This month, 30 fewer children are sleeping on the floor thanks to the Now I Lay Me Down bed ministry. Launched by the First Presbyterian Church on Washington Street, 150 new beds were purchased and distributed this year to needy children in Monroe County.
Proceeds from the annual Bed Race to Aid Children fundraiser along with donations from the church and community provide the funding to purchase beds for children ages 17 and younger. Each child also receives a pillow, sheets, blanket, stuffed animal and book. The estimated cost per bed set is approximately $250. The ministry is run by volunteers and all of the money donated goes to beds for children.
Each year, the bed race raises close to $30,000 and part of the program’s success stems from community support. The Bedford Township Lions Club has been a major sponsor over the years and has donated more than $50,000 and in 2019 a winter event was added.
“Dale Zorn came to us with the idea to have a sled race during the Christmas in Ida event,” Kim Hooper said. “The past three years, we’ve had the Sled Race to Aid Children.”
Hooper, a Monroe resident and FPC member, has been with the program since its inception.
“It all started with a single mom coming to our church wondering if there was any money to buy her child a bed,” he said. “This month has been a very heavy month. Our goal was to attempt to get everyone on our waiting list. We wanted to see that each child would have a bed by Christmas Eve. We use Sacks, a local furniture store, and it even got to a point that they were out of twin beds. They were looking to find more so that we could get as many beds as we could.”
Hooper said the ministry can be considered an education and health program.
“If a child has their own bed, they rest more,” he said. “A few years back, we had a little girl that contracted lead poisoning. They couldn’t figure out where it was coming from until they documented that the floor that the child had been sleeping on had been painted with lead paint that was peeling. While sleeping on the floor, the little girl was inhaling the lead paint.”
From a health perspective, Hooper said this is a good example of why it’s important to have your own bed.
In the many years Hooper has been involved in the program, he’s seen different circumstances like the time he delivered a bed to a child who had been sleeping on a piece of plywood covered with a cloth or when a mother was grateful for the new mattress that would replace the one she found discarded at the curb. He’s also witnessed the unrestrained happiness of a child when a bed arrived.
“We recently delivered a bed to a little boy that was so excited he started jumping up and down on his bed,” Hooper said. “He was excited he had his ‘big boy bed.'”
Since 2001, the program has distributed 3,700 beds ranging from twin and bunk beds to pack-n-plays and toddler beds. To be eligible to receive a bed, an application must be submitted to the church for approval.
Volunteers and FPC members Karen Winchell and Gert Parlette receive and review each application. John Chesman orders the beds and serves as delivery coordinator.
It takes about six weeks to have an application approved. The ministry works with several organizations in the community including Paula’s House, Oaks of Righteousness and Salvation Army.
“The beds are delivered throughout the year and we are always accepting donations like new or gently used stuffed animals, blankets and children’s books. All donations are acknowledged in writing. Some donations have been made in honor or memory of a family member.”
Over the years, the program’s number of applicants has increased.
“We have delivered beds to every school district in the county,” Hooper said. “My wife is a retired teacher and she has seen kids come to school without coats but people don’t think about not having a bed. When we say we’ve delivered 3,700 beds in Monroe County, people find it hard to believe there has been that need in Monroe.”
For more information about the Now I Lay Me Down bed ministry, to make a donation, volunteer or apply for a bed for a child in need, log on to www.monroebedrace.org or call the church at 734-242-1545. First Presbyterian Church is at 108 Washington St.