Nonprofit transforms lives through upcycling

Pivot Program's Charles Reaves stands next to work created from salvaged instruments.
© Margaret Badore. Charles Reaves next to work created from salvaged instruments.

Pivot Program is a non-profit that provides job training to people who have been homeless or formally incarcerated. Started by Nikki Jason and her husband Jon, the program teaches participants carpentry and furniture re-finishing skills. The organization works only with recycled materials in their workshop in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

Nikki is a marketing and branding specialist, and Jon is a furniture designer. She said she was inspired to create Pivot after attending a Summit Series conference, which was attended by the founders of Toms Shoes and Warby Parker.

“I began to think about what could I do with my skill set that could impact people’s lives,” said Nikki. “So, we thought, why don’t we design some furniture from sustainable materials that people would want to buy.”

They use donated materials, often in the form of old furniture, and also purchase salvaged wood. One collection features old instruments, which they acquired from a musical rental business that also shares space in the same warehouse building as Pivot.

Another collection, Pivot Pop, offers an easy way to customize furniture. The workshop curates a collection of donated pieces and strips them. Customers can then pick a color and finish, and the workshop will complete the items accordingly. “Really what we’re doing is taking this old bland stuff that nobody wants anymore and giving it a new lease on life,” said Nikki. “And this is built to last furniture, there’s no reason why it couldn’t have another 50 years.”

A number of the other pieces are one-of-a-kind items designed by Jon. At the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, Pivot exhibited a desk made from reclaimed scaffolding planks and a chair that had been re-made after being damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

The non-profit has received funding from The Osborne Association, but Nikki hopes that furniture sales can support more of their operations. “That’s perhaps the biggest challenge,” she said. “All the other pieces work, now we just have to make sure to find the right retail partners and sales channels, so that we can ensure that the business can grow.”

Charles Reaves is one of the craftsmen who works for Pivot, and is a graduate of the The Bowery Mission, an organization that serves the homeless. He initially started as a volunteer, and now works both in the workshop and helps people arriving at Pivot.

“I get to mentor new people coming in, so that part is the best part of it,” said Reaves. “I get to help other women and men coming in adjust to getting paid again and taking care of their rent and stuff, rather than thinking about drugs and all that other crazy stuff that we went through.”

Related Content on