Success Story

Philadelphia-based non-profit delivers donated furniture to those who need it

When Mel McDaniel began her career as an interior designer in 2006, she quickly realized how many homeowners are constantly trying to get rid of or donate their old furniture. She never wanted her clients’ lightly used furniture to go to waste, so McDaniel would haul things like couches, chairs, and desks to a friend’s house or a consignment store. However, furniture was still going to waste, and having previously worked as a social worker, McDaniel knew there were people who could really use the furniture. 

Seeing an opportunity to combine her love for interior design and helping others, McDaniel created Marvin’s Home – a 501(c)(3) nonprofit serving the Philadelphia area that takes furniture donations and directly delivers them to the mostly empty apartments of young adults who have been homeless or recently aged out of the foster care system. 

When kids have aged out of the foster care system and they’ve moved into an apartment – usually their first apartment – and I go in and meet them, there is usually nothing more than a mattress, maybe a lawn chair, some random piece of furniture, and that’s it,” McDaniel said. “Even lamps – there are never lamps, and most of the apartments don’t even have overhead lighting. Without light, it’s hard to feel good about starting your day.” 

McDaniel became a client of Penn State Law’s Entrepreneur Assistance Clinic (EAC) when she needed help getting her 501(c)(3) status – which is key in becoming a tax-deductible non-profit. 

“The clinic saved us; I’m not even joking,” McDaniel said. “We were a non-profit organization, but no one could get a tax deduction for their donations until we had that 501(c)(3) status, so it was pressing in terms of garnering donations. The IRS was backed up due to COVID and everything was taking so long. If you don’t know what one thing means on those forms, it can cost you seven months. The clinic knew. The law students just took care of it for me.” 

Marvin’s Home recently held a successful fundraising event to assist with the opening of their new physical storefront, Home on Main, set to open its doors in the fall in Lansdale, PA. She said Marvin’s Home often gets nice donations that are too heavy to move or aren’t appropriate for their installs. This storefront will function as an upcycled home store to sell these items as a source of constant income for the nonprofit. 

“At the very heart of it all is the importance of home and how hard it is to launch yourself into adult life without the bare necessities of home,” McDaniel said. “We don’t think about not having the most basic things, but so many people live that way. It’s amazing to see how many people care about this. Home is just this fundamental thing we need to have, and that’s what Marvin’s Home is all about.” 

About the Entrepreneur Assistance Clinic (EAC) 

Penn State Law offers two cost-free legal clinics to Pennsylvania entrepreneurs — the EAC and the Intellectual Property Clinic (IPC)—both of which are staffed by law students who work under the supervision of full-time lawyers. The IPC provides IP services related to patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights. The EAC offers counseling, document drafting and negotiation assistance to startups and small businesses that otherwise would be unable to afford traditional legal assistance. 

Although physically located at the Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank in downtown State College, the EAC serves all of Pennsylvania through videoconferencing.  

Potential clients who are interested in obtaining services from the EAC should submit an intake form.  

This program is supported by Invent Penn State, a Commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student career success.