When Greg Crowley celebrated his Home Furnishings Association Trailblazer Award with family, friends and employees at his Liberty, Mo., store back in February, Brett and Jenny Horn were there to add their congratulations.
What a sad but ultimately fulfilling journey the Horns have had since their 2-year-old son Charlie died under a fallen bedroom dresser in 2007. From that tragedy, Charlie’s House was built. Crowley, owner of three Crowley Furniture and Mattress stores just outside Kansas City, has been a valued partner along the way.
That partnership was an important factor in Crowley receiving the HFA honor, which recognizes lifetime achievements in the retail furniture industry – including philanthropy and community involvement.
Crowley supports children’s safety house
Charlie’s House is a unique project, which stemmed from a furniture industry problem. Too often, children have been crushed or suffocated by tip-overs of unstable chests and dressers. Out of their grief, the Horns decided to draw attention to that and other dangers to help prevent similar accidents. After many years of raising money and creating educational programs, they have completed the first-in-the-country children’s safety demonstration house.
On the snowy afternoon before the reception at Crowley’s flagship store, Brett Horn met Greg Crowley, Crowley’s daughters Laura and Katie and visitors from the HFA at Charlie’s House. The construction was complete, but more work remained to landscape the property and furnish and equip the house. Its official opening, since delayed by the COVID-19 crisis, is now planned for September.
The house is in the Hospital Hill section of downtown Kansas City. It sits across the street from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and near the Truman Medical Center. The back deck overlooks the Kansas City Health Department.
“What’s great about this location is it’s beautiful, but it’s central to Kansas City,” Greg Crowley said.
Local medical providers will learn from the house
The Charlie’s House mission will intersect with the work of the medical school, hospital and health department, teaching visitors the many ways adults can improve household safety.
“The experience is designed for the caregiver,” Horn said. Windows, stairs, garage doors, appliances, bathtubs and nearly everything else in a home can pose threats. Through videos and interactive displays, visitors will learn about hazards and how to minimize them. The garage will double as a conference room.
Watch Greg Crowley talk with Brett Horn of Charlie’s House
Crowley has supported Charlie’s House for many years and will furnish a bedroom in the house. It will feature a Whittier Wood Products dresser. Whittier furniture complies with industry stability standards and includes two other safety measures: an anti-tip interlock mechanism, which prevents children from opening more than one drawer at a time to use as stair steps; and a unique tip-restraint system that anchors the piece to the baseboard or sub-floor sheathing.
Crowley and Charlie’s House distribute some 20,000 co-branded tip-restraint kits throughout the Kansas City area annually. Crowley has invited Horn to speak to his delivery teams so that they fully understand the importance of stressing to customers why they should anchor chests and dressers, especially in children’s bedrooms.
Safety is part of the Crowley culture
Safety is integrated into Crowley’s daily operations, Greg Crowley said. “It’s a culture we have to have as a company, at the sales level and the delivery level.”
Safety has been part of the Horn family’s life since that terrible accident in 2007, and it lies at the heart of the Charlie’s House mission.
“My family’s story is part of it, and I’m the pusher of that. But I’ve had great board members over the years and great business partners,” Horn said, nodding to Crowley.
Horn showed off the house with obvious pride, brushing aside the pain that must linger.
“We don’t want this to be a million-dollar memorial, because it’s not,” he said. “I don’t even know where a picture of Charlie will go, although it will.”