My Brother’s Keeper breaks ground for expanded Dartmouth facility

By Kenneth J. Souza
Anchor Staff
kensouza@anchornews.org

DARTMOUTH, Mass. — My Brother’s Keeper, a Christian charity that delivers furniture free-of-charge to people in need, recently broke ground on the construction of a new 23,200-square-foot facility on Reed Road in Dartmouth. An estimated 175 volunteers and supporters attended the formal groundbreaking ceremony held on September 15. 

“This is very exciting,” Josh Smith, director of the Dartmouth facility, recently told The Anchor. “It was always our intention to be in this area for the long haul, but we’ve had such tremendous support from the community we’ve really been able to move forward confidently and establish a permanent home here.”

The new building will be constructed on an 11-acre lot located less than 100 yards from the 9,800-square-foot building the organization currently leases at 999 Reed Road.

When the ministry first began leasing that space three years ago, Smith said they didn’t anticipate how quickly things would take off.

“We always knew ours was a model of service that would resonate with people in this area,” he said. “There’s a real ethic of service on the South Coast — people have always been quick to help out their neighbors in need — and sure enough, we’ve been making a tremendous number of deliveries. We made our 2,000th (furniture) delivery this past summer; that was about a year-and-a-half ahead of schedule.”

Smith credits much of My Brother’s Keeper’s success and growth to the dedication and commitment of local volunteers, especially students from schools like Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth, Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River, Tabor Academy in Marion, and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, among others.

“We’ve seen more than 1,000 student-volunteers from local schools,” Smith said. “They really have made a tremendous difference, allowing us to provide a lot of assistance, but just as importantly they have really bought into the work and have taken ownership of it and it’s been a positive experience for them. It’s been very eye-opening meeting so many of the families we serve.”

The new facility will have a footprint of 18,200 square feet plus a 5,000-square-foot storage mezzanine, four-bay loading dock, furniture repair shop, and commercial refrigeration for a future Food Assistance Program, with all services to be provided by delivery only — as pick-ups are not allowed. The basic layout of the new building will mimic the design of the ministry’s Easton location.

“It’s a layout that has worked for us over the years, and there’s a lot of connection between our two volunteer communities, so when Easton volunteers come down to Dartmouth they’re going to know right where to get their morning coffee before they get to work,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a great upgrade for our organization. Now three years in, we’re pretty limited in terms of our community space. We’ve simply outgrown our current facility and it’s not really suited for the long-term growth of our ministry and this will allow us to continue to get more people involved and serve more families in the area.”

The new building will also be equipped with walk-in refrigerator and freezer units to allow the Dartmouth facility to begin offering monthly food deliveries in the South Coast area.

“It was always our intention to start with our core program in this community, which is furniture assistance,” Smith said. “As our volunteer community has grown and as we’re going to have more space available in the new facility, we’re confident we’ll be able to add a food assistance program, similar to the one we operate now out of our Easton facility, where struggling families can call once a month and we can provide them with canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and dairy items — really whatever is on their grocery list. It’s a generous delivery and the fact that it’s carried directly into the home really helps a lot of people in very difficult situations.”

My Brother’s Keeper was founded 28 years ago by Jim and Terry Orcutt, who modestly began the charitable work in the cellar of their Taunton home back in 1988. The ministry soon moved into a facility located adjacent to Stonehill College and Holy Cross Family Ministries in Easton.

The ministry’s mission, inspired by Christ’s Words in Matthew 5:15, is simple: “To bring the love and hope of Jesus Christ to those we serve” by delivering furniture, free-of-charge, to local families in need, regardless of religion.

My Brother’s Keeper opened its second facility in Dartmouth in 2013 after operating for 25 years in Easton. My Brother’s Keeper chose to locate its newest facility on the South Coast given the level of need and the lack of furniture resources available to struggling families. 

The organization has steadily expanded its furniture assistance program since opening. Currently, the Dartmouth facility provides furniture assistance to some 3,000 individuals annually in 18 surrounding cities and towns.

“You can’t help but see God’s hand at work here,” Smith said. “We really believe we were meant to be serving this community. Where we’re building our new facility is less than 100 yards down the road. It’s just an incredible opportunity that will allow our ministry to grow in a lot of ways.”

As a Christian charity, the My Brother’s Keeper facility in Dartmouth will include strong Spiritual components on the property. A life-size bronze sculpture entitled “The Divine Servant” — a depiction of Jesus washing Peter’s feet at the Last Supper — will grace the entrance of the building along with an inscription “To Lead is to Serve.” 

Total cost of the project (including land acquisition, design, construction, and landscaping) is estimated at $3.4 million. My Brother’s Keeper, a 100 percent privately-funded charity, has already received commitments totaling $1.7 million in financial donations and professional construction services, which is 50 percent of the projected total project cost. Of note, members of the construction industry have already pledged in-kind donations worth more than $500,000, including architectural services, engineering services, plumbing, HVAC, framing and drywall. 

BayCoast Bank and Empire Hyundai are two local companies providing leadership project support.

“We depend on that support from the community and people have been very generous in supporting our work,” Smith said. “We feel very fortunate; I think people feel a connection to the work of My Brother’s Keeper. Many times they volunteer with us before they start donating and, as a result, they really believe in the work, they believe in this project, and they know what a difference it’s going to make for families that are going through some tough times.”

Smith said construction of the new facility is expected to be completed by June 2017.

“We’re hoping for a winter like last one, that’s for sure,” he said. “As we speak, they are pouring the foundation and steel will be right behind. We’re going to have a prefabricated building so we’re on track to be open next summer.”

With a new, larger facility, Smith also anticipates getting more volunteers involved in the work of My Brother’s Keeper.

“It means we’re going to be able to serve more families and it means we’re also going to be able to offer more volunteer opportunities, so we’re looking forward to even more people getting involved in the coming years,” he said.

My Brother’s Keeper is always in need of volunteers of all ages and skills, for tasks such as assisting with furniture pickups and deliveries, assembling sets of linens and kitchenware, sewing, cleaning furniture and administration.

To donate, volunteer or learn more about My Brother’s Keeper, visit www.MyBrothersKeeper.org or call 774-305-4577.


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