It all starts with a good night’s sleep. That’s the foundation for a good start and a healthy life. But what if you don’t have a bed? What if you sleep on a pallet on the floor with only a coat for a pillow? “We know our kids go to bed hungry,” says Pat Williams, one of the founders of ReStart Augusta who now serves as the volunteer CEO. “But where do they come from the night before.”
Enter ReStart Augusta, a non-profit started in January 2014 to provide beds for people who don’t have one. The first bed was delivered in May 2014, and as early September, ReStart had provided nearly 950 beds. It’s expected that they will deliver the 1,000th bed in October. The organization’s roots are in Columbia County, as the program was operated out of Wesley United Methodist Church prior to the approval as an independent non-profit.
It’s usually the one of the most expensive items someone needs immediately, and it’s the most requested item, she says.
“We can’t do everything. We thought we could make the most difference with this,” says Larry Dinkins, chairman of the ReStart Augusta Board of Directors and one of the organization’s most active volunteers. “If you’ve got a bed to sleep on you’re helped as soon as you get it. It’s an immediate pay-back.”
Many of those whom ReStart serves are veterans coming out of the Veterans Administration Hospital.
“They’re restarting their lives, but re-starting without a bed,” Williams says.
Gary Whited, another board of directors member and active volunteer, makes many of the bed deliveries for ReStart and sees first-hand the need. “Last February we delivered to a vet in South Augusta. When we got there he was sitting in a lawn chair in the yard. That was the only furniture he had,” Whited says.
The house had no heat, so the night before the veteran slept on the hard floor with only his coat for a pillow. While the ReStart volunteers were there, the gas company arrived to turn on the gas, so that night the man had a comfortable bed, clean bedding, a soft pillow and a warm house to sleep in.
More Than Beds
The ReStart volunteers have developed a unique system for providing the bedding. Twin and queen mattresses and box springs are purchased. Volunteers construct wooden frames that can be assembled on-site, and disassembled if the recipient moves later.
Some mattresses are donated, but only if they are good quality. “We don’t take anything we wouldn’t sleep in,” Dinkins says.
Clients also get bedding that’s been purchased new or gently used.
Referrals come from other social service agencies that determine needs and ReStart refers clients to other agencies as well.
“If you need a bed, you’re probably going to need more than that,” Dinkins says.
All of the work is done by volunteers. There’s no paid staff. Funds are raised through donations, grants and the support of Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans, which provided the foundation for ReStart, Williams says.
The building on Crawford Avenue in the Harrisburg community is rented and the organization relies on many in-kind donations. But mostly it relies on its 250-plus volunteers who build, paint, deliver, write grant applications, man the phones, collect donations, handle the paperwork, schedule work and deliveries, and everything else it takes to make sure as many people as possible who need a bed, have one. Boy and Girl scout troops volunteer and several companies use ReStart when looking for community service projects.
Even this well-oiled machine can’t fill all the needs. The demand is greater than the supply, Williams says. But they keep plugging away, honing the process to supply all they can.
Recently a local hotel undergoing a renovation, offered to donate its king-sized beds to ReStart, Williams says. King-sized beds don’t work well since many of the homes they deliver to are smaller. However, the boxsprings are the same width as a twin beds. So, the enterprising volunteers came up with a frame design that allowed the additional six inches of the longer boxspring to slide under the headboard for a perfect fit.
Williams says the biggest need now is for people to deliver the beds, which are delivered on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. All that’s needed to deliver is a truck and a few tools. Williams says they will teach the rest.
To learn more about ReStart Augusta, visit the website at restartaugusta.org. Information about the organization, how to volunteer, how to donate your time, materials or organize a drive is available there.
428 Crawford Ave.
P.O. Box 370
Augusta, GA 30901
This article appears in the October 2016 issue of Augusta Magazine.