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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — “Beds 4 Kids” is wondering if you could help.
“About two years ago, we got placement of three (of our) grandchildren, and when we got them, we didn’t have sleeping arrangements for them. They were sleeping on an air mattress,” said Robyn Lee of New Auburn.
“We had friends and family who helped us out with beds and whatnot for the kids, so we’re trying to pay it forward and help other people that might be in the same situation as we are,” she said.
Lee, her husband, Richard, and Chelsea Reese of Chippewa Falls, recently started the non-profit 501.c.3 organization, Beds 4 Kids, to provide bunk beds or single beds for children in foster care or kinship care.
Herb Tallman of Sand Creek, who is a member at Lee’s church, New Hope Lutheran in Sand Creek, has been building beds that Beds 4 Kids can donate to families in need.
The program provides bunk beds, “but (Herb) is also building them as singles. So if there’s a family with more than one child, we’ll give a bunk bed, otherwise, we will just give a single bed. It’s all pretty much the same pattern, but a single or a bunk,” Lee said.
“We are going to be having what we call a build day. We will be holding that in Chippewa, and we are hoping to get people volunteering, people from the community to come and help on any aspect. They can hold a board, or they can do the major building. But we want to mass produce the beds so we have a better inventory of them,” she said.
“We had to get an insurance policy for liability reasons. And in that request from the insurance company, they asked us to get a bed plan, so they have okayed the bed plan we use,” Lee said.
The number of grandparents who are raising grandchildren is increasing in the area, Lee said.
Beds 4 Kids is available to residents of Dunn County, Chippewa County and Barron County.
In 2018, Dunn County had 64 children in foster care, according to Kristin Korpela, Director of the Dunn County Department of Human Services.
The 64 stays in foster care in 2018 “could have ranged from overnight to all year,” Korpela said.
On the day the Colfax Messenger asked for statistics about children in foster care and kinship care, March 7, Korpela said there were currently 44 children in kinship care and 32 in foster care in Dunn County.
According to Pauline Spiegel of Chippewa County Human Services, there were over 200 children in foster care or kinship care in Chippewa County in 2018.
An e-mail message to Barron County Human Services asking about the number of children in foster care and kinship care in 2018 did not receive a reply by press time.
Lee says Beds 4 Kids would welcome hearing from any groups or clubs that would want to build beds — such as church groups, 4-H clubs, school groups or civic clubs.
“I could certainly meet with them. Herb may want to meet with them, too. Or we could give them the plans, and they could build as they see fit,” Lee said.
“We welcome anyone who wants to be involved in any way they want,” Lee said.
“We need the volunteers for making the beds, but people have asked how else they can help, and we can take donations of bedding or monetary donations, which would go toward the lumber or purchasing mattresses,” she said.
Beds 4 Kids also is accepting used twin bed frames.
The used bed frames are fine, but the organization cannot accept used mattresses, Lee said.
Beds 4 Kids also only accepts new bedding, such as sheets, quilts, blankets, pillows or pillow cases.
New bedding is necessary because of concerns about bed bugs, she said.
Volunteers are needed as well to help assemble the beds and to deliver them.
Donations toward the rent of a storage unit to store the beds and the bedding also would be very helpful as would the donation of the use of an enclosed trailer for the delivery of the bed(s).
Initially, Lee went on social media and announced Beds 4 Kids.
“We got an influx of people wanting beds for the kids, and I was really hyped. Then we got a tip that somebody wanted to get a bed so they could sell it and use it for drug money. They ruined it for everybody else,” Lee said.
Lee said Beds 4 Kids is working with foster care, kinship care and Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) so they can help screen out people.
“We do have an application and a waiver form … we are asking if (agencies) can help us weed out the people who are not really in need,” she said.
“We are going to some of the schools, too, to tell them we are taking referrals from them if they know of a family in need,” Lee said.
One family in Chetek had a house fire, and Beds 4 Kids donated beds for their two children, ages 6 and 9. The organization will help with any situation where there are children needing beds, Lee said.
“It’s exciting. Things have come into place. We had to be licensed. We had to get insurance. And that’s all complete now,” she said.
Last fall, Lee and Chelsea Reese, the woman from Chippewa Falls, went to a foster parent meeting.
At the time, they did not know each other.
“They were trying to get the community together so they could talk about foster care and get more people signed up to do foster care,” Lee said.
One of the projects needed was beds for children, she said.
Lee said she went home and right away started trying to contact the closest organization, which happened to be located in the southern part of the state. She tried numerous times.
“Nobody was returning my calls,” Lee said.
After several months, Lee said she was growing frustrated, when all of a sudden one day, she got a call from the woman in Chippewa Falls.
Both of them, as it turns out, had been trying to contact the other organization, and neither of them had been getting anywhere with returned telephone calls.
“We met, and we said, we’ll give it one more month, and if nobody contacts us, we’ll pursue it,” Lee said.
“But then my husband said, ‘go ahead and start it yourself,’ so that’s what we did,” she said.
Lee said the people involved with Beds 4 Kids do not receive any compensation for their time or compensation for mileage.
The organization also can provide a statement for taxes for people who donate, she said.
“It’s been a learning experience,” Lee said.
Beds 4 Kids is planning a fund-raising day this summer, probably in July, she noted.
Lee and her husband are good friends with lifelong Colfax residents Tom and Cindy Knutson.
Lee went to elementary school in Sand Creek with Tom, and they also were confirmed together at church.
“When they bought the farm, we became really good friends with them,” Lee said.
For more information about Beds 4 Kids, you can contact Lee at 715-827-1163 or by e-mail at HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com”firstname.lastname@example.org
Beds 4 Kids also has a Facebook page. To find the page, do a search for “Beds 4 Kids.”