When 4-year-old Ryleigh Genn lay down to sleep, her head sank deep into a fluffy pillow as she stretched out on bright pink Tinkerbell sheets, clutching a matching blanket around her.
Just the night before, the preschooler had shared an air mattress with the rest of her family and before that, she slept on a crib mattress with two other siblings.
On this night, however, her bed was a sweet dream come true.
The little girl, three of her four siblings and her mother, Candace Genn, 37, recently received beds and bedding from Hope Chest OKC.
The Yukon-based ministry provides beds, bedding, dining tables and chairs to struggling families around the metro.
The ministry’s director, Dena Nason, and a small group of volunteers delivered a queen bed, three twin beds, a toddler