Bed Start ministry helps kids get much-needed sleep|
Tom Hutson and his daughter, Amy, load a donated headboard into a pickup truck for delivery to a Head Start family. UMNS photos by John Gordon.
By John Gordon*
May 23, 2007 | PLANO, Texas (UMNS)
If getting a good night's sleep helps children learn better, Tom Hutson is helping hundreds of students take home better report cards.
Hutson is a volunteer for Custer Road United Methodist Church's Head Start Bed Start ministry. The program gives new and gently used beds to families of children in the local Head Start program.
"There's a big need," Hutson explains. "A lot of these families, the kids are sleeping with the parents or they don't have beds."
Hutson spends about 15 hours a week picking up and delivering beds donated by church members or purchased at cost from a furniture store. On a typical day, his garage is filled with mattresses, box springs and headboards.
"My poor wife parks outside," he jokes.
Tom Hutson's garage in Plano, Texas, is
full of mattresses that will be delivered
to 3- and 4-year-olds whose families
are living in poverty.
The program started five years ago. Since then, about 500 beds have been given to area families.
No furniture at home
Plano is known as an affluent community, but there are pockets of poverty not far from the upscale homes and shopping centers in the Dallas suburb.
"We may think of the world and problems there may be a world away," says the Rev. Kenny Dickson, associate pastor at Custer Road. "But also we have the same problems just blocks away. And that's our job … to help people open their eyes so when they're driving to church, they can see things that maybe in the past they've not noticed before."
Teachers from the Plano Independent School District visit the homes of Head Start children twice each year and let Hutson know which families need beds.
"Most of our families happen to be single-parent families, and there are some families where we go and there's no furniture in the home," says Tina Hardison, the school district's Head Start director.
Head Start serves 3- and 4-year-olds whose families are living in poverty.
"It's been proven through research that you cannot learn, you cannot function appropriately, without a good night's sleep," Hardison says. "And not only can the children not function appropriately, but a parent who's not getting a good night's sleep is living in a high-stress situation, and so they're not functioning as well as they could."
Hardison calls the partnership with the church "very effective," since federal Head Start funds cannot be used to buy furniture or other personal needs for families. Custer Road also sponsors a Christmas meal and gifts for the Head Start children.
'Church is good'
Hutson recently delivered a bed to Dalia Aguilar, whose 4-year-old daughter, Ashley, has been sleeping in a baby bed.
"Thank you, thank you," Aguilar says through an interpreter. "The church is good for our families."
Head Start Bed Start volunteer Tom Hutson visits with Teresa Rodriguez and her daughters, Wendy and Ruby, after
delivering a bed.
Hutson, who works for a company that develops software for financial institutions, enjoys seeing the reaction of families when he arrives.
"One of the very first beds we delivered, the little boy came up and gave me a big hug - and I decided this is pretty neat thing to do," he says. "And the parents are always real appreciative."
Dickson is hoping Head Start Bed Start will encourage students, in later years, to finish high school or college.
"If we've helped one or two families have kids that graduate that may not have, and then even qualify for enrollment in college, then it's certainly been all worthwhile," he says. "And I'm guessing that we've had more than just one or two."
*Gordon is a freelance producer and writer based in Marshall, Texas.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or email@example.com.
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