Charity turns old furniture into art

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Local artists have donated their time and talents to paint and decorate pieces of furniture for the Glenwood Springs Catholic Charities fundraising auction, Designs for Hope. Karen Christner, left, and Cynthia McNeill get started on their barstool projects last week. To view the more than 15 furniture pieces up for bid, visit
Kelley Cox / Post Independent |

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The Western Slope office of Catholic Charities is hoping area residents feel the need for a little more furniture in their lives, in particular for pieces that are a little more artfully decorated than typical furniture, crafted by a group of locals hoping to help raise money for those in need.

And to let potential buyers know which specific pieces they might be delighted to buy as a way to help with the organization’s mission, Catholic Charities is conducting an auction that includes displays at businesses throughout Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties, as well as two websites that were still under construction Sunday but are expected to be up and running today.

“We’re calling it, ‘Designs For Hope,” said Marian McDonough, regional director of the Western Slope chapter, noting that the auction is to run between Aug. 19 and Sept. 6.

The money raised, she explained, will go to support the organization’s programming on the Western Slope. Her office, she said, has a budget of about $411,000 for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Tiny wooden chairs for children, a “KC Whimsey” piece that is a combined magazine rack and small cupboard, an Adirondack chair with an “amazonite stone” affixed to the central slat in the chair’s back, and a small, unpainted Conrey & Birley table made in 1896 that McDonough concluded “is probably more valuable without the paint,” are part of the stash of folksy furniture available in the auction.

Catholic Charities is the charitable arm of the Archdiocese of Denver, with offices in Larimer and Weld counties, as well as in Denver and Glenwood Springs. The local office is situated in the building that once housed St. Stephens Catholic Church at the corner of Grand Avenue and 10th Street.

The businesses that have agreed to feature the auction items include the a la carte clothing store at 803 Grand Ave. in Glenwood Springs, as well as Alpine Banks throughout the Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties, which is the area served by the Glenwood Springs office of Catholic Charities.

McDonough said she had planned to approach other businesses in other towns around the region regarding placement of the auction items, but when Alpine Banks stepped up she realized there were enough branches in the service area to take care of the need.

This is the first time the local Catholic Charities office has held this kind of a fundraising event, McDonough said, explaining that the organization historically has used newsletter appeals and mass mailings to raise money.

“It’s our first, it’s our inaugural year,” she said with a grin, adding that she “stole” the idea from the Grand Junction Symphony, which had used the painted-furniture method for three years.

“They weren’t going to do it this year, so they were happy to let us take it on,” she said.

McDonough collected 23 pieces of furniture from thrift shops and consignment stores around the region, and a volunteer, Mark Willingham, sanded the pieces down and prepared them for the artists’ work.

“We couldn’t have done this without him,” she remarked, describing Willingham as an occasional resident of the area whose sister, businesswoman Lisa Willingham, was one of the furniture painters.

Another volunteer, painter Nicole Grosjean, created the poster that is used to advertise the auction.

There will be a minimum bid for each piece, and silent-auction sheets available at the banks and a la carte.

The websites will feature photos of the pieces and their locations, so that bidders can either visit or bid by telephone.

McDonough said she had considered setting up an online bidding process, but it would have cost more than could be justified for the project. She said if the fundraising technique catches on in the area, an online bidding process might be arranged in the future.

After the bidding closes, McDonough said, there is to be a “closing event” at a location to be announced in Glenwood Springs, where bidders can pick up their furniture and mingle with some of the artists who decorated the pieces.

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