Group restores, transforms old furniture to help local kids in need

Group restores, transforms old furniture to help local kids in need

MADISON, IN (WAVE) - "We're taking the pieces and making it something new again, we're giving it a second chance," said Sara Sontag, a volunteer with Voices For Children.

In the evenings in downtown Madison, people are coming together over furniture.

The pieces being painted inside Muddy Fork Antiques are old.

"So yeah, I'm really happy with the finished product, but taking that first piece of sandpaper to it was a little bit scary," Sontag said.

After careful painting and sanding, the goal is to keep, but clean up, that antique look.

"It'll look like it sat out in the weather," Sontag said. "So we're doing all this work to make it look like it sat outside."

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Sontag volunteers with Voices for Children, a CASA nonprofit providing a court-appointed advocate for children in need. She said it's not an easy task for her or the other volunteers, but it's desperately needed to help kids in need.

"It's hard," she said. "But what they're going through is harder."

The painting is an outlet for her and the others after spending hours helping abused and neglected children. Some days, it's community leaders inside Muddy Fork Antiques painting furniture, but on this day, it's filled with leaders and volunteers with Voices for Children. Sontag said the furniture, like the children they help with, just needs a little care and time to really shine.

"We're taking furniture that you would look at and you wouldn't want to use it," Sontag said. But when they're finished, the transformation is stunning.

"So she picked the colors and I just get to help paint," said Executive Director of Voices For Children Tonya Ruble-Richter.

She and her co-workers are sanding down a bench, getting out the stresses of her day. The days advocating for children are rewarding, she said, but often very challenging.

"The stuff that we see on a daily basis is horrific," Ruble-Richter said.

Voices for Children currently serves 132 kids in Jefferson and Ripley counties. That need is growing greatly around the country and in southeastern Indiana, Ruble-Richter said. There are currently 232 kids on a wait list for a CASA volunteer to help them. Sometimes, the need is so high that kids come and go through the court system before they can match a volunteer CASA to their case.

"We now have to triage the abuse, we have to triage our cases and decide if a baby with detached retinas or a child who has been sexually abused gets a voice, so it's tough," Ruble-Richter said.

And that's why they're here. The furniture they're improving isn't theirs to keep. It was donated and once finished, will be sold at a benefit Saturday to help provide more services and volunteers to advocate for and help those kids in need on the waiting list.

"We're taking the pieces and making it something new again," Sontag said. "We're giving it a second chance."

She and the others at Voices for Children hope this benefit will provide children that same chance.

"It is the hardest volunteer position you can do," Ruble-Richter said. "But it's also the most rewarding."

Asked Sontag: "If we don't do it, who will?"

The Art with the Pieces Benefit takes place Saturday from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the West Street Art Center. Tickets can be purchased in advance here.

The furniture can be bid on remotely. Finished pieces ready for the auction can be seen at Muddy Fork Antiques at 219 East Main Street in Madison.

For more information on how to donate or how you can sponsor a child or volunteer, visit the Voices for Children website.

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