Battling homelessness one bed at a time
Rick Herring has seen first-hand the ripple effect of the sluggish economy and depressed job market.
“People are holding on longer to what they already have,” Herring said. “They are not buying new furniture, which means that are not donating their old furniture.”
For Herring, the program director of Action Ministries in Augusta, the change in charitable contributions has hit hard. Herring’s group serves numerous families that are transitioning from homelessness into more permanent housing. Action Ministries, with roots firmly planted in the United Methodist Church, provides furniture and household goods for about 250 families a year in the Augusta area.
According to Herring, most of the families his group serves are single moms with two or three children. Many come from domestic violence shelters. Some were left homeless after a house fire. All are in need of basic goods and household items, such as beds.
As donations dwindled, Herring watched as the group’s furniture bank nearly emptied. “We were running out of beds.” he said. “I knew we had to do something.”
In September, Action Ministries was offered 100 new twin-size mattresses. The only problem – they had to be picked up in Brooklyn, N.Y. After making arrangements for pickup of the mattresses at an affordable cost, Herring’s group sent out a letters seeking funds to purchase box springs.
“If you put out a request that is specific and involves children you have a great chance at success,” Herring said. Money for box springs flowed in.
Instead of spending $40 for plain metal rails for each bed, Action Ministries came up with a cost-saving measure that would add style points. Long-time volunteer Dave Bolyard, a member of Aldersgate UMC, designed a basic twin-bed frame made of wood. But building 100 beds is no small task. Lots of volunteer labor would be needed.
Various local churches, including Trinity on the Hill UMC, Quest UMC and Wesley UMC,
provided workers to construct the beds. The Trinity on the Hill crew completed nine beds one Saturday in February. The next day young men and women from Youth Challenge Academy primed and painted the beds.
“It was much cheaper to build these beds than to purchase simple metal rails. “Herring said. “And they are so much nicer and more substantial. This effort is going to make a big difference for a lot of families.”