Ministry helps give rest to the weary

2/28/2013

Rees Carroll knew he had to do something when he was told that the second grade student he mentors was falling asleep in class.

The 6-year-old was tired because, instead of sleeping in a bed, he slept on a pallet on the floor next to his sister, who kicked him in her sleep. Exhausted from restless nights with little sleep, the boy couldn’t stay awake in school.

“This is my boy, this is my kid,” said Carroll, who sprang into action and quickly got beds for both the young boy and his sister.

After making a few phone calls and talking with teachers and school counselors, Carroll found that this was not an isolated occurrence. One of his friends, a teacher, told him that she has two or three kids a year who sleep on couches or the floor.

“I may have stumbled upon a need nobody knows about,” said the St. Simons United Methodist Church member.

In Glynn County alone, more than 12,500 people live at or below poverty level. And 1.6 million of Georgia’s nearly 10 million residents live in poverty. Many of those families can’t afford beds for everyone in the home.

Soon after learning of the need for beds, Carroll asked the men in his Bible study, St. Simons UMC’s 12 Stones group, if they would be willing and able to help. They immediately jumped on board and formed Operation Bed Spread.

“A bed is one of your basic needs,” said church member Dan Meyers. “You need food, water, shelter, and a bed, in my opinion.”

The ministry, which was formed about three months ago, has already placed nearly 20 beds in impoverished homes. In the two weeks since the local newspaper ran a story, they’ve received requests for more than 80 beds.

A few weeks ago Carroll received an email from a school social worker who told him of a family in need of help.

The family, which included a mother and four children, was sleeping on dilapidated couches and the floor. The boys were sleeping in the living room, rotating between the couches and the floor. On the floor of the mother’s bedroom were a headboard, a comforter and pillows positioned in the shape of a bed – but no bed. The bed she had was a rental, and had been picked up about a month before.

“If beds are a need, that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Carroll said. “There are needs beyond comprehension in this home.”

But thanks to generous donations and willing volunteers, Operation Bed Spread was able to give the family the beds they needed.

“I love that they saw a need and did something about it,” Rev. Marcia Cochran, pastor of St. Simons UMC said of the 12 Stones group. “They didn’t form a committee and wait six months – they just jumped in and helped.”

The ministry operates on donations of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, bedding and cash. Some donations are given when homeowners sell their houses or downsize. One man used the money he had planned to spend on a massage to instead purchase and donate sheets.

“The need is overwhelming,” Carroll said. “Once I get beds they’re gone immediately.”

After receiving a call and before placing a bed in its “forever home,” the men conduct a site visit at the recipient’s home. They meet with the family to build a relationship with them and to determine their bedding needs.

Operation Bed Spread conducts site visits Monday through Friday; the weekends are spent picking up donations or delivering beds.

All donated beds are cleaned and sanitized by a local cleaning company and are currently being stored in Carroll’s garage until they are given away. They’re running out of space, though, and are looking for a larger, more permanent storage facility so they can continue to serve those in need.

Helping families – especially children – brings meaning and fulfillment to Carroll’s life.

“For the past three years I have thought about starting a nonprofit … I prayed that God would show me and help me find something with meaning,” he said. “I was sitting in bed one night and it hit me – God just said, here it is. You were looking, here it is.”

The response Operation Bed Spread has received from the community has renewed his faith in others, too.

“To have so many people who want to help renews me,” Carroll said. “Hopefully it will renew some children’s faith in God that someone is there to help.”

During each bed drop off, the Operation Bed Spread volunteers spend a few minutes praying with and for the family. Each child is given a copy of “The Life Book,” a small book that contains a short recap of the Old Testament, the entire Gospel of John, scriptural answers to issues teens face, and an opportunity to trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Starting Operation Bed Spread and meeting the people the ministry serves has opened his eyes to the need in his own community, Carroll said, and the work he’s doing makes him even more aware and appreciative of the blessings he enjoys.

The ministry is simple, easy and something anyone can do, Meyers said, and the need and opportunity to serve is in every town and city.

“I feel a lot of times that we, as Christians, want to help, but we want to help somewhere beautiful. We want to go to Jamaica or to the mountains and do a mission trip,” he said. “Mission work starts as soon as you walk out your door. God called us to be missionaries day in and day out, to provide for those who can’t provide for themselves.”

One of Meyers’ favorite scriptures is Galatians 6:9, which says, in part, “Let us not become weary in doing good…” Helping those in need through Operation Bed Spread is merely doing what is right, what he is called to do, he says.

“Jesus expressly said to take care of the children and the widows, and for a child to not be sleeping in a bed means we’re not taking very good care of them,” he said. “These beds can provide rest but only God can provide true peace.”

Operation Bed Spread’s inaugural fundraiser, March Mattress, will be held Saturday, March 9 from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. at St. Simons United Methodist Church. Bedding related items such as frames, box springs, mattresses, sheets, pillows, and air mattresses, along with monetary donations, are encouraged.