“You have stuff. Give it to someone who needs it.”

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(MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson)

When the kids left years ago, we became empty nesters and downsized. That meant getting rid of a lot of stuff accumulated over 35 years and stored in the attic, closets and garage.

I heard about Bridging, borrowed a buddy’s pickup and loaded it with things we wanted to give away.

The Bloomington-based charity takes tables, sofas, chairs, lamps and other stuff, and gives them to poor people.

The Bridging folks do not accept junk — items they would not have in their own homes. That’s the rule set by founder Fran Heitzman, the fellow captured in the image above by my colleague Jennifer Simonson when we visited with him about a month ago.

You can hear and read all about Bridging and Fran in a new episode of Minnesota Sounds and Voices today as part of All Things Considered and at mprnews.org.

The Bridging folks call the charity a furniture bank, a household goods version of a food bank. Twin Cities social service agencies screen potential recipients, and Bridging invites them to either the Bloomington or Roseville showroom where they are taken on a shopping trip, but there’s no charge.

The furniture bank idea has taken hold around the country; Fran estimates there are 38 operations, and the folks at Bridging have consulted with some of them on how to run their operations.

Once a year at about this time there’s a hitch in the system: donations to Bridging tail off, and they run out of some items. The reason, Fran says, is the weather. The cold, snow and ice, along with folks taking warm weather vacations, divert them from going through their attics and garages and getting rid of things they no longer need.

Sadly, the need for Bridging does not appear to be ebbing. The good news is with the demographic bulge of empty nester baby boomers growing there should be lots of stuff once they get around to cleaning out the garage, the attic and the closets.

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