Georgia ministry gives rest to the weary

By Kara Witherow, Special Contributor…

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga.—Rees Carroll knew he had to do something when he was told that the second grade student he mentors was falling asleep in class.

The 6-year-old was tired because, instead of sleeping in a bed, he slept on a pallet on the floor next to his sister, who kicked him in her sleep. Exhausted from restless nights with little sleep, the boy couldn’t stay awake in school.

“This is my boy, this is my kid,” said Mr. Carroll, who sprang into action and quickly got beds for both the young boy and his sister.

After making a few phone calls and talking with teachers and school counselors, Mr. Carroll found that this was not an isolated occurrence. One of his friends, a teacher, told him that she has two or three kids a year who sleep on couches or the floor.

“I may have stumbled upon a need nobody knows about,” said Mr. Carroll, a member of St. Simons United Methodist Church in the South Georgia Conference.

The 12 Stones group at St. Simons (Ga.) UMC is pictured with a mattress that was donated to their Operation Bed Spread ministry. Seated, left to right: Rees Carroll, Joey Baldwin and Tony Bland. Standing are Dan Meyers (l) and Carlton DeVooght. PHOTO BY KARA WITHEROW

In Glynn County alone, more than 12,500 people live at or below poverty level. And 1.6 million of Georgia’s nearly 10 million residents live in poverty. Many of those families can’t afford beds for everyone in the home.

Soon after learning of the need for beds, Mr. Carroll asked the men in his Bible study, St. Simons UMC’s 12 Stones group, if they would be willing and able to help. They immediately jumped on board and formed Operation Bed Spread.

“A bed is one of your basic needs,” said church member Dan Meyers. “You need food, water, shelter and a bed, in my opinion.”

Three months after the ministry started in November 2012, they had already placed nearly 20 beds in impoverished homes. The local newspaper ran a story, and within two weeks, they received requests for more than 80 beds.

Mr. Carroll received an email from a school social worker who told him of a family in need of help. The family, which included a mother and four children, was sleeping on dilapidated couches and the floor. The boys were sleeping in the living room, rotating between the couches and the floor. On the floor of the mother’s bedroom were a headboard, a comforter and pillows positioned in the shape of a bed—but no bed. The bed she had was a rental, and had been picked up about a month earlier.

“If beds are a need, that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Mr. Carroll said. “There are needs beyond comprehension in this home.”

But thanks to generous donations and willing volunteers, Operation Bed Spread was able to give the family the beds they needed.

“I love that they saw a need and did something about it,” the Rev. Marcia Cochran, pastor of St. Simons UMC, said of the 12 Stones group. “They didn’t form a committee and wait six months—they just jumped in and helped.”

The ministry operates on donations of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, bedding and cash. Some donations are given when homeowners sell their houses or downsize. One man used the money he had planned to spend on a massage to instead purchase and donate sheets.

“The need is overwhelming,” Mr. Carroll said. “Once I get beds they’re gone immediately.”

After receiving a call and before placing a bed in its “forever home,” the men conduct a site visit at the recipient’s home. They meet with the family to build a relationship with them and to determine their bedding needs.

Operation Bed Spread conducts site visits Monday through Friday; the weekends are spent picking up donations or delivering beds.

All donated beds are cleaned and sanitized by a local cleaning company and are currently being stored in Mr. Carroll’s garage until they are given away. They’re running out of space, though, and are looking for a larger, more permanent storage facility so they can continue to serve those in need.

Helping families—especially children—brings meaning and fulfillment to Mr. Carroll’s life.

During each bed drop-off, the Operation Bed Spread volunteers spend a few minutes praying with and for the family. Each child is given a copy of The Life Book, a small book that contains a short recap of the Old Testament, the entire Gospel of John, scriptural answers to issues teens face, and an opportunity to trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

“For the past three years I have thought about starting a nonprofit,” Mr. Carroll said. “. . . I prayed that God would show me and help me find something with meaning. I was sitting in bed one night and it hit me—God just said, here it is. You were looking, here it is.”

The response Operation Bed Spread has received from the community has renewed his faith in others, too.

“To have so many people who want to help renews me,” Mr. Carroll said. “Hopefully it will renew some children’s faith in God that someone is there to help.”

Ms. Witherow is editor of the Advocate, the newspaper of the South Georgia Conference, where this article first appeared.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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grandmama janet

As a former Mental Health Counselor who has worked with school children and families for many years, I think this very practical solution to a very common problem is most remarkable. School performance can easily be tied to how much and how well children sleep. Many of our children go home with no food to eat; however, many schools send home some food which the children have to hide from siblings in order to eat. Many children have little or no supervision at night and stay up late at night to stay in front of a T.V. as a babysitter.… Read more »

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