Steve Feldman was a veteran rock and roll disc jockey who, in 1998, left radio to raise money for addict recovery programs. A self-proclaimed recovering addict, Feldman had one important donor in Greenwich, Connecticut who, in 2001, lost $30 million in that year’s market crash.
“Fortunately, opportunity was literally ‘next door,’” Feldman says.
“My donor’s neighbor was Farah Pahlavi (the Queen of Iran). I saw a sign in the Queen’s driveway: ‘Demolition in Progress.’ So, I drove up to her 10,000 sq. ft. Rockefeller Mansion and it was gone. The idea struck me – why not earn the money, rather than asking for it, by selling donated kitchens, fixtures and furniture out of demolished mansions.”
Thus, Renovation Angel was born. After a four-year successful pilot project, Feldman established Renovation Angel in 2005 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. In 2012, the organization expanded nationwide.
“Our mission is protecting the Earth, creating new recycling jobs, and helping those in need. In 15 years, we have recycled over 7,000 kitchens, diverted over 40 million pounds from the landfills, created over $25 million in jobs, and distributed $2.3 million to charity.”
The concept is simple: owners donate unwanted luxury kitchens and other household goods to Renovation Angel, who provides a ‘Net Value Estimate,’ which shows estimated tax and removal savings. As part of its service, Renovation Angel provides free white-glove removal, without disposal costs. At project completion, the donor receives documentation outlining their tax deduction from a referred 3rd party independent appraiser, required by the IRS for tax deductions of over $5,000.
Renovation Angel sells the donated goods via its network of customers or in its 43,000 square foot retail outlet in Fairfield, New Jersey. Removal, transportation and resale of these items creates numerous construction, logistics and retail jobs. Proceeds earned from selling recycled luxury creates support for outreach programs in the areas of youth-at-risk, addiction recovery, job creation and social entrepreneurship.
“A kitchen donor is often the buyer of a property after a real estate transaction,” Feldman explains. “Sellers usually donate furniture. They feel great because they kept the kitchen and furniture out of landfills, recycled them, and it was for a good cause. Ours is the most financially savvy and sustainable renovation and remodeling solution available.”
An average luxury kitchen donor saves $10,000 to $50,000 on their project. A donor contributing a full house of furnishing saves $100,000 or more.
The wasteful, often unnecessary renovation of kitchens fills landfills with metal, ceramics, wood, glass and other materials that do not easily decompose. But, especially at the upper end, new, of-the-moment kitchens are de rigueur when a home changes hands, when styles change, or when new innovations come to the market. Thus, the 100,000 luxury kitchens annually torn out and sent to the landfill are usually quite functional and can have a second lives in other homes.
“We have made being green and sustainable financially advantageous,” Feldman says.
Since 2016, Renovation Angel has entered into partnerships with the National Kitchen and Bath Association, Walker
Zanger, a tile and stone manufacturer, and with the German appliance giant, Miele. In June 2020, Miele announced a Recycle & Rebate program with Renovation Angel. Through the program, homeowners who donate their qualified kitchens receive an instant discount on new Miele appliances and significant tax and removal savings.
“Our ultimate goal,” Feldman says, “Is to recycle every one of those 100,000 kitchens, and, in the process, to donate kitchens to families in need.”
It’s a worthy goal, and Renovation Angel is well on its way to realizing it.