Columbia University Medical Center

Office Renovations Do Double Duty

by Erin James

While working on an office renovation project five years ago, Rick LaValley, senior project manager in CUMC Facilities Management, realized that the furniture his team was clearing out might be of use to others. He called the Office of Government and Community Affairs to ask about donating the used furniture and office equipment. They found local organizations that could use the desks, chairs, filing cabinets, and more.

Thus began an ongoing collaboration between the Office of Government and Community Affairs and CUMC’s Capital Projects Management team to donate gently used furniture and other items to local community partners and organizations.

The staff of the Community League of the Heights in their office, recently refurbished with furniture donated by CUMC.

Rick LaValley (seated) with the staff of the Community League of the Heights in its office, recently refurbished with furniture donated by CUMC. Photo: Michael Hernandez, P&S 2017

Since that first donation, project managers have donated hundreds of chairs, dozens of desks, many file cabinets, microscopes, and other pieces of furniture and equipment to more than 40 local community groups, ranging from local schools to social service organizations.

“It’s exciting to see members of the CUMC community support the surrounding neighborhoods in various ways,” said Clara Leon, assistant director of community affairs. “Donating office furniture, for example, can positively impact our local partners and their workplaces.”

Yvonne Stennett, executive director of Community League of the Heights, a community group and recent recipient of donated furniture, said that budgetary constraints often prevent community-based groups and organizations from buying and replacing furniture. “We are committed to improving the quality of life for southern Washington Heights residents, and our funds are often allocated to the direct services we provide,” she said. “To be given the opportunity to revamp our office space with furniture donated by CUMC not only makes our staff feel good about our work environment, but also makes our clients feel good about coming to our office to receive our services.”

Patrick Burke, assistant vice president of Capital Projects Management, recognizes the importance of such collaborative opportunities. “By working with Government and Community Affairs, the members of the Capital Project Management team are doing more than transforming the physical landscape of CUMC,” he said. “We’re also transforming the neighboring community.”

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