SOUTH LOOP — The name says it all: Covers Unlimited, a South Loop upholstery company, hopes to raise money for various nonprofits with a new initiative they call "Chair-ity."
"We are all involved in volunteer work in our home lives, and at a recent meeting we asked ourselves, how do we display that here? How do we get involved in that as a company?" said Kevin Shapin, vice president at the custom furniture store at 329 W. 18th St.
"We were looking at our logo, and it dawned on us: what if we made a chair? There are all these awareness months — what if we worked with different fabrics, different designers and different companies to collaborate on it, and auction it off?"
Shapin said his team of philanthropy-minded furniture designers "got really nuts about it" as the idea developed. Soon after came the slogan: "Sit for a Cause."
Earlier this month, the team debuted its first "Chair-ity" chair for auction: a bright red version of their signature straightbacked armchair with clean, modern lines, white piping and a white base.
The beneficiary for the auction of the first chair is The AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and the color scheme is intended as a nod to the AIDS awareness ribbon.
Shapin says they estimated the first chair's value at $5,000, taking into consideration all the donations that made it happen.
"The frame was donated by a frame maker, the fabric was donated by Carnegie, we're donating the foams, the materials and the labor," he said. "Everyone we're involved with has just gotten behind it 100 percent. Even the photography is donated."
The online auction for the AIDS Foundation chair opened June 9, and closes on July 9. The fundraising goal listed on the auction site is $20,000, and the starting bid is $500. All of the proceeds from each auction will go directly to the chosen organization for each chair.
Shapin says his staff is already competing over whose favorite charity will get the next chair.
"I'm really pushing for a diabetes chair come November," said Shapin, who is actively involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
The team has also been contacted directly by local nonprofits who expressed interest in having a chair made for them.
The furniture company hopes to start making a "Chair-ity" chair every three months this year, though Shapin said they weren't against producing fundraiser furniture more often in the future if there proves to be demand.
"When you know you're going to be helping people with your work, that just makes it exciting," he said. "I like what I do normally, but knowing that we get to take this work, take the money and just hand it over to a charity to help — that's a great feeling."
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