Marking a Memorable Year: Fall

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear.
525,600 minutes – how do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

525,600 minutes! 525,000 journeys to plan.
525,600 minutes — how can you measure the life of a woman or man?

It’s time now to sing out, the story never ends

let’s celebrate, remember a year in the life of friends.”

Seasons of Love from RENT

Fall is probably the most beloved season we have here in Michigan. Gorgeous arrays of color on the trees extend from the Upper Peninsula to the “Mitten.” The rich diversity of our state is what makes it a great place to live and do business. And most importantly, it provides us with a multitude of philanthropic opportunities!

Play Me, I’m Yours

Just two years old, ArtPrize® in Grand Rapids has become one of the premier art events in the country. Part arts festival, part social experiment — this international contest is decided solely by public vote.

So you can imagine our excitement when we announced that we would be sponsoring British artist Luke Jerram’s piano installation piece titled, Play Me I’m Yours. Twenty pianos were placed throughout the streets of downtown Grand Rapids. Using the core of the city as a backdrop, each piano acted as a sculptural, musical, blank canvas, and provided musicians of all levels an opportunity to share their creativity by performing in the public.

“We are thrilled to be involved in bringing Luke’s project to ArtPrize,” said David Van Elslander. “It’s an opportunity to engage the community, bring out hidden musical talent, allow people to express themselves and just to have fun.”

This year alone Play Me I’m Yours will be presented in New York City, London, Belfast, Cincinnati,  and San Jose. At the conclusion of ArtPrize, the pianos were donated to schools and community groups in the area.

Simply Irresistible Party

Art Van and Detroit News columnist Chuck Bennett hosted a night of food, furniture, and fashion for a great cause. While the event gave us an opportunity to showcase our new Fall Home Catalog, Simply Irresistible, it also gave us the chance to raise over $14,000 for the Horatio Williams Foundation, which supplies uniforms for underprivileged inner-city students. In 2009, the Foundation was able to outfit one school in Detroit. Thanks to this party, they were able to provide four schools with 560 uniforms! Now that’s a great style statement.

Charity Challenge, Round 2

After months of reading heart-tugging submissions (and going through boxes of tissues) our panel of judges whittled over 600 Million Dollar Charity Challenge applications to 50, and we went on a whirlwind, 50-hour tour across Michigan to announce the lucky recipients of grants ranging from  $5,000 to $50,000.

The first press conference took place at our flagship store in Warren where past recipients spoke about the positive impact 2009’s donation had on their charities. From feeding children and providing support to families coping with domestic violence to serious medical conditions. And, last year’s recipients were able to leverage the Art Van grants to raise an additional $4 million in donations.

But we didn’t stop there. To raise more awareness about these remarkable charities, we created This website featured bio’s on each charity and a donation functionality. We also asked people to vote for their favorite charity. The charity that received the most votes would be given an additional $25,000 check.

Charities like HAVEN and Ozone House tapped into their supporter base with e-mails, while DADiaperBank took to social media. A digital billboard was even donated to promote Paws With A Cause. In the final stretch, Grace Centers of Hope and Paws were running neck and neck toward the finish line, with Grace Centers ultimately winning the check.

After the winner was announced, the gracious Paws With a Cause posted this on their facebook page:

Many thanks to ALL PAWS FB friends and family who voted fro PAWS in the Art Van Charity Challenge Bonus Grant voting! While we took second place, we truly appreciate your support and that of Art Van Furniture‘s! In the end, we all ‘won’ because of the community awareness this opportunity provided all 50 winners…thanks again for supporting PAWS!

And Whaley Children’s Center wrote:

We had a child named Jacob arrive on Friday, it was freezing that day, his case worker came and said “Miss Karen we have a problem” Jacob’s bag he brought is full of toys, no clothes.  He had on only what he was wearing.  I stepped back, swallowed hard so I wouldn’t cry and said, “Dude lets go up in my donation closet and shop for some clothes”.  We found a coat that fit and boots too, he said thank you for every item of clothes (no matter how tattered) that I gave him.  I came down into our lobby area and started to cry wishing I could help every child, every way possible, then I looked at the Art Van check proudly displayed on the mantle in that room, and my heart was happy because you guys cared and shared!  Please let everyone know that this has been an amazing uplifting experience for all of us here! 

Detroit Meets New York

In October, we brought the Big Apple to the Motor City for a spectacular gala to benefit Henry Ford Health System. Faster than a New York-minute, our Tech store was transformed into signature NYC neighborhoods like Chinatown, SoHo, Central Park, and Times Square.

Over 600 guests enjoyed the sights, sounds, and flavors of “the city that never sleeps.” They were even treated to a Broadway revue. Most importantly, 100% of the proceeds raised from ticket sales went directly toward the services and research being done at the Henry Ford Neuroscience Institute and the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center at Henry Ford Health System.

Strike up the Parade!

One of the most legendary moments in Art Van Furniture’s 51-year history is the moment Mr. Van Elslander received a eleventh-hour call from The Parade Company. It was 1990 and due to lack of sponsorship, America’s Thanksgiving Parade was in danger of being permanently cancelled.

With the simple act of writing a $200,000 check, Mr. Van operationally brought the Parade from the brink of death, and in the process inspired other businesses to get on board. The Parade went on as planned, and the following year Mr. Van announced that we would match the contributions of other business up to $100,000. From there, things really started to take off and the Parade once again gained momentum to continue the cherished tradition of bringing families together on Thanksgiving morning.

We are proud to say that 2010 was Art Van Furniture’s 21st year of sponsorship. In the wee hours of November 25th, Art Van employees from all over the metro Detroit area descended upon Detroit to take their place alongside the “Knights of the Charitable Round Table” float and assist in blowing up the crowd favorite 48″ Flicker the Dragon balloon. And as a special treat this year, Deidre Hall, best know for her role as Dr. Marlena Evans on NBC’s daytime drama Days of our Lives, rode in the Parade with Mr. Van.

Afterwards, she shared a Thanksgiving meal with the women at Genesis House III in Detroit. She also participated in two in-store book signings where she autographed copies of her latest book, Kitchen Close-up, in exchange for donations to the shelter.

And that’s how we measure a year. We hope you’ve enjoyed our stroll down memory lane. These events are just a snapshot of the ways we’re involved in our communities. We also participate as sponsors for festivals and cultural events around the state, and we treasure the value of being able to share it with each one of you.

Here’s to many more wonderful opportunities to give in 2011! Happy New Year!

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