PASADENA — Iva Pickens is a spry 75-year-old who had lived for 30 years in a home in the hills overlooking the Rose Bowl. But she had to walk down 13 steps to reach her front door, and after she developed arthritis she reluctantly decided she would have to move out of the home she loved.
"The biggest problem I foresaw was disposing of a house full of furniture," she said. "I have no relatives in the area, so I thought my only alternatives were either finding a person to hold a garage sale for me or trying to sell the house furnished."
Then she heard about the nonprofit Estate Management Program run by the Huntington Collection resale shop, which raises funds for Huntington Memorial Hospital's Senior Care Network.
Susan Hurst, who operates the program, made an informal appraisal of Pickens' belongings. She then arranged to have volunteers pack and move the household goods and clean the house.
All Pickens had to do was select those things she could keep in her quarters at the retirement home she moved into Oct. 1. Her home furnishings are now being sold, and she will receive 70% of the proceeds.
"It was a lifesaver for me," said Pickens, who is now ensconced at Royal Oaks Manor in Duarte.
Hurst said that the program is designed to help people of any age who are moving into a nursing home, settling an estate or helping someone else dispose of personal property. Funds derived from it go to help senior citizens in the area.
Belongings Not Valuable
A profit-making estate firm or auction house would not have been suitable for Pickens because she did not have antiques or items of great value. She did have a piano that the shop would have liked to acquire and sell, but it turned out that there was room for it in her new quarters and she took it with her at the last minute.
And when she decided she had space for a chair that had already been moved to the shop at 766 S. Fair Oaks Ave., she was invited to retrieve it.
Pickens occasionally returns to the shop to visit Hurst and the rest of the staff.
"I take real pleasure out of seeing my things here," she said.
Another person who has used the service and was pleased with the result is Sidney Smith of Arcadia, the executor of the estate of an old friend, an elderly widow who left a Los Feliz area house full of furniture.
"These people are there to help you, while professionals can be hard-nosed about it," said Smith.
The widow's antiques and jewelry went to relatives, but Smith had to arrange to have the house sold and its furnishings removed.
Smith said he heard about the Huntington program through the probate attorney handling the estate.
"This is quite a burden and they took a lot of hassle off my hands," he said. "My alternatives would have been to have a sale at an open house or just give (the furnishings) away."
The program was started last March after the resale shop ran into a problem: too many donations of big furniture items that had to be stored at a moving company.
"That was unsatisfactory so volunteers explored the need for larger quarters with an estate sales area," Hurst said. "They talked to attorneys and bank trust officers to see if there was a need for a comprehensive service."
Hurst, who has extensive experience both in business and volunteer work, was hired part-time and in September set up a formal program. The shop was moved to a warehouse.
The first step is a visit to the home by Hurst, who is sometimes accompanied by an appraiser. She decides if it is feasible to hold a sale at the home.
If a sale is held at the home, the thrift shop takes 20% to 30% of the proceeds, depending on the work involved. Some sales are held at the shop, in which case the commission is 30%. The customer also has the option of making a tax-deductible contribution of the items.
Among the 15 to 20 volunteers are four men in their 60s who transport items in a pickup truck. But if the home is large or the furniture is too heavy or bulky, the shop hires a professional mover.
So far, seven households have been dismantled, with furnishings sold through an auction, three sales at homes and sales at the thrift shop's warehouse. Leftover items are sold at the thrift shop.
Hurst said her group is currently working on dismantling three other estates.
"We have volunteers with backgrounds in antiques and if we get something of fabulous value, especially jewelry, we will take it to an appraiser," she said.