Hard work for the needy

Lloyd Ter Maat’s crew of volunteers delivers truckloads of donated pieces to homes that are bereft of furniture

Lloyd Ter Maat, John Krostag, Mark Hopeman and Jerry Bowling met in the First Reformed Church parking lot in Cedar Grove before delivering a trailer full of furniture to those in need in Milwaukee on Monday. (Lower photo) LLOYD TER MAAT of Cedar Grove (left) has a crew of 20 guys from area churches, including John Krostag of Oostburg (right), he can call to help him pick up furniture across the area and deliver it to Milwaukee. First Reformed Church of Cedar Grove recently bought the group a new truck and 14-foot trailer to support the mission. Photos by Sam Arendt


Ozaukee Press staff

The Cedar Grove crew that picks up and delivers furniture to needy people in Milwaukee doesn’t have a name or business cards.

What the crew does have is unyielding faith and the dedication to put it into action with the support of  First Reformed Church in Cedar Grove and more than 10 other churches in the area.

Its leader, Lloyd Ter Maat, has for decades led trips to furniture stores and estate and other sales to pick up items people don’t sell or want to donate and takes them to people’s homes in Milwaukee.

It’s a busy job for the retired owner of Ter Maat Builders.

“It’s nothing to have 75 phone calls and texts in a day,” he said.

One day he had 123 — “just wild,” he said.

“This guy — I don’t believe he ever sleeps,” volunteer John Krostag of Oostburg said of Ter Maat.

“It’s more than a full-time job for Lloyd,” volunteer Mark Hopeman of Cedar Grove said.

Ter Maat has about 20 people he can call for help, and 12 committed to making the trip to Milwaukee at least once a week.

“I’ve got a great group of guys. I can’t thank them enough,” he said.

The group picks up items from across the area, from Cascade to Sheboygan Falls and Cedar Grove to Cedarburg. Stores may include Claerbout Furniture and Flooring in Cedar Grove, Wilk Furniture and Design in Random Lake, Bitter Neumann in Sheboygan and Buehler Furniture in Sheboygan Falls.

In January, the group took 16 loads on multiple trailers from Harborside Hotel in Port Washington, which was clearing out inventory before redoing its rooms.

“People just hear about us. They call,” Ter Maat said of donors. “It’s strictly word of mouth that they hear about us. We have been blessed.”

Trips to Milwaukee range from Silver Spring Drive to the south side. Ter Maat works with 10 to 12 agencies — such as Aurora Behavioral Health Center and House of Peace — that connect him with people and their lists of needs. His group delivers directly to homes or apartments.

Some of the recipients are victims of violence. Others lost their homes and belongings in fires or water pipe leaks.

“A lot of these homes, there’s nothing in the house. They don’t even have a bed to sleep on. They sleep on the hardwood floor,” Ter Maat said.

“And they’ve got children,” Hopeman said.

It can take three or four trips to the same place before the group gets everything a family needs, and Ter Maat often forges a friendship with the people, sharing the Gospel, giving them a Bible and praying with them. One woman even texted him photos of her daughter during prom.

“Sometimes, ladies ask us to pray for them,” Ter Maat said.

The trips aren’t easy, First Reformed Church pastor Brad Bradford said.

“These guys go into places many people would feel uncomfortable in,” he said.

First Reformed Church takes the mission so seriously it recently bought a new truck and a 14-foot cargo trailer for the group. On the back of the trailer is the phrase, “Another load for the less fortunate.”

“I think this is the work of Jesus in modern-day circumstances. I believe if Jesus were here today he’d be in the truck with them,” Bradford said.

“We’ve been very blessed to support this ministry. It’s one of our high-priority ministries and missions.”

Ter Maat said support from the church is vital, and it comes in many forms. Women meet at First Reformed twice per week to create quilts to donate with the furniture, and they’ve already completed more than 1,000.

Ter Maat once got a call from someone at the church who bought a refrigerator on sale for the group. He got a call back the next day and was told the deal was too good, and two more fridges were dropped off.

“It’s amazing how generous people can be,” Krostag said.

Volunteers come from across the area and from different churches. Krostag, who attends a Presbyterian church in Oostburg and worked at Oostburg Lumber for 40 years, met Ter Maat through the construction industry.

Jerry Bowling of Gibbsville, who attends church in his town and recently retired from being a herdsman for 1,250 cattle Quonset Farms in Oostburg, was looking for something to do.

Hopeman joined after selling his dairy cattle and going to cash cropping in 2014.

“I’m so encouraged and humbled by these men — to load all this furniture and take it into some of the most needy places. It just blesses me,” Bradford said.

The group is about as amusing as it is motivated. Krostag picked up a rocking chair to pose for a photo on Monday, to which Hopeman said, “That’s the most he’s going to do all day.”

The effort took root 30 years ago when First Reformed sent a youth group to Grand Rapids, Mich., to help build and remodel rundown homes in the inner city. Ter Maat led the trips.

“A couple of parents got to talking, if they can do it, why can’t we?” Ter Maat said.

They started volunteering in inner city Milwaukee, working on homes and sometimes taking children home for weekends. Ter Maat had his business at the time and would fill a dump trailer with mattresses to donate. They disappeared in a day.

First Reformed Church’s pastor at the time suggested adding furniture to the program and expanding the ministry. More guys kept joining the effort, and year after year it kept going.

Ter Maat brings his crew doughnuts, drives the truck and has a system of navigation.

“One guy sits in the front with me and does the phone calling, and a guy in back has the GPS,” he said.

Less than a year ago, an anonymous caller not from First Reformed Church or Cedar Grove called Ter Maat to ask what would happen when the group retired. Ter Maat said he didn’t know.

The caller then offered a matching gift of as much as $100,000 to keep the program going.

First Reformed Church is more than halfway to that goal.

To donate, contact Ter Maat at (920) 980-5798 or the church at (920) 668-6261.


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