Poverty is alive and well in the Golden Isles. And few people understand it as well as Rees Carroll.
The founder and executive director of Operation Bed Spread sees it daily through his nonprofit organization which collects beds for those who cannot afford a proper place to sleep.
Sadly, most of those beds are for children.
“I would say that 90 percent of those that we collect beds for are children,” he said.
In fact, the entire project began when Carroll mentored a child a little more than five years ago. The youngster was having trouble in school because he was unable to stay awake.
“It turned out that he couldn’t stay awake because he was sleeping on the floor next to his sister and couldn’t sleep,” he said.
Carroll was upset when he learned the truth and even more so when he realized the extent of the problem locally. He turned to some friends in his St. Simons United Methodist Bible study group. Both were active in a number of area nonprofits and church-based charities, Joey Baldwin, who is now president of Manna House, and Dan Meyer, who is also active in a number of area nonprofits. Once Carroll explained the situation, Baldwin and Meyer were thrilled to help.
“We ended up getting a bed for both the boy and his sister,” Carroll said.
Five years since, the certified 501(c)(3) organization is still going strong, delivering 600 beds in the time period. The figure both humbles and astounds Carroll.
“Maybe I’m surprised. Of course, I have a wait list for 200 more people. And there are hundreds of people who get overlooked,” he said.
To find those in the greatest need, Carroll mostly works with organizations like the Department of Family and Children Services, Faithworks or the Glynn County School System. Once he has the name of those in need, he and his team will explore the warehouse, formerly the Gathering Place and now owned by First United Methodist of Brunswick, to find a proper bed.
“We mostly do twin or full size beds. We also take sheets and blankets,” he said. “We collect several then I take them to Service Master to sanitize. I try to wait until we have enough. Then we go out and deliver the beds. I would say that, on average, we deliver about five to 10 beds a week.”
Those frequent excursions, though, do take a toll — namely, on Carroll’s vehicle. The truck has racked up more than 260,000 miles and is getting close to giving out. The group is currently in the process of raising money to replace the car.
“That is the biggest thing. If we don’t have a truck, we won’t be able to deliver the beds ... it would shut us down,” he said. “Now it’s more expensive to repair the truck. So that is our biggest thing. Of course, we always take twin and full mattress, frames and box springs.”
They are not able to manage larger sizes due to space constraints in the warehouse as well as in the home of those receiving the beds.
Looking back over the mission’s five year history, Carroll is encouraged by what the group has been able to accomplish. But he is quick to spread the credit around, reserving very little for himself.
“It’s been a group effort. Everybody has done their own piece to make it work. One of those, John Lifite, has been like our right hand man. He has he’s really taken the reigns,” he said.
“Jimmy Seaman from Service Master ... we couldn’t do it without him. And First United Methodist Church of Brunswick is letting us use their warehouse so if it weren’t for that congregation letting us have the warehouse space, we couldn’t do it. It’s been a community effort.”
Those interested in donating to Operation Bed Spread may call (478) 494-4980.
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