Volunteers for Beds of Hope say they'll never work themselves out of a job because there are always children who need beds.
Since March 12, volunteers have built 58 beds for area foster children. It was an idea inspired by a ministry a hemisphere away that found its East Texas start in Smith County, said Dr. Michael Scott, a Longview orthodontist who has helped bring the idea into Gregg and surrounding counties.
"My oldest son Brad — he goes to First Baptist Church-Whitehouse in Smith County — and their church had a mission group that went to (Eastern Europe) to build beds for an orphanage," Scott said. "After the trip, they came back in October 2015, and they thought, 'Well, why can't we build the beds for children here in Smith County?' "
Scott was intrigued, so he and two colleagues — real estate agent Willie Faulkner and his son, Bill Faulkner — went "mainly out of curiosity" to the Whitehouse congregation's first build day around Thanksgiving a year ago. From what they saw, Scott said the group felt led to start an identical ministry in Gregg County.
"What hit at first was how neat it was that they were building these beds, but I didn't know the whole story," Willie Faulkner said. "As we started hearing the story about children not having a bed and not being able to be pulled out of a bad situation, that probably got to me the most, that someone could be a foster child in a potential home where they couldn't get pulled out.
"The way it was described to us, that was a significant issue. That was probably the most impactful part of that trip, that I didn't want to see that happen, for a child to be left in a bad, abusive or unclean situation simply because they didn't have a bed to put that child in."
Said Scott, "And so we met and talked about what we wanted to do, but we really didn't have a clue how to get started because we didn't know the Child Protective Services case worker. We just knew what we wanted to do."
They soon met a case worker, who said the organization has people willing to be foster parents but sometimes lack beds.
"Up until last March, if Child Protective Services got a call and had to intervene and remove a child from a very unsafe situation, there are times a child would have to stay the night on a Child Protective Services floor," Scott said. "There are people out there who are willing to take foster children, but they don't have a bed."
That began to change in March, when Scott and the Faulkners built their first beds for foster children.
The movement since has grown. On Oct. 29, two dozen volunteers held a build day and constructed 37 beds. It's all under a formed nonprofit group called Beds of Hope.
"After I had delivered a few beds," Willie Faulkner said, "my thought and my concern is, I want to keep this at a level that the beds keep getting built and we never have to say no to a child."
The Faulkners also have made design adjustments in the form of universal head boards to simplify the building process. Willie Faulkner said that allowed for quick construction last month, and he's set a goal to give away 100 beds before March 12. So far, 64 beds have been donated.
"We didn't have to see money come in to do it. People just brought a carload of pillows or go down to Kohl's or somewhere in town and walk into my office or Mike's office with brand new sets of sheets," Faulkner said. "The generosity in this community is very amazing and very heartfelt."
Stay-at-home mom and volunteer Mica Sterling said she learned about Beds of Hope during her daughter's dental visit to Scott. She went to a meeting between Scott, Faulkner and a Child Protective Services representative.
"That got the ball rolling," said Sterling, who plans to unveil the organization's new website, bedsofhope.org, this weekend to accept donations.
"It costs about $70 to build a bed, and the mattress costs about $60. We also provide pillows, mattress pad covers, sheets and blankets," she said. "Any funds would help."
Donations can be mailed to Beds of Hope, P.O. Box 511, Hallsville, TX 75650. Donations of bedding and pillows can be dropped off at Coldwell Banker Lenhart at 1100 Judson Road or Longview Orthodontics at 2830 Bill Owens Parkway.