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BERKELEY, N.J. — It started with a five-piece dinette set. Glass-top table and four green padded chairs.
Free to anyone who lost their furniture from Superstorm Sandy. No questions asked.
One year later, Jim Farmer is still helping families in need find furniture. To date, he estimates he had connected $1.4 million worth of furniture to more than 3,100 families across the tri-state area and counting.
Farmer, 43, of Berkeley started a Facebook page for Hurricane Sandy Furniture Donation Community on Nov. 14, 2012, as soon as his electricity was restored.
His idea: attract the attention of his friends in New Jersey, both those who needed furniture and those who had items they could donate.
But the page went viral throughout the Sandy-affected areas, becoming so large that Farmer needed to set up a second page to match needs with donations in New York.
The effort has prompted donations from the owners of Manhattan penthouse apartments, hotel chains and everyday individuals across 22 states.
And those goods have gone to those in need, mostly Sandy survivors, but also people generally in need. He asks no questions but listens to people's stories.
"We give unconditionally," he said. "We don't qualify people. We don't ask them for their FEMA number."
His goal now is to turn the operation into a nationwide disaster relief organization providing furniture and other household goods, from washer and dryers to blenders.
As of now, Hurricane Sandy Furniture Donation Community is a one-man operation.
Farmer collects all of the donations, all of the requests and posts them on the Facebook pages. From there, he connects those in need with the donors, who then work out transferring the goods.
The dedication to the charity has come at a personal cost. Like the Sandy victims he helps, Farmer has had some financial difficulties. He had been laid off for the winter season just before Sandy hit and has not been able to work while also managing the donations. What few dollars he does have go toward the charity.
"I've made a lot of sacrifices," he said. "There's a lot of people hanging in there with me. A lot of people are being patient for me."
But the mission, he said, has become too large, too important to walk away from it.