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!

Marking a Memorable Year: Summer

“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?”

Seasons of Love from RENT

“Hot town, summer in the city” was definitely the theme in 2010, and Art Van kept things hopping all season long! Check out how we spent our summer vacation.

Rescue Me

We’re not only concerned about our fellow man, but we also look out for our four-legged friends! Our Saginaw and Bay City stores collected supplies for the Few Steps From Home animal rescue shelter. Saginaw Sales Associate Lori Lagalo-Balko, who volunteers her time fostering homeless animals, inspired the stores to host the drive, and the guest response exceeded our expectations and resulted in new beds, leashes, food, and toys for the shelter.



Shake Your Groove Thing

The Drayton Plains store hosted a Saturday Night Fever party to help children with special needs. Over 300 guests attended to support Clarkston SCAMP, a 2009 Million Dollar Charity Challenge recipient and provider of recreational and social activities for young adults who are mentally and physically challenged. This party was another wonderful opportunity to partner with our Charity Challenge recipients to further help the community and a chance to invite new guests to visit our stores.

Ladies’ Night Out

“An act of kindness from one person is one less burden for another.”

Mr. Art Van Elslander.

Art Van Furniture, along with ABC TV-12 and CARS 108, treated the hardworking ladies of Flint to a free night of pampering that included: a DJ; delicious drinks, appetizers, and desserts from local restaurants; Mani/pedi’s; dancing lessons; and more!

But the event was also about receiving diaper donations to help the 50% of mothers giving birth in Genesee County who live below the poverty level. And the ladies answered the call by bringing 400 plus packages of diapers to the event!

We’re just happy we won’t be the ones responsible for changing them!

Christmas Comes Early

Living with a serious illness puts a significant strain on a family’s finances, time and emotions. So in July, we teamed up with the Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan* to lessen the burden felt —especially around the holidays — by hosting a Christmas in July toy drive. We can only imagine the huge smiles on the faces of these precious children on Christmas morning as they opened all the wonderful presents so generously donated by wonderful folks like you.

*This great organization was also one of our 2009 Million Dollar Charity Challenge recipients.

Strength in Numbers

In July, we were delighted to be able to donate 11 brand-new beds to the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit. The beds will be used in recently renovated rooms at the House, which provides “a home away from home” for families of seriously ill children who are hospitalized nearby.

“This donation will save the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit thousands of dollars in expenses and ensure our families have a comfortable place to sleep and rest during their stay,” said Jennifer Litomisky, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit. “Art Van Furniture has been a longtime supporter and we greatly appreciate their investment in our House.”

Each year, more than 1,200 families stay at the 16,000-square foot House, which includes all of the amenities a normal home would provide. The House consists of 25 bedrooms, four TV rooms, an exercise room, quiet area, indoor and outdoor playrooms, phone booths, dining room, and kitchen. The average length of stay for families at the House is two weeks, with some staying for many months. Families pay $10 each night they stay at the House while donors cover the rest of the operating expenses and the nightly rate for families who cannot cover that cost.

Goodwill for All

Branded with “Donate for Jobs” messaging, we handed over the keys to a 26-foot truck to Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit. This stylish new ride will enable the collection and transportation of goods donated to the upscale resale Goodwill store that opened in Canton on December 11. And it’s another way we can support Goodwill’s efforts to help Metro Detroiters overcome employment challenges and become “Trained, Trusted and Ready to Work.”

Next up: Fall


Marking a Memorable Year: Spring

“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.”

Seasons of Love from RENT

Spring was a busy time for Art Van Furniture, and we were constantly looking for ways to give back and to bolster the spirits of Michiganders across the state. Here are just a handful of examples of how we spent this season.

Mending Hearts in Haiti

With the rebirth of spring came the opportunity to once again team up with Mitch Albom. This time Mitch was taking a group of volunteers to Port Au Prince, Haiti for a five-day building blitz. This humanitarian effort took plumbers and other badly needed cargo to the “Caring and Sharing Mission and Orphanage” which was devastated by the 7.0 earthquake on January 12, 2010. Detroiters helped to raise $82,000 for materials and volunteers to rebuild the orphanage, but they needed a way to get to and from Haiti safely, and that’s when Mr. Van stepped in and arranged for a plane. 

