Woe be unto the McCurrie brother who arrives late to a family photoshoot with his hair ruffled and his shirt on the rumpled side.
“Dude! Fix your hair! Tuck in your shirt!”
It takes a stout spirit to survive the brotherly verbal drubbing that ensued, but from the level of hilarity and good-natured trash-talk on display, it was easy to imagine how often similar scenarios replayed in the McCurrie household. In short order, Jimmy (yes, the oldest) was sufficiently groomed and in place for the shot meant to capture what these four brothers are all about.
Jimmy, Mike, Dave and Rob posed amid a vignette of living room furniture set up in the middle of Notre Dame Avenue, the sun glinting off the Golden Dome in the background. The visual cues of the image told their story: stair-stepped in age, all Notre Dame students, all dedicated to the spirit of giving back.
That last point is where the furniture comes in.
In 2010, Jimmy and Mike heard through their mother, Barbara McCurrie, that Operation Safety Net, which finds housing for homeless Pittsburgh residents, was having trouble getting furniture. Jimmy, Mike and another Notre Dame student from Pittsburgh, Matt Myron had just completed a Notre Dame-sponsored Urban Plunge during winter break, where they spent two nights living in a Pittsburgh homeless shelter. They were looking for a way to stay connected to their home city.
Mike and Jimmy—who by then were in their freshman and sophomore years respectively—teamed up with their two younger brothers still in high school, David and Rob, and Matt Myron, to launch their own volunteer effort to provide the stuff of daily living that helps make a place a home.
“We found people we knew were moving,” said Mike. “It didn’t make sense to see all that furniture get thrown out.”
Thanks to articles in the local Pittsburgh papers about their effort, the word has spread about their project and donations of household goods have grown. When someone calls offering furniture, the boys spring into action. First, they visit to assess whether the furniture is reusable. Then, they’ll make as many trips as it takes, often in their parents’ Chevy Suburban, to haul the stuff. Beds, couches, tables, appliances—you name it.
“We store it in my dad’s garage, so he can’t park his car there, which he tends to really enjoy,” said Mike.
And if they don’t have what Operation Safety Net needs, they’ll call around and find it. If they know the case involves children or a baby, they make a special effort to find cribs, strollers and other necessities. As Jimmy points out, "This is an effort that could easily be replicated in any city to help the underserved"
To date, they’ve furnished more than 50 households for formerly homeless people in Pittsburgh. Since there are no longer any McCurrie boys in high school to handle the calls, they have enlisted teachers and students from their high school to help. Their mother passes along phone messages for them, and most of the moving days are scheduled around school breaks.
Working together on their Pittsburgh project has kept the brothers connected to their hometown and strengthened their already close bonds with each other. They just have one problem—what to call their furniture program. “We’ve been working on a name forever,” laughed Mike. “We just can’t settle on one.”