Barnabas Network serving people in need

Barnabas Network
Barnabas Network

Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — In 2010, over 4,900 residents of Guilford County experienced homelessness, including 1,600 students in the Guilford County Schools.

That same year, the Barnabas Network provided 637 beds for children ages four to 17 whose families were emerging from homelessness but still did not have a bed to sleep in.

Founded in 2006, the nonprofit works in partnership with faith communities and social agencies to provide basic home furnishings to families and individuals moving from homelessness, recovering from a major setback, fleeing domestic violence, or living with incomes that cannot cover basic needs.

“We’re growing as much as we can and serving as many people as we can,” says Erin Stratford, the nonprofit’s executive director.

Operating with an annual budget of just over $250,000, a staff of one person working full-time and nine working part-time, and volunteers who donated over 6,100 hours, the Barnabas Network in 2010 provided a total 962 beds, nearly 1,200 dining tables and chairs, nearly 1,900 other pieces of furniture and 142 major appliances to people in need.

The agency grew out of a project of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church that served as a furniture bank for people in need and provided a “Wheels to Work” program that fixed up donated cars for people who needed transportation to get to their jobs.

Barnabas Network was organized as a nonprofit after the Rev. Odell Cleveland, founder and executive director of the Welfare Reform Liaison Project, introduced the Rev. Timothy J. Patterson of Holy Trinity to Darnell Brame, who operated a furniture ministry from his garage and now serves as the agency’s director of operations.

The group operates in 28,000 square feet of warehouse space, plus office space, in the South Atlantic Warehouse Building on East Market Street.

With two trucks, including one to pick up donated furniture and appliances, and the other to deliver them to needy people, Barnabas Network also refurbishes donated items or builds them in its workshop.

Its corps of volunteers includes individuals who are on probation and under a mandate to perform community service.

Many of them work in the warehouse, where they are required to work at least 50 hours, learning how to load and unload furniture onto and from the two trucks, stock donated items, and keep the warehouse clean, as well as “soft” employment skills such as showing up at work on time.

Federal probation officers in Guilford County screen parolees for Barnabas Network, which in 2010 served about 15 volunteers performing mandated community service.

Barnabas Network in 2010 also received 16 donated cars, refurbished and awarded seven of them to people who needed a car to get to work, and salvaged the remainder, using the proceeds to support the program, which also handles title work and inspections in partnership with Goodwill Industries of Central North Carolina.

The agency’s “No Child Sleeps on the Floor” campaign serves children whose families do not have beds and are referred to it by social workers in the Guilford County Schools or by the division of child protective services in the Guilford County Department of Social Services.

Many of the beds are provided through a partnership with High Point Bedding, which last year donated several hundred gently-used mattresses it previously had sold to High Point University.

And in September, the Barnabas Network will sponsor a “sleep-a-thon” for youth groups from schools and religious congregations who will ask families and friends to sponsor them for each hour they sleep on the floor with only sleeping bags at slumber parties.

The agency also makes dining-room tables and platform beds from scrap wood that it purchases or that is donated by Furnitureland South in Jamestown.

And through partnerships with groups like the Interactive Resource Center, Church World Service and African Service Coalition, the Barnabas Network also provides furniture to people who are emerging from homelessness or refugees who are resettling in the Greensboro region.

“It’s a constant need, and with the economy in a downturn, we don’t expect to see a downturn in the need for our services,” Stratford says. “We expect to see more people needing services as more people lose their jobs and as more refuges come to Guilford County.”

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