Want to have fun and help give the homeless a hand up? Organizers are looking for teams, sponsors and vendors for Family Promise of Bryan County’s first Bedspread Derby, coming Nov. 1 at the parking lot of First Baptist Church of Richmond Hill.
The event is the first big fund raiser for Family Promise of Bryan County, an initiative to help local homeless parents and children get back on their feet. It involves teams racing beds against one another in the church parking lot and is patterned after similar events held by Family Promise chapters in other communities.
The cost is $100 per team of five, or $20 a competitor. Deadlines for sponsors to get their names on the t-shirt is Oct. 7, and the deadline for teams
to sign up is Oct. 14, but nobody will be turned away who wants to help or compete, Family Promise volunteer Kelly Webb said.
As for how it works, there are plans to have four categories — youth, adult, clergy and family. Two beds will race at a time in the parking lot at FBRH on a 200-yard course. Top teams will advance and everybody who participates will get a t-shirt, Webb said.
The reason participants will be racing beds instead of something else? The bed is a symbol of home, Webb said, and since the goal of Family Promise is to help homeless families get back to sleeping in their own beds, it’s a natural fit.
"We’re saying, ‘make a bed, make a difference,’ because the more beds we have competing in this race, the faster we’ll be able to raise funds and get Family Promise going to help these families back to a stable life," said Webb, who is chairing the bed race event.
In the meantime, the exact number of homeless living in Bryan County is unknown, but Family Promise volunteers and Bryan County Family Connection director Wendy Sims have used the current count of 50 homeless students in the Bryan County school system to estimate that anywhere from 100 to 150 or more family members could be without a place to call home.
Similar numbers prompted Danielle Wadsworth to sign up for Family Promise after she attended a meeting in October 2013 at Richmond Hill United Methodist Church.
"I’d gotten a flyer … and I went to learn more. It just blew my mind to find out we had homeless children living in our county. As soon as I heard that, I knew I had to help," said Wadsworth, who serves as the Family Promise chair for individual and church giving and heads up Club 297, another effort to raise funds for the group.
"(The number 297) is based on 2 Corinthians, 9:7, which is about being a cheerful giver," Wadsworth said, "It’s a yearly sponsorship thing to get people involved in the effort by giving $297 a year. They can do it individually, or in small groups in churches, but it’s a commitment to supporting Family Promise for a year."
The amount is estimated to help shelter a family of four for about 10 days, she said.
There are approximately 25-30 volunteers helping get Family Promise set up in Bryan County, and they have a goal of the summer of 2015 to start helping. The program works through host churches — 13 of which are needed to get the program off the ground. It usually takes Family Promise Chapters about a year and a half to get up and running from.
Each church takes a turn sheltering up to 14 people a week at a time over a 90-day period, giving families a place to stay and some breathing room while making sure kids get to school or day care and the adults work on finding work or fixing whatever issues they had that led to the family becoming homeless, if any.
Candidates for help have meet certain requirements — no drug or alcohol problems, for example — to be eligible for the program, which began approximately 20 years ago in New Jersey and so far has helped about half a million people, most of whom are children, according to the national Family Promise website. Nearly 80 percent of those who have gone through program have gotten permanent homes, it said.
So far, 10 local churches have signed on to help in Bryan County — Consumed Church, Ellabell Church of Christ, Ellabell United Methodist, First Baptist Church Richmond Hill, Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Pembroke, New Life Church in Richmond Hill, Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church, Richmond Hill United Methodist Church and the Waterfront Church have signed up to be host churches, and Richmond Hill Vineyard is a support church.
The group is also raising $60,000 in funds to help support the program, hence the Bedspread Derby fund raiser, and another will come in the spring in North Bryan, Webb said.
Family Promise of Bryan County also needs a small bus or van, a place that will serve as a day care center and more churches, Wadsworth said.
The group also welcomes all who are interested in helping homeless children in Bryan County find a better future.
The next meeting of Family Promise is at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 at Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church.
For more information about Family Promise, you can visit the group’s website at www.familypromisebryancounty.org or call Wadsworth at 912-341-9787 or Aviva Rice 912-429-9961.