executive Director Bill Lemke has announced his retirement.
Effective October 1, 2022, Jeremy Simler will become the organization’s new executive director. Simler has served NW Furniture Bank in various capacities for the past nine years, most recently as its director of development.
“After a thorough search, we are happy to announce that Jeremy Simler will step up to lead NW Furniture Bank,” Lemke said. “Jeremy has been involved with the Furniture Bank since 2013 and is well acquainted with all aspects of our operations. We are pleased that he will provide continuity for the organization as it moves forward and also excited to see what ideas he has for the future.”
Currently, NW Furniture Bank serves up to 3,500 individuals annually between its two locations in Tacoma and Vancouver, but these numbers are increasing as pandemic restrictions—including the statewide eviction moratorium–end.
“NW Furniture Bank has operated using a very successful formula for a number of years,” Simler said. “Bill had a vision and he worked tirelessly to see it become a reality. He developed the relationships in the community and laid the foundation for what NW Furniture Bank has grown into. I feel honored to be chosen to continue his legacy of service in the community.”
NW Furniture Bank began in 2006 in donated warehouse space at The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse in Sumner WA. At the time, Lemke worked with all volunteers to collect and distribute donated furniture to individuals and families experiencing a number of challenges including recent homelessness, poverty, mental and physical disabilities, the aftermath of fires or floods, and more. In addition, each year a significant portion of clients served are seniors and/or veterans, and approximately half of those served are children ages 12 and under.
Within a decade, NW Furniture Bank had opened a retail store (Hope Furnishings) to support the operations of the Furniture Bank, completed a successful capital campaign to purchase its facility, and started a first-of-its-kind mattress recycling program that regularly keeps millions of pounds of materials out of landfills.
In 2019, NW Furniture Bank opened a satellite location in Vancouver that includes both a retail store and mattress recycling service. Despite opening right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Vancouver operation has seen steady growth in the number of clients served.
Both the Tacoma and Vancouver locations rely upon broad community support from individuals and businesses for donations of furniture.
Clients are referred to NW Furniture Bank through hundreds of caseworkers working for dozens of social service agencies across Pierce, South King, Clark, and Cowlitz counties. When they arrive at NW Furniture Bank, clients are taken shopping through one of the organization’s warehouses for everything they need to turn four walls into a home: a dining room table and chairs, sofas, dressers, a mattress for everyone in the family, and assorted household items including bedding, pots and pans, dishes and kitchen utensils.
“What we do is really very simple,” Simler said. “We believe that everyone deserves a comfortable place to sleep. We want families to have a place to share meals. We want everyone to have a home they are proud to invite friends and relatives to visit. Furniture is a huge expense that’s simply not in everyone’s budget, but it has the potential to make a huge difference in how people feel about their homes.”