Special to the News-Journal
Dan Lancaster has a heart for his community.
You’ll often see the AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co. engineer donating his time to community projects that create a better future for East Texans. And some of the experiences he says he’s found most rewarding have been with an area nonprofit group that’s been able to utilize his engineering expertise.
“I’m a sort of jack of all trades, and I enjoy doing those sort of things whether it’s at work or for charity,” he said.
Founded by friends who saw a need in their community, Beds of Hope provides beds and bedding to children in the care of Texas Child Protective Services who are being placed with relatives, foster families or returning to their homes in the area.
Recently, Lancaster helped the group with its design of metal patterns to make it easier for volunteers to drill holes on wooden pieces used to create the head boards, foot boards and railings of twin beds during build days.
The uniqueness of the build days is what initially attracted Lancaster to the organization, he said.
“I like to work in big groups, and that is exactly what this is,” he said. “We work together to build the beds, and you meet so many different people.”
Build days consist of volunteers assembling pre-cut wood into head boards, foot boards and the railings of a stackable twin bed. The pieces are transported to a storage facility until they’re needed for delivery. Beds of Hope coordinates with Child Protective Services on children in need of the beds and handles the delivery and assembly of them at the home.
“All that is really required at the build days is four hours of someone’s time and a willingness to help out,” said Ben House, a chemist at Pirkey Power Plant in Hallsville, who became involved after Lancaster told him about the build days.
To date, Beds of Hope has built more than 500 beds for children in Gregg, Harrison, Rusk and Upshur counties, Faulkner said, adding the organization regularly gets requests for that footprint to expand.
Faulkner said he and Longview orthodontist Michael Scott got the idea from a Texas church that had a similar ministry that provided area foster children with beds.
After attending one of the church’s build days, the two men asked around to find out who, if anyone, had a similar ministry in Gregg County. When they found out no one did, they met with Child Protective Services to see if the same need existed in their community. It did, and Beds of Hope was born. In March, the organization celebrated its third anniversary.
“It’s spreading and growing, and that is amazing to see,” Faulkner said.
The next build day is scheduled May 25. Details on time and location will be released on the organization’s Facebook page closer to the date, according to Willie Faulkner, one of the organization’s founders. He said, generally, volunteers work 8:30 a.m. to noon.
To find out more about Beds of Hope, visit bedsofhope.org.