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Spreading the Love, er, Furniture

February 2011 – South St. Paul, Minn. – This is a story about relationships and helping Neighbors. The story actually starts back in the 1980s when KOMA Principal Dan O’Brien’s community involvement connected him with a local nonprofit organization called Neighbors, Inc. Neighbors, based in South St. Paul, offers a food shelf, Clothes Closet, and other supportive and emergency services to residents of the surrounding areas. Last year, the growing organization realized it was time to look for a new space that could accommodate all of its programs, enabling them to serve more people more efficiently.

A team from Neighbors spent months looking at potential spaces, and in November finally identified a building that seemed like it would work. O’Brien has remained involved with Neighbors over the years, and offered his time pro bono to sketch out some fit plans. Once Neighbors decided to purchase the property, they hired KOMA to do the actual space planning. They hope to move into their new offices by summer or fall 2011.

But the story doesn’t end there. Through one long-standing relationship and one new one, KOMA was able to help Neighbors in another, unexpected way.

Most of the furniture in the Neighbors offices was obtained through donations – a hodgepodge of desks, chairs and filing systems of various styles and types. Besides needing more furniture for a bigger space, Neighbors hoped to outfit the new office with furniture that was more cohesive and in better condition. Some of the current pieces will make the move, but Neighbors needed options for furnishing the rest of the space. Since purchasing new, or even used, furniture wasn’t in the budget, a furniture committee was formed to seek out potential large-scale corporate donations. Unfortunately, much of what was available didn’t fit their needs.

Meanwhile, over in Golden Valley, George Cook, a contractor and building owner who has worked with KOMA for many years, connected KOMA with Pitney Bowes, a mail services company based in Stamford, CT. Pitney Bowes needed a local firm to help consolidate their Eden Prairie offices to their Golden Valley location. They hired KOMA to analyze the space, do the space planning, determine what furniture needed to be moved from Eden Prairie to Golden Valley, and help facilitate the move.

“When they first asked us to go to the Eden Prairie office and look at the furniture, Angie (Rohlen) headed over there,” said Cindy Nagel, lead interior designer for both the Neighbors and Pitney Bowes projects. “She came back, showed me some photos and told me there was just tons of furniture, way more than was going to be moved to Golden Valley. That’s when the light bulb went on in my head.” Here, it seemed, was the perfect solution to the furniture problem Neighbors was having.

First, Nagel contacted the Pitney Bowes project managers to ask if they’d be willing to consider donating any of the furniture that wasn’t being moved to Golden Valley. “They responded very quickly saying that they would love to donate it,” Nagel recalled. “There were a few minor details to work out, but overall they were just great about it. I called Neighbors right away to see if they were interested.”

At first Neighbors was skeptical, thinking the furniture would be like everything they had already seen. But Nagel was sure this would fit the bill. She sent Neighbors a few photos and suggested they at least go over to look at it. Shortly after, Nagel and several members of the furniture committee found themselves wandering the offices with a roll of masking tape, marking items with an “N.”

In the end, Neighbors was able to furnish eight of their 12 new offices with wall-mounted modular furniture from Pitney Bowes. In addition, they received task, lunchroom and guest chairs, two executive office furniture sets, and several filing cabinets – it filled a 48-foot trailer, and all they had to do was pay to move it.

It’s enough to warm your heart.

Krech, O’Brien, Mueller & Associates, Inc., is a full-service architectural, structural engineering and interior design firm located in Inver Grove Heights, Minn. Serving clients in a wide variety of industries, the firm delivers innovative ideas, thoughtful design and disciplined execution with an emphasis on balance and sustainable thinking. Founded in 1985, the firm is built upon the idea that open and honest communication with clients and genuine collaboration yield aesthetically pleasing, functional, inspiring, healthy places for people to live, work, play and worship. For more information about Krech, O’Brien, Mueller & Associates, call 651-451-4605 or email komainc@komainc.com.