Bed Start

Bed Start volunteers Will Nickols and Bill Brunken // photo Jennifer Shertzer
Bed Start volunteers Will Nickols and Bill Brunken // photo Jennifer Shertzer

In 1995, Bed Start was born as a result of a partnership between Plano’s Custer Road United Methodist Church and Plano Head Start, an assistance program in Plano ISD designed to provide comprehensive services for families who fall within federal poverty level income guidelines. The idea came from church members’ desires to ensure the children and families in the Head Start program had a bed to sleep in each night. In 2002, the program was named Head Start Bed Start.

This program eventually evolved into what it is today, Bed Start, a nonprofit that serves anyone in Collin County or Dallas County in need of home furnishings. Volunteers deliver beds, but they also deliver all types of furniture. Most of the clients they serve are completely lacking in furnishings, focused simply on paying rent. Occasionally a family who lost everything in a house fire also applies for help. Bed Start works with accredited organizations to ensure that everyone who applies for a delivery is truly needy.

Doug Nickols became executive director of Bed Start in 2008. “Back when I started, it was just a truck and a trailer. I had lost my job so I had plenty of time on my hands, and I wanted to help others while I looked for another job. But I ended up just sticking with Bed Start,” he said.

Director Doug Nickols // photo Hunter Lacey, Dallas Doing Good
Director Doug Nickols // photo Hunter Lacey, Dallas Doing Good

Doug’s father was a preacher, and because of that, community outreach has always been integral to Doug’s life. After school, he became an engineer, but didn’t enjoy sitting in front of a computer all day, so he decided to work in manufacturing as a manufacturing leader. “Through my job, I was able to connect with people of all different socioeconomic backgrounds and all types of diversity in the workplace. I could see some of my employees were struggling while I was in that role,” he said.

Through the culmination of these experiences, it was natural for Doug to step into the role of leading Bed Start.

Every Wednesday and Saturday, the Bed Start team – all volunteers – deliver to homes in need before making pick-ups of donated furniture. On some days in between, they unpack, reorganize, reload and respond to requests. Doug organizes the entire process, but also has crew leaders who coordinate volunteers on delivery days. Over the past year, Doug said the Bed Start team made about 850 deliveries and 1,300 furniture pick-ups.

A small portion of the regular Bed Start volunteers // photo Jennifer Shertzer
A small portion of the regular Bed Start volunteers // photo Jennifer Shertzer

Bill Brunken, close friend of Doug and long-time volunteer for Bed Start, has made this work a part of his weekly routine. “There’s five or six of us that are die-hard, pulling trailers every week. Young Men’s Service League volunteers with us often. Any given week, we might have a dozen teenage boys and their moms. We split them into different crews and head out on deliveries,” said Bill.

Before COVID-19, volunteers would set up beds for families. During the pandemic, they’ve been bringing in furniture but leaving it up to each family to assemble. They’ve ensured the safety of everyone involved by wearing masks and social distancing as much as possible during deliveries. Every volunteer drives his own car to each delivery site.

“The families we meet are typically transitioning out of homelessness. Veterans, domestic abuse victims, refugees. Every house you go in to make deliveries, you build a relationship. But the stories can be heartbreaking. I tear up sometimes,” Bill said.

Despite the gravity of each family’s situation, Bed Start’s assistance offers hope. Free of charge, the family can have a furnished apartment so it can focus finances on rent and food. While some of the requests come through an online form, many individuals are connected with Bed Start through referrals from churches and the police department.

“When I’ve asked the families how we can pray for them, they typically want to pray prayers of gratitude for the volunteers who have given their time to help them,” Bill said. “They simply say, ‘Thank you for caring enough about us to be here to help us.’”

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