By Todd Cohen
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Over 4,400 school children are homeless in Charlotte, which is home to over 12,500 “couch-homeless” people, or those whose housing is precarious and who typically are staying with a friend or relative.
Seeing those research estimates, three business executives formed a nonprofit with the mission of providing a bed and other essential furniture to every family and child in need in Charlotte.
And coming from the business world, the executives wanted to keep their overhead low and not duplicate services that other nonprofits provide.
Founded on Jan. 1, 2011, and run mainly by volunteers, Beds for Kids has teamed up with three social-service agencies that refer clients to it, and with a furniture company that invites its customers to donate the furniture they are replacing.
Launched with a 14-foot closed trailer one of the founders had purchased, and a 10-foot-by-30-foot storage unit off South Boulevard, Beds for Kids initially served one family a week and made one or two trips a week to pick up donated furniture.
Now, the nonprofit uses an 17-foot box truck purchased by a local donor, operates from an 11,000-square-foot warehouse off South Tryon Street, serves about four families a week, and makes about 12 trips a week to pick up donated furniture.
In 2011, through early December, Beds for Kids had delivered 1,114 pieces of furniture, including 200 beds, served over 94 families, and received 893 hours of service from volunteers.
And the nonprofit now is planning to expand, says Daniel Fogarty, who left his own private-equity real-estate investment firm to help form Beds for Kids and now serves as its unpaid executive director.
Other co-founders include Tim Rowley, a municipal bond trader at Morgan Keegan in South Park who chairs the nonprofit’s board of directors, and Brandon Holmes, who worked in the micro-finance field in the Democratic Republic of Congo and serves as director of operations and partnerships.
Families are referred to Beds for Kids by YWCA Central Carolinas; A Child’s Place, which works to reduce the impact of homelessness on children; and Charlotte Family Housing.
Social workers at those agencies refer families to Beds for Kids, and provide information on the furniture items they need.
Beds for Kids also has developed a partnership with Broad River Furniture, a Charlotte-based firm that operates eight franchise stores in the Carolinas for Ashley Furniture HomeStore.
At those eight stores, sales people let customers who are buying new furniture know about the partnership with Beds for Kids, and tell them that if they would like to donate the furniture they are replacing they can phone the nonprofit to pick it up.
Beds for Kids also has partnered with churches, civic groups and other local businesses such as Xerox, which brought 20 employees to the nonprofit’s warehouse on a recent Saturday to clean and repair donated furniture.
The Xerox employees also contributed $7,500 in cash.
With the cost of serving a family totaling about $400, Beds for Kids aims to raise $300,000 to serve 750 families in 2012 with a larger warehouse and paid staff, as well as six additional agencies to refer families.
Having a bed and a desk where she can do homework may not fix all the problems in a child’s life, but it can help provide a stable foundation, Fogarty says.
“We don’t do all of it,” he says, “but we do play a part in providing that stability.”