By Laura McCaskill
FLORENCE—One United Methodist church is demonstrating how far you can go by working together, partnering with two additional churches to help more children and provide more beds.
Better Education Demands Sleep, or BEDS, a project of Central United Methodist Church, has made beds available to children in need for four years. Headed by Art Justice and with the help of many volunteers, Central UMC has now partnered with St. Luke Lutheran Church, Florence, and Johnsonville UMC, Johnsonville.
“There were children in Florence that did not have their own bed to sleep in,” said Johnny Crouch, lifelong member of Central UMC and lay supply pastor at Johnsonville UMC
Over the last four years, the BEDS project has produced approximately 200 beds for children in need and spread from Florence into Johnsonville and other areas.
Twice a year in December and May, volunteers gather to help with the BEDS project, whether to build or distribute them. The process of finishing a bed from start to finish takes one month.
The BEDS project not only builds wooden bed frames, but they also provide a mattress and pillow, along with a bag filled with much-needed items. The bag includes a custom mattress cover, pajamas, custom-ordered sheets, a pillowcase, a stuffed animal, a book and a dental hygiene kit.
Last November, Johnsonville UMC was given the names of eight children in need by the local school district, and with Central’s help, they were able to get beds for them
“The Johnsonville community is small, but they’re supportive,” Crouch said.
All though most items in the bags are purchased BEDS funds, the dental hygiene kits are provided by a local dentist office, Pee Dee Dental Group.
Mattresses are purchased from Serta by the truckload as “seconds.” Each mattress costs $50, and the last truckload held 16 palettes, each holding 14 mattresses.
“The beauty of the BEDS project is that Central UMC has never had to put a dime into the project,” Crouch said. “Once the people found out about it, they started giving to the project, and we’ve never had to ask for money.”
Lumber for the bed frames is provided by Charles Ingram Lumber in Florence. The lumber is pre-cut so it fits together, but the wood is not finished.
Then members host a Build-a-Bed day at Central UMC where volunteers from youth to 80 years old show up and finish the wood. Volunteers sand and smooth the wood, check to make sure it fits together, number the pieces and then bundle the beds together.
“This makes it easier for the family to put the bed together,” Crouch said.
A month after Build-a-Bed day, they have the Bed Pick-Up Day at the churches, where families come to pick up their new beds.
“We like for them to see where the beds are coming from. We tell them about Christ and how Christ is involved in this project,” Crouch said.
If the family doesn’t have the ability to pick up their bed, volunteers deliver it.
With the beds they gave out last November, working together, Central UMC built the beds and provided the mattresses, and Johnsonville UMC paid for the items inside the bags. The beds were distributed to the families right at Christmas.
Forty beds were distributed in Lake City in December, and 10 more beds are scheduled to be made in the spring for Johnsonville.
“It shows that we’re just not talking the talk, we’re walking the walk. It’s a highly visible ministry,” Crouch said. “We like for people to see we are out doing something. It shows how a small church with limited resources can team up with another church that has more resources and they can work together. That’s exactly what’s happened here. We won’t stop until there’s no more need for them.”
The next scheduled Build-a-Bed day is April 6. The BEDS project will be on the display at Annual Conference on Monday, June 3, at 11 a.m. in the exhibit area. For more information, contact Crouch at firstname.lastname@example.org.