updated 05/15/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 05/15/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT
And inspired. With $100,000 from anonymous donors, Van Poetsch, 49, created the New Start Furniture Fund, a nonprofit program that picks up unwanted furniture and distributes it to low-income families. "We are living in perhaps the most affluent area in the United States," says Van Poetsch, who resides in Cupertino, Calif., with Deborah, their daughter Emily, 9, and twin sons Luke and Giles, 7. "A lot of furniture is being thrown out."
Employing two trucks and four full-time workers, the fund gave more than 9,000 pieces of furniture to 579 families last year, averaging 15 pieces per family. "Some people have 10 or 11 children," says Van Poetsch. "I could never say, 'Sorry, only five beds per family.' " At New Start's warehouse in Menlo Park, clients select the items they need—all cleaned and disinfected—for a flat $25 administrative fee. "If it wasn't for them, I would be sleeping on a wet floor," says Jeannette Stewart, 53, who was referred to New Start by the American Red Cross in January after she lost all her furniture in a flood. "It's like Christmas, but better."