MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Charity rebuilding lives

After a decade recycling furniture, a Duns-based 
charity – one of the few such bodies to fund itself – is reminding us all that the lifespan of their sofa can be longer than they think.

The Berwickshire Furniture Restoration Company started life as an offshoot of the Berwickshire Association for Voluntary Services before emerging under its own name a decade ago.

Staff and board members of Berwickshire Furniture Restoration

Staff and board members of Berwickshire Furniture Restoration

Board member David McLean explained: “We were in Eyemouth but we eventually moved to Duns, in what used to be a bus depot – there is still an inspection pit out the back.

“This site is great because it’s just the right size to make a project of this kind doable.”

Fellow board member Peter Johnson added: “The aim is to have furniture available for whenever we get a call, whether that’s people doing out a kid’s bedroom ora holiday let.”

David added: “As well as that, we work on both sides of the border with the councils’ social services departments.

“It’s not just furniture. We test electrical items, so that they are certified to be safe before going into someone’s home, kettles, irons, anything we can fix up out the back.”

The man working the magic with the electrical goods is Steven Sword. He is the BFR warehouse supervisor at their site at Earlsmeadow, Duns. He organises collections, sales and deliveries and oversees the BFR staff.

He began in the warehouse as a volunteer nearly nine years ago, before going part-time and then full-time. “I’ve rebuilt my life through this place as I’ve gone on,” he said.

It is Steven, originally from Coldingham, who liaises with some of BFR’s most vulnerable patrons, those who come to the organisation through Northumberland’s Social Services Department.

“Quite often, they haven’t got anything at all,” he said, “and we often deal with people who are being removed from domestic violence or abuse, so they don’t answer the phone to a strange number and things like that.

“In these cases, I get given a list of things and just walk the warehouse picking them out.”

He went on: “Working with other people like this is all about not asking anyone to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself, and I think they all know that.

“It doesn’t matter if the furniture is five floors up – although at this one house like that, we weren’t allowed to take the lift because the residents were using it to go to their dinner. I was popular then!

“We also have a rule of thumb that we won’t send anything out that we wouldn’t have in our own homes.

“Although, having said that, I do have a leather recliner at home that has a patch in it from the dog!”

BFR is open from 9am-4.30pm Monday to Friday, and 9am-2pm on Saturdays.

For more information, call 01361 884886 or visit their website at