Volunteers helped to assemble 500 toddler beds for Boston area families last Saturday at a service day at the headquarters of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters on Dorchester Avenue. The initiative was led Boston Cares organization with support from the carpenter’s union.
According to the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, there are some 11,000 children in Boston without their own bed to sleep in. They claim that poor sleeping arrangements contribute to underperformance in school and puts these kids at a further disadvantage. “It is a hidden problem,” said Kristen Alexander, director of Development and Marketing at Boston Cares. “Unless you work with families you just don’t realize how big the problem is. If you imagine a child sleeping on the floor or on a couch or in a bed with multiple people it is hard. If a toddler has their own bed they have better health, self- esteem and due better in school.”
Boston Cares distributes the beds based on partnerships with aid workers in the city. Many of the beds will be going to Dorchester families through the Project H.O.P.E foundation. The beds constructed at the Carpenter’s training center were built to be convenient for single parents, easy to assemble and transport in the back of a taxi, for example. The program is looking to expand to building twin and bunk beds in the coming year.
The Carpenter’s Union works with many non –profits through their Helping Hammers program, but the bed building project has been a favorite of Mark Erlich, the head of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.
“We are very hands-on, very tangible, very concrete — literally. When we do something we like to get it done and Boston Cares gets that," said Erlich. "Their volunteers have a limited amount of time and so we are very organized, and the work flows quickly from one step to the next, which makes people feel that their time spent volunteering has been productive."
The journeymen in training at the Carpenter's Training center are often called upon to assist the volunteers.
“Which is a win, win,” said Erlich. “They are learning an aspect of their trade and are able to contribute to a cause that is meaningful to them. Most of what they build in our classrooms gets broken down but these beds will last and there is a sense of pride that goes with that.”
Catelin Thompson, 28,from Newton, was one of the volunteers painting the assembled beds. "This is my first event with Boston Cares," said Thompson. "It is the one I really wanted to do. I was on a wait list and suddenly got the call to come in today. It has been great I have met a lot of cool people and feel like I am giving back." Boston Cares charges a fee in exchange for organizing volunteering events which companies use as team building exercises. They also have a grant from Americorps.
"I am in marketing and planning and my company partners with Boston Cares," said Kristin Hollowell, who was assembling headboards with her daughter Talia. "I didn't realize that a lack of beds was such a big problem and what a huge impact having one has on child's life.”