TUPELO – Tupelo-native Bill Flynn remembers the first time he delivered a handmade bed to a child in need after joining a local church near his new home in Madison County in 2013.
One day, Flynn met some volunteers making a delivery who then recruited him to help transport bed frames to a community east of Canton in his pickup truck.
“There was one little boy there, and he was so excited he couldn’t stand it,” Flynn said. “He was six or seven years old and he was jumping around like a cricket. We got through putting the bed together, and this little boy who had been sleeping in a pile of blankets in a corner on the floor jumped on his new bed and said, ‘This is the best day ever.’ It still chokes me up.”
On Wednesday morning, volunteers gathered at The Family Resource Center of North Mississippi warehouse in Tupelo to assemble bed frames recently donated by Parkway Hills United Methodist Church of Madison for Lee County residents.
“We have been getting more and more requests for beds because peoples’ houses get burned down or they just need a bed for their kids,” said Stanley Huddleston, faith-based initiative director at Family Resource Center. “So as we’ve gotten more requests, we figured out there was great need.”
Huddleston was put in touch with Flynn at a community meeting, and Flynn told him his church’s bed building ministry had been growing and could provide some beds to Lee County residents in need.
The bed frames are built and stained in the church basement at Parkway Hills and bedding is purchased before new beds are shipped where they are needed. Flynn said beds could be built for under $35 each but bedding to include mattress, bedclothes, pillows and waterproof casing costs upwards of $150.
“We can provide the bed frames, just the raw wood, and you can sand them, stain them and buy the bedding,” Flynn told Huddleston after hearing about the same need in Lee County.
The first bed from Parkway Hills was delivered to a Lee County resident in April, and Huddleston said the organization has given out seven beds to date.
Volunteers delivered three beds in Baldwyn on Wednesday.
“We put the beds together, buy the mattress, take them out to the needy family and set it up for them,” Huddleston said.
The Family Resource Center receives requests for beds from LifeCORE, Child Protective Services and the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services.
The bed building program started in Lee County in early April and Huddleston said it will eventually extend to the rest of Northeast Mississippi through donations and support from local businesses.
Innocor Inc. of Baldwyn donated 20 foam mattresses and pillows, S & J Auto Parts of Baldwyn donated $200 and Kizer Automotive in Baldwyn donated two complete mattress sets.
Locals lent a helping hand as well, First Christian Church volunteers took threw a garage sale in Baldwyn and donated $1,800 to the program.
Wood-paneling producer Norbord, Inc. in Guntown also made a donation of 20 pieces of flakeboard panels that will support foam mattresses, eliminating the need for box springs.
Judy Miller, director of marketing with Madison Countians Allied Against Poverty, met Bill Flynn through her husband Johnny, and the two discussed how to grow the bed building program.
MadCAAP emphasized to Parkway Hills volunteers that while some of the organization’s clients may have a home, many of them – particularly children – live without beds of their own.
“Our clients register with us and we get all of their financial information and verify they are living below poverty and then people will ask us if we have beds from time to time but we don’t really keep furniture,” Miller said.
Erica Armstrong, mother of four, received a bed from FRC volunteers in Baldwyn Wednesday for her 2-year-old son, MJ.
“My 2-year-old was sleeping in a hand-me-down toddler bed and my one year old-son was sleeping in a (portable crib),” Armstrong said. “Now my 1-year-old will sleep in the toddler bed and my 2-year old will sleep in his new bed.”
Armstrong said MJ, who often finds a way to sneak into his sisters’ bed at night normally, recently began to ask when he would receive his own “big boy bed.”
“I know my little boy is going to be so happy when he gets home,” Armstrong said.