“Our focus has been squarely on the needs of Michigan families in these tough economic times, but we also feel a responsibility to help around the world when tragedy strikes,” said Art Van Elslander.

“It was a privilege to help Mitch with this important project. Dozens of children will be helped by this effort, restoring the roof, kitchen and bathrooms at the orphanage.”

We’re already looking forward to the next chance we have to help Mitch — and knowing how passionate he is about helping others; we’re guessing we won’t be left waiting long.

Brave Athletes

Art Van was proud to host a dazzling reception for 545 Special Olympics athletes, volunteers, and their families who came to cheer them on at the Special Olympics State Basketball Tournament held in Grandville.

“Talk about having fire in the belly, these athletes have it. Their energy and determination is incredible. One woman’s smile was so contagious. I know she trained hard to get to the State Finals and her attitude was beautiful. It reminded me to do something better today than you did yesterday,” commented Aleta Knudholt, Grandville Store Manager.


In 2009, we had the privilege of awarding 50 charities across Michigan much needed grant money through our Million Dollar Charity Challenge. As a bonus component, we structured them as challenge grants to help the charities maximize their fundraising efforts. One grant recipient was Wigs 4 Kids. To help kick off their Wellness Center Capital Campaign in style, we hosted a fundraiser called “The Right Combination” held at Art Van Furniture on 14 Mile Road in Warren. The event was celebrated by over 400 guests and raised $17,000 for the campaign launch. The funds raised on that night, combined with the $300,000 in recent donations, brought the campaign to 25% of its goal of $1.25 million.

“At our new center, we’ll be able to help more children in one year than we’ve seen in the previous six years,” said Founder and CEO, Maggie Varney. 

In addition to this event, Art Van Furniture provided all the furnishings for the Wellness Center, and a talented decorator to handle the interior design.



Suite Dreams

Art Van Furniture was named “2010 America’s Youth Retailer of the Year” by Legacy Classic Furniture, so it makes sense that Mr. Van pledged to help the Suite Dreams Project design and furnish 50 bedrooms. One of the recipients was a deserving 12-year old girl named Lexie. Battling leukemia, we helped create a soothing under the sea- themed room complete with a mural of a coral reef and saltwater fish. Sentinel Technologies, the company that supplies the hardware and technology that runs our in-store kiosks, donated special teleconferencing equipment that allows Lexie to attend school without leaving her room. This donation will help her continue to attend classes, even after undergoing bone marrow transplants that would normally have prevented her from physically going to the classroom.

Next up: Summer

Marking a Memorable Year: Winter

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

Seasons of Love from RENT

So many events happen over the course of 365 days. And usually by the time you reach week 52, it’s hard to remember what happened during week one. We feel extremely blessed to be woven into the fabric of many close-knit communities throughout Michigan. In 2010, we formed new relationships and continued to build off of well-established partnerships. But whether new or old, our ability to reach out and help those in need has been humbling, and above all, a great honor. 

Here’s part one of how we spent the seasons of our year:

Daytime Stars Shine Bright

During the gray days of January, “Days of our Lives” stars Nadia Bjorlin and Shawn Christian brought rays of California sunshine when they lent their support and time with us at Genesis House III. Part of the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), Genesis House is committed to helping woman and children in Detroit transition to a better life. Nadia and Shawn also treated fans to autograph sessions at our Tech, Taylor, Novi, and Lakeside stores in exchange for guests bringing in toiletries and other items for Genesis House III.

Then, they headed out with Art Van President, Gary Van, to deliver 50 mattress sets, bed frames, night stands, and dressers.

To see more pictures from this special day, head over to our Facebook page.

Have a Little Faith

Four years ago when Detroit hosted Super Bowl XL, best-selling author and respected journalist Mitch Albom was disturbed by how the homeless were being treated to a “party” to keep them off the streets during the big weekend, but would be forced to fend for themselves again come Monday. So, Mitch created S.A.Y Detroit (Super All Year Detroit). Now a fully-formed 501© (3) charity, it distributes money to shelters in Detroit for projects specifically designed to help the plight of those in need.

