LONGVIEW — Dan Lancaster has a heart for his East Texas community.
You’ll often see the Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) engineer donating his time to community projects that create a better future for East Texas residents. And some of the experiences he says he’s found most rewarding have been with an area nonprofit that’s been able to utilize his engineering expertise.
“I’m a sort of jack of all trades, and I enjoy doing those sort of things whether it’s at work or for charity,” he said.
Founded by friends who saw a need in their community, Beds of Hope provides beds and bedding to children in the care of Child Protective Services who are being placed with relatives, foster families or returning to their homes in East Texas.
Recently, Lancaster helped the nonprofit with its design of metal patterns to make it easier for volunteers to drill holes in the correct places on wooden pieces used to create the head boards, foot boards and railings of twin beds during build days.
The uniqueness of the build days is what initially attracted Lancaster to the organization.
“I like to work in big groups and that is exactly what this is,” Lancaster said. “We work together to build the beds, and you meet so many different people.”
Build days consist of volunteers assembling pre-cut wood into head boards, foot boards and the railings of a stackable twin bed. The pieces are transported to a storage facility until they’re needed for a delivery. Beds of Hope coordinates with Child Protective Services on children in need of the beds and handles the delivery and assembly of them at the home.
“All that is really required at the build days is four hours of someone’s time and a willingness to help out,” said Ben House, a chemist at Pirkey Power Plant in Hallsville, who became involved after Lancaster, a longtime friend and colleague, told him about the build days.
The next build day is scheduled for May 25. Details on time and location will be released on the organization’s Facebook closer to the build day, according to Willie Faulkner, one of the organization’s founders. But he said generally volunteers work from 8:30 a.m. to noon.
Like Lancaster, House was intrigued by the builds days because they focused on building something.
“I found it was another avenue for me to use my skills and have it benefit the local community,” House said.
To date, Beds of Hope has built more than 500 beds for children in Gregg, Harrison, Rusk and Upshur counties, Faulkner said, adding the organization regularly gets requests for that footprint to expand.
Faulkner said he and Longview orthodontist Michael Scott got the idea from a Texas church that had a similar ministry that provided area foster children with beds.
After attending one of the church’s build days, the two men asked around to find out who, if anyone, had a similar ministry in Gregg County. When they found out no one did, they met with Child Protective Services to see if the same need existed in their community.
It did, and Beds of Hope was born. In March, the organization celebrated its third anniversary.
“It’s spreading and growing and that is amazing to see,” said Faulkner.
To find out more about Beds of Hope, visit bedsofhope.org, and follow them on Facebook to keep up with build days and other events throughout the year.
About Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO)
SWEPCO, an American Electric Power (AEP: NYSE) company, serves 535,000 customers in western Arkansas, northwest and central Louisiana, northeast Texas and the Texas Panhandle. SWEPCO’s headquarters are in Shreveport, La. News releases and other information about SWEPCO can be found at SWEPCO.com,