The garage at Pam Stamey's Bloomingdale East home is stacked with couches, tables and beds.
Other volunteers of the San Jose Home Makers have converted their garages into storage facilities for furniture as well.
After losing their storage facility next to the San Jose Mission in Dover, the volunteers who provide furniture and household goods to migrant farm families and other impoverished residents have been forced to use whatever space they can find for storage of donated furniture.
However, thanks to Dr. Sharon Hunter, owner of Noah's Ark Animal Hospital at 4338 Bell Shoals Rd. in Valrico, the group now has a base of operation and a place to store household goods.
Hunter, who owns the shopping center where her veterinary practice is located, offered the San Jose Home Makers storage space in one of her storefronts.
Since forming three years ago, the San Jose Home Makers, a ministry of St. Stephen Catholic Church, had been using a former convent house on the San Jose Mission property to store furniture and other items donated by residents. The items are used to set up homes for migrant farmworkers at the mission as well as migrant families who live in farm camps and other needy residents trying to establish homes.
However, on Oct. 31, the former convent house was torn down to make room for a daycare center for migrant families, leaving the San Jose Home Makers homeless.
The 400-square-foot space donated by Hunter allows the Home Makers enough space to store pots, pans, towels and sheets.
"But we desperately need at least 3,000 square feet for all of the furniture we collect," said Stamey, who co-founded the Home Makers. "We're looking for a large storefront or warehouse, and praying someone comes forward with space to donate. There are empty spaces everywhere that we could use if someone was just willing to help us."
Stamey said the nonprofit will pay for insurance, water and electricity.
"My husband is really looking forward to the day he can use our garage again for his car," said Stamey. "Right now it's packed with furniture."
In the meantime, the group is grateful for the little space Hunter has provided.
Members gather there each Wednesday to sort donated items and arrange them on shelves for easy access when they're needed.
"I love volunteering here," said two-year volunteer Maureen Hileman. "The people are so grateful when we give them a bed or sofa. The faces of the little kids just light up when they get their first bed. These families have so little."
She recalled one family who moved into their first home.
"They had nothing. But we came in and painted it, provided new carpeting, furnished it and outfitted the kitchen. It was so rewarding," said Hileman.
Susie DeCort, also a two-year volunteer, often spends money out of her own pocket to purchase pillows, sheets and comforters for families.
"I just feel this is what we're called to do," she said. "It's such a joy to look into the faces of the poor and see their gratitude."
A core group of 45 volunteers make up the San Jose Home Makers, said Stamey.
"They're a beautiful, faith-filled group," she said.
With their help, Stamey has been able to furnish homes for 430 families. In a typical week, the Home Makers furnish homes for three or four families.
"A lot of times, they've been sleeping on the floor or they've all been sleeping in one bed. They have no furniture and a few dishes that all the family members share. They're the poorest of the poor in this country, and they live just down the street from us," said Stamey.
Stamey has faith someone will come forward with space for the ministry.
"I see miracles every day," she said. "For instance, today we have two families that need furniture and we had no dressers, tables or chairs. We just got a call from someone who has a dresser, tables and chairs to donate. Yesterday, we had no full-size beds and this morning someone donated four full-size beds plus all the linens."
Stamey recalls a time she needed a box spring for a migrant family.
"I prayed all night. The next day we were driving down Bloomingdale Avenue and there was a brand new twin box spring leaning against a mailbox. I went up to the door and asked the homeowner if I could have it. She not only gave it to me but gave me a matching headboard and footboard and two sets of linen. God is always winking at me."
In addition to warehouse space, the San Jose Home Makers are in need of a box truck for transporting furniture. Anyone who can help should call Stamey at 813-300-7984 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.