Veteran collects furniture to help homeless transition into permanent housing
January 22, 2018
Wayne Worden is quiet as he opens the door to his new storage unit in Auburn. He flicks on the lights and steps through the entryway without a word.
Inside, the room speaks for itself, full to the brim with seemingly any household item one could think of.
He walks down an aisle past a stack of dressers and tables, through a row of couches and chairs and stops at the back of the room, which is outfitted as a kitchenware storage space, filled with silverware sets, dishes and coffee makers. Worden explains that what he's doing is a unique concept. The idea, as he describes it, was a calling from God.
Worden's 2,400 square-foot storage unit isn't for personal use. The U.S. Army veteran is a force behind the scenes for organizations helping homeless people move into permanent housing.
Worden volunteers his time, labor and furniture to more than a dozen organizations in Placer and Nevada counties through what he calls Re-start Ministries.
When those organizations find homes for their clients, Worden invites the newly-housed people into his unit to pick out any furniture they'd like.
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He then packs the items in his truck and delivers them to their new homes, free of charge.
A retired contractor, Worden once made a hobby of collecting items at garage sales to sell in online auctions. But in 2016, he realized his pastime could be a real help to people.
That year, he collected furniture donations from garage sales in the afternoons and from people who wanted to help and furnished 36 homes in Nevada and Placer counties. In 2017, he furnished 105 homes.
When he first started, Worden was footing the bill for various storage units on his own. But when his service started growing, he decided to seek help from Jaron Ministries in Fresno, where he'd volunteered for years.
Now, the ministry collects donations to help Worden pay rent at his units, which this week he's mostly consolidated into one large space in Auburn.
Filling a gap
Tom Kellar, housing locator for the Salvation Army in Grass Valley, said it's often challenging for someone in his role to help furnish a house for clients.
Kellar has housed families staying at the Salvation Army's Booth Center, including a family of eight late last year. He's also held similar roles with organizations in different communities.
"What Wayne is doing is so unique," Kellar said. "And it's so needed. Sometimes you don't even think about it when you're trying to get somebody housed, because that's such a big deal itself. And then you go, 'What do we do now?'"
Hospitality House, a homeless shelter in Grass Valley which helped find permanent housing for 78 people last year, sends people who need furniture to Worden.
Debbie McDonald, the organization's development director, said Hospitality House clients are often blown away by Worden's compassion and the service he provides.
"When someone is just getting back on their feet, it's such a delight to be able to go and choose the things they need," she said. "They go out there and pick out exactly what they like and Wayne packs everything up and delivers it. He is amazing."
Worden, who served during the Vietnam War, said he's constantly humbled by the people he meets through his service.
"I'm so blessed," he said. "I meet other veterans who have been living out of backpacks in the woods for years. They're grateful just to have a home. I'm lucky that I've never experienced that. But as veterans, we talk about things that help us both heal."
Contact Wayne Worden by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4231.
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