SILVER SPRING, Md. (WUSA) --- The empty apartment was "very devastating," according to Yvette Sharps.
She and her family were recovering from a period of homelessness in 2009. Living in an apartment, Sharps said her husband worked to provide for the family's most basic needs.
"It was empty. No furniture. My stuff was all over the place. Yeah, it was not organized."
Furniture and Christmas presents became unaffordable. Sharps' daughter explained her desire for presents to her teacher during the holiday season one year. The teacher's help led Sharps to A Wider Circle.
A Wider Circle brings the home spirit to the needy. The non-profit organization provides donated furniture to clients in the Washington-Metropolitan area.
Mark Bergel founded A Wider Circle in 2001, after he realized many people did not have furniture when they were struggling to eat.
"You sat on the floor, you ate your meal on the bath tub or the toilet seat, because if you don't have any furniture, there is no other place off the ground to get a meal, if you even have a meal. Imagine what it would be like to sleep on the floor every night," said Bergel.
At the organization's warehouse, Sharps selected items like mattresses, a crib for her infant son and a bed for her six-year-old daughter.
"It's more comfortable, more homey," said Sharps.
The 25-thousand-square-foot warehouse fills up with donated items daily. Furniture stays for 24 to 48 hours before going to a client's home. Over 10,000 volunteers contribute to the organization.
Bergel said his work allows him "to be fully human" every day. The demand remains high.
"I'd say in the 11 years, demand has gone up steadily. The last three or four years, the recession, demand has gone up higher, but people who are in poverty were in poverty before the recession," Bergel said.
A Wider Circle also offered Sharps classes on financial literacy and job search skills. Her participation in the classes led to a job at the University of Maryland's dining services. She says she is also going to school in the evenings to prepare for a nursing career.
Through the years A Wider Circle has recycled over eight million pounds of furniture. The program has helped more than 85,000 people in our area.
NOTE: Gannett Foundation has given a grant to A Wider Circle.
Produced/Written by: Elizabeth Jia
WUSA 9 NEWS & WUSA9.com