When clients of Catholic Charities' Family Empowerment Program (FEP) - families at-risk for homelessness - make the stressful and costly transition to stable housing, they often are left without household furniture, including beds to sleep in at night.
"It is not unheard of for children in the program to sleep on the floor of the family's new apartment or doubled-up on an air mattress," according to Matt Preston, Catholic Charities' coordinator of Housing Services.
Through Ashley Furniture HomeStores' "A Hope to Dream" initiative, many of the children being housed through Catholic Charities are now able to sleep in a warm, safe bed they can call their own.
"People forget how important it is for a child to have somewhere to sleep," observed Casey Slagle, community specialist for the Dufresne Spencer Group, which operates Ashley HomeStores. "We make it a priority to have as a part of our culture."
Slagle has worked directly with the Family Empowerment Program in accepting applications and advocating for the needs of FEP families in Nashville.
"A Hope to Dream" began in 2006 with the simple desire to provide beds for children in need.
A portion of the profit of every individual mattress sold at Ashley HomeStores goes toward the program which has grown on a national level and now includes the University of Memphis, Indianapolis Colts, and St. Louis Cardinals as program partners.
"Applications and referrals are accepted on a rolling-basis and reviewed by a team of Ashley Furniture representatives monthly," explained Preston. The most vulnerable children-usually those sleeping on the floor at night-are prioritized and, if chosen, provided with their very own twin mattress set, comforter, and pillow. The retail value is $650.
Over the past 3 months, Ashley Furniture provided approximately 40 twin beds and bedding to Family Empowerment Program clients. The value of the donated goods, according to Slagle, is more than $25,000. "My favorite thing about my job is to hear relief in people's voices when I tell them they have been selected," said Slagle.
"We are so thankful to Ashley Furniture and its "A Hope to Dream" program," Preston concluded. "From seeing firsthand the excitement and relief these beds have provided to our families, we know "A Hope to Dream" is truly providing hope to those that need it."