We had an opportunity to help Mitch raise funds for his organization by hosting a party. Mitch, his co-host Ken Brown, and the rest of the hardworking news talk News/Talk 760 WJR radio team broadcast The Mitch Albom Show from our Tech Plaza. Afterwards, we held a cocktail party for 500 guests, where Mitch graciously signed copies of his book, “Have a Little Faith,” before speaking to the crowd. Together, we were able to raise over $22,000 from this event for the S.A.Y Detroit.

Share the Magic

On a brisk February morning, we opened our Tech atrium to WMGC-105.1 FM, for a live broadcast to help raise donations and awareness for the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, thirty percent of the people who visit homeless shelters or soup kitchens are families with children. The Capuchin Soup Kitchen provides assistance to these families, serving the poor who suffer from the lack of basic human needs, such as food, clothing, and household necessities. They also address psychological and social needs, and help provide motivation, self-esteem, and rehabilitation, working to build support systems and meaningful relationships.

Next up: Spring

Turn up the Twinkle Factor

Close your eyes and let visions of white begin to dance in your heads. We’ve got another classic movie party inspiration guaranteed to make your next ring-a-ding-shindig shine as bright as a thousand Christmas lights!

Welcome to Pine Tree, Vermont

Hearing Bing Crosby croon White Christmas instantly puts us in the mood for hot cocoa and a warm fire. But you don’t have to just dream about the perfect holiday: by incorporating soft textures, a little shimmy-shimmer, and lots of white, you can create your own glamorous and idyllic wonderland.

In the movie, Wallace (Crosby) and Davis (Danny Kaye) bring their entire Broadway show to Pine Tree, Vermont, to help save their beloved General’s inn. And while you won’t need to make room for a cast of hundreds, you’ll want enough space to keep your guests entertained, which starts with your seating. The Bianca two-piece sectional is a fantastic fit for our all-white theme, with a sleek outline that adds design interest and a swanky feel. For a more fluid look, try the Nero two-piece sectional from ROMA. This Art Van Furniture exclusive is also upholstered in white leather, and we like the way the chaise’s round end gives you an unexpected seating spot. Invite a couple of arm chairs to join in and you’ve got a conversation hot spot. Your guests will also get a kick out of the convenient and unique Pantinoire Collection. The versatile nesting tables give you a large and small surface, while the sofa table can easily be turned into a serving station.

Now the movie is also a love story, so make sure the fireplace is going strong so couples can snuggle on the sofa underneath plush white blankets. Keep good cheer flowing all night long by turning a sideboard into a makeshift bar area and serve signature drinks that relate to the movie like Irving Berlin Eggnog or Clooney Cranberry Coolers, so that at the end of the movie everyone can raise their glass and jovially sing, May your days be merry and bright; and may all your Christmases be white.

Serve up one of Annabel Cohen’s palate party pleasers and you may find it hard to get your guests to leave!


There are many recipe for eggnog – I like this one because it’s creamy and mellow with touch of cinnamon.

4 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup rum, brandy, cognac, whiskey or bourbon

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup heavy whipping cream

Combine yolks and 1/3-cup sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk until well blended. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine the milk, cream, cinnamon and nutmeg and bring just to a boil, whisking frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk a ladleful of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Gradually whisk the egg yolk mixture into the hot milk mixture. Chill until cool.

In another bowl, whip the cream soft peaks.  Fold or whisk cream into the milk mixture. Serve cold. Makes 8 servings.

Clooney Cranberry Coolers

1 can (6 ounces) frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed

1 can (6 ounces) frozen limeade concentrate, thawed

4 cups cranberry (or cranberry-raspberry) juice cocktail, chilled

1 liter ginger ale

Fresh lemon and lime slices

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or pitcher. Serve chilled or over ice. Makes 12 or more servings.

Cozy Tomato Cheddar Cider Fondue

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 cup finely chopped (or petite diced) drained canned tomatoes

1/4 cup apple cider

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

4 cups finely grated Cheddar cheese

Heat olive oil and garlic in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and cook until much of the liquid of the tomatoes is absorbed. Dissolve the cornstarch in the cider and add the pan. Slowly stir in the cheese (a handful at a time) until melted. Keep warm (do not boil!). Serve with fresh French bread cubes.  Makes 8-12 servings