A CORONAVIRUS fund grant has helped a furniture recycling charity stay in operation after its revenue plummeted during the lockdown.

KFR in Devizes was awarded £9,500 from Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund to help with running costs. The fund has distributed more than £1.1 million through more than 260 grants.

The group, on the Hopton Industrial Estate, collects and refurbishes more than 150 tonnes of unwanted furniture from all over the county each year and then sells it at low cost. In the last year it has also given more than 150 pieces of furniture to victims of domestic abuse, people in extreme poverty and rough sleepers who have been given a home.

Operations manager Dan Thompson said its revenue fell 30 per cent - more than £8,000 - during the third lockdown when its showroom could only see a reduced number of customers by appointment only.

“Our revenue fell off a cliff just when there was more money going out because we had signed a lease on the unit next door to double our size and we were refurbishing it.

“It was a very worrying time so we were very pleased that Wiltshire Community Foundation came through with the grant and saved us.”

He added: “The grant gave us the security we needed to spend money for the business development to cope with the fallout from Covid. Sadly demand is going to grow and we will be there to catch people and help them when they need us the most.”

People being stuck at home for a year has sparked a boom in DIY, which has led to an increase in donations – KFR has collected more than 4,000 items in the last 12 months. Its volunteers usually run two vans all over the county but social distancing rules and shielding meant the burden fell on to Mr Thompson’s staff.

“We only have the equivalent of six full-timers so it has been a busy year,” he said. “But we have done it with a great team and I don’t think we’d have succeeded without them being so solid.”

The addition of more space has meant a revamped warehouse and showroom, which is already paying off. “In our old warehouse everything was stacked up and you couldn’t really see what we had so it is great that it is now all ordered by type of furniture and is spread out nicely,” he said.

“The proof of the pudding is that if people can see it then they will buy it and since we opened up we have been really busy.”

He said the vogue for recycling is contributing to the group’s success. It collects washing machines and fridge freezers from four council recycling centres and puts two full-time engineers to work repairing and refurbishing them.

“We are selling washing machines worth £600 or £700 for £120 and that is a really quality machine that people just wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise,” said Mr Thompson.

“We turn round 120 units a month but I think we can get it to 140. Further down the line I’d like to take on apprentices to work with the white goods because I am very keen to bring some opportunity and some knowledge to young people.”

By staying operational during the lockdown when other similar groups have closed it has picked up extra contacts in Swindon and Salisbury, making it a truly county-wide operation. “We have taken on two Kickstarter apprentices and have a vacancy for another one to keep pace with the business as it grows,” said Mr Thompson.

“It’s been a very stressful two months but with the lockdown easing and the help from Wiltshire Community Foundation everything seems to be coming to fruition now.”

Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “KFR has a fantastic dual role in that it prevents so much unnecessary waste going into landfill and then makes it available for people at really affordable prices, as well as donating it to people in crisis.

“I am so pleased our fund was there when the group needed it, that’s why it has been so important in helping community groups bounce back from Covid, which is why we really need people’s support.”

Find out more about KFR at kfr.org.uk. To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.