Operation Bed Spread is only 71 beds away from reaching its 1,500th donation. That’s a huge number, but the demand has not decreased in the slightest since the faith-based charity was founded 11 years ago.
The local nonprofit is headquartered on St. Simons Island and aims to give every child in need a bed to sleep in at night. While the group receives huge bursts of support surrounding the holiday season, they still have a steady stream of requests year around.
But donations — particularly of much needed funds — tend to dry up after Christmas, says Rees Carroll, founder of the organization.
“The problem we run into is after Christmas that is it’s pretty much over until the following August,” Carroll said. “We’ve got more kids that need beds now than we had at Christmas, and the kids now don’t matter any less than the kids we helped during Christmas.”
He’s asking the community to pitch in so the charity can reach the huge milestone while getting little ones off the floor.
“We need people to help us and help these kids so they don’t have to wait any longer,” says Carroll.
Meeting the demand for beds among the Golden Isles’ children is a never-ending quest, he added. That’s why the group organizes two annual fundraisers each year — one in the fall and one closer to the holidays.
The first — Back to School BEDlam — is set for 2:30 to 5:30 pm Aug. 28 at Brogen’s South, 200 Pier Alley, St. Simons Island. Local band Idle Hands wants to perform. Tickets are $25 per person and are available at the door. Carroll is hopeful that the proceeds will help replenish the dwindled coffers and allow for more beds to be purchased. The second is planned for Dec. 9 at Ziggy’s on St Simons.
Currently, the charity’s waiting list stands at 27, but for every 10 beds Operation Bed Spread gives away, another 15 come knocking.
“These kids don’t have anything, some of these places … it’s the only piece of furniture in the house,” Carroll said.
It’s not the first challenge the nonprofit has faced. The COVID-19 pandemic basically killed a lot of its fundraising efforts. In December 2021, the group put out a plea and had its prayers answered, raising $100,000 for new beds and a new box truck to deliver them.
In July 2022, the challenges are no less difficult to overcome. This time, inflation and soaring gas prices are standing against them.
“It’s $150 to fill up the box truck in gas, and plus you have to insure your truck. It costs so much to make it happen,” Carroll said.
While the costs are steep, the mission is dire.
“You can’t get any more fundamental than making sure kids are breathing, eating and sleeping,” says Carroll.
The idea for Operation Bed Spread goes back 11 years and 1,429 donated beds, when Carroll was working very unhappily as a bank manager. At the time, he was also volunteering at St. Simons Elementary School and found out a student he mentored was having trouble staying awake in class. Carroll later discovered the student did not have a bed to sleep in at home, and the lack of sleep was significantly impacting his success in school.
“Education is the only chance a lot of these kids have and if they fall asleep in their classes, they get deprived of one of their main opportunities in life — school,” says Carroll.
He went to the Glynn County School District’s lead social worker, Greg Jaudon, and asked if a lack of beds was an issue for the school system.
“He said ‘My God, yes,'” Carroll recalled.
Carroll urges the community to understand that there is a constant need for beds, not just during the school year. He hopes those who have the ability will find a way to support the organization and the kids in the community.
“We have 27 kids who need beds right now. We need people to help us help these kids so they don’t have to wait until the end of August to have a place to sleep. We need year-round community support,” says Carroll.
“The goal is for us to be in a position where we don’t have to have kids waiting. We want to be able to give families donated beds or buy them beds. We have currently donated 1,429 beds, but with funding and donations we can be at 1,500 in a month. We need to get to that milestone and the community will help us get there.”
Taylor Cooper contributed to this story.