Beds for Kids project aims to spread throughout the state
TUPELO, Miss. (AP) – Family Resource Center of North Mississippi volunteers and staff met at the Addiction Center in Tupelo Wednesday morning ahead of an afternoon delivery of a bed to an eight year old boy in need who lived in New Albany.
Bed frames for the program are currently being built at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Baldwyn, but Faith-based Initiative Director Stanley Huddleston said the biggest project goal now is to expand, partnering with churches and nonprofit organizations to set up four more frame-building shops spread out across Northeast Mississippi.
Faith-based administrative assistant Audrey Cunningham said the clients who receive beds typically do not have many material possessions.
“It will be kids sleeping on a pile of clothes in the closet, or three or four to a bed on a mattress on the floor, or a futon or a couch, one boy had to sleep with his parents because all they had was a bed and a chair, they have a roof over their head but they don’t have a place to lay their head,” Cunningham said.
“We go into the homes and they don’t have anything in a lot of places,” said Anthony Mitchell, assistant faith-based ministry coordinator at the Family Resource Center.
“We do a lot of the affordable housing projects, there are multiple apartment complexes and that’s what we see a lot of, there are not as many in single-family homes,” Mitchell said.
Clients visit the FRC to receive the beds, or sometimes are referred to the program when the need is made apparent, but there is currently no way of telling how many children in the region do not have beds to sleep in.
“We don’t know what the number is; when people come and do our assessments, that’s when we find out, and we try to meet the needs of the whole family,” Huddleston said.
To date, over 100 beds have been built and distributed to children in need by Beds for Kids. Most deliveries are made to Lee County residents, but beds have been delivered to New Albany, Pontotoc, Booneville, Ripley, Meridian and Olive Branch.
“We would like to have shops in various parts of the state modeled after what we are doing here, so Family Resource Center would take the referrals, the applications, do the assessments, screen and determine the need, then the shop in these areas would build a frame and have a delivery team to deliver like we do,” Huddleston said.
Huddleston has reached out to a Tippah County church to open a frame-building shop, and said the goal is to open a shop in DeSoto County as well. He is also discussing expansion with a nonprofit organization.
The project started earlier this year as an offset of what ministry volunteers were already doing at the Parkway Hills United Methodist Church some time before 2013, but now the Tupelo-based program hopes to expand outside of the region.
“We’re delivering more and more beds and getting more referrals,” Huddleston. The program started out with Huddleston assembling bed frame materials donated by Parkway Hills and other local donors, but now Beds for Kids has two regular volunteers and two staff members to help.
Hankins Inc. in Ripley recently donated enough lumber for volunteers to build more than 100 beds.
“It was awesome, we’re still using that lumber and we’ve probably only used half of it,” Huddleston said.
At a Beds for Kids benefit concert held in August, approximately $7,000 was raised, and at the end of the night, an RV was piled high with donated bed sheets, pillows, comforters and other bedding.
Although Beds For Kids is stocked for the time being on items like lumber and bedding, they are looking into partnerships for more mattresses.
Janet Turman is an administrator with Charter Properties, which provides educational services in typically lower income apartment communities in seven Mississippi counties, although there is not currently a Charter property in Tupelo. Turman said kids in the foster system could also benefit from the program.
“We don’t want any kids sleeping on the floor in Mississippi, that would be our goal,” Huddleston said.