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'The little things that they do have a big impact'

Zoe Greszler • Dec 9, 2018 at 2:00 PM

If you asked a random Huron County resident what were some of the issues facing youth in the area, peer pressure, drugs and other things may come up. One very real problem for local youths that may not initially come to mind is having a place to put their heads at night.

Throughout the county there are young ones who don’t have beds to sleep in, meaning they’re catching their Z’s on the couch, on the floor or multiple children will share the same bed. 

These issues, which many may think are only prevalent in severely poverty-stricken areas, are ones that the Huron County Sheriff’s Office has seen when responding to various calls. 

Seeing it first hand moved Deputy Mitchell Cawrse, a New London High School graduate, to action.

After approaching Sheriff Todd Corbin, the department began working with the New London and South Central FFA chapters to create a “bed battalion.” The sheriff’s office and FFA members spent their first day on the battalion Thursday, building 25 beds for local children who needed them. They also will furnish the beds with mattresses, linens and pillows.

“Reach for the stars” and a small sheriff’s star will be put on the sides of each of the beds “in honor of Dep. Mitch for this idea and the Huron County Sheriff’s Office for supporting this,” South Central FFA adviser Sarah Lucha said.

“I did this with a church down in Columbus (as part of a training session) earlier this spring,” Cawrse said. “I thought it was really good ides to bring it up here. We didn’t really know how many kids we were going to have that didn’t have beds so we sent something out to Job and Family Services and then they sent it out to people who qualify for it. We have 19 kids on the list right now. Once the word gets out, I think we’ll have even more than that.

“Being on the road the last five years, we go into houses and you see there’s not really any place for a kid to sleep, or you see where they’re sleeping on the couch or on the floor together. I can’t say how big the need is here, but I know there is a need. No matter how big the need is, we want to make sure that we can take care of who we can and get a bed out to them.”

Lucha said Cawrse’s passion for the project has rubbed off on the students involved, making them “really excited” to be working on such a meaningful project. She said the project embodies one thing the advisers seek to teach the teenagers — “living to serve.”

New London FFA advisor Megan Riley said the project hit particularly close to home for a few of her members.

“In my own chapter, we have kids that don’t have beds so it’s kids that we have in class that are affected by this on a regular basis,” she said.

“They’re here right now, helping — they get to help kids in a similar situation that they’re in. I think they’re really excited to do it because they have that connection, they know how it feels to sleep on the couch or floor, whether their family fell on hard times or there are circumstances that are out of their control. So they just want to be able to give back but it’s extra rewarding for them because they’ve been in that position.”

Corbin said it’s no fault of their own that children are living in the conditions they are, but they deserve the community’s support, helping to guide them to a better life in the future.

“We get to have a direct impact,” he said. “Unfortunately, kids don’t have the choice of being in the world or situation they’re in until they get old enough to understand that they have a choice — they can choose to stay where they’re at or they can choose to build themselves up and make something better for themselves. I’m hoping this is a positive impact for them and shows them how they can give back to their community, too.”

He said it’s a “great, worthwhile project” because some of the children benefitting from the bed battalion are ones law enforcement have seen before when officers have responded to their house for various issues with the family.

“We’re seeing them when it’s not good; we’re having impacts on their families when it’s not good,” the sheriff said, “But this is giving back, showing we care and showing them a different side of law enforcement. Not only are we here in times of crisis, but we’re also here to help you heal and care about your well being.”

This isn’t a onc-and-done project. Riley said the chapters intend to continue assisting with the need “throughout the year and for years to come.”

“Probably after we get done with this big bunch here, we’ll start doing this like once a month or something and build a couple beds here, a couple beds there,” Cawrse added. “We just want to make sure that we continue to do it.”

Each bed is estimated to cost about $150, meaning the overall 25-bed building project that took place Thursday cost about $4,000 — all of which was donated either monetarily or in materials. 

Cawrse said in the future, they will consider an “adopt a bed program,” where an individual or company can sponsor an entire bed and have their name inscribed or written on the inside of a bed frame. 

“That way these kids know who these beds came from,” Cawrse said. “So these kids know that somebody cares about them and that they have a bed to sleep on.”

Kotiana Barber, a junior and FFA president at New London, said the chapters wanted to help with the bed battalion because “there’s always people that need help and we want to help them, show that we want to be involved with them and that we care.”

South Central junior Ally Burton serves as the school’s FFA president. She agreed with Barber’s statement, adding that it sets an example for other young people to get involved.

“It’s sad that kids don’t have a bed to sleep in,” she said. “Not many people have to think about, ‘Oh, I won’t have a bed to sleep in,’ but there are kids that have that issue locally and it really makes me feel good that we are able to help them.”

Corbin said he hopes because of feelings and sentiments like that, that the children receiving the beds aren’t the only ones who benefit from the program.

“We’re hoping that these kids (FFA members) are able to deliver these beds and see the impact they’re having on these kids and to see the conditions that they’re living in, to make them really appreciate what they have at home and to know that the little things that they do have a big impact,” he said.

Anyone who would like to donate to the bed battalion project or who are in need of a bed can contact the sheriff’s office and leave a message for Deputy Mitchell Cawrse at 419-668-6912.

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