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Charities reeling from loss of Art Van Furniture's generosity, community service

 Art Van Furniture gave out $11 million directly through its annual Charity Challege over the past 10 years and helped organizations raise another $26 million in matching funds.
Art Van Furniture gave out $11 million directly through its annual Charity Challege over the past 10 years and helped organizations raise another $26 million in matching funds. (WJRT)
Published: Mar. 6, 2020 at 6:21 PM EST
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(3/6/2020) - Art Van Furniture developed strong ties and offered significant community support over its 61-year history.

The company's absence and the difference it made will be felt by all of its charity partners.

"I was totally shocked," said Reta Stanley, the president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Flint. "In December we just came off of an Art Van Charity Challenge. It was quite a shock."

The closure of Art Van's 141 corporate-owned stores across the Midwest will leave gaping holes and empty stores in retail developments. But the holes on the financial balance sheets of local charities may be just as glaring.

"Nonprofits rely on corporate support and they were indeed a huge partner with us," Stanley said.

Art Van's legacy of giving reached several million dollars over the yeras. Through the annual Art Van Charity Challenge alone, the retailer donated more than $11 million in the past 10 years, which helped organizations raise $26 million in matching funds from other donors.

"Local charities will suffer tremendously from their closing," Stanley said. "It's huge for us. We were always excited their staff worked with us and they were excited and that kind of energy that's poured into our program."

Stanley said Art Van offered in-kind contributions in addition to the direct financial help.

"It's more than about the numbers," she said. "But I could say, close to $100,000 just in-kind they've offered us marketing support and then actual dollars. So our relationship has been tremendous."

Stanley is reaching out to find a new corporate partner for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

"We need those corporate sponsors and, you know, Art Van was unique in that they developed a program specifically to help nonprofits – and, you know, we hope that becomes contagious," she said.

Stanley hopes another company picks up where Art Van is leaving off.

"It was a decade long experience… and it was all good," she said of the partnership with Art Van. "They uplifted our employees and our board and everyone was excited about the partnership we had with Art Van. They will be missed in our community."

The next Art Van Charity Challenge is scheduled for May, but it remains unclear whether it will take place. Nobody from the company could be reached for comment Friday.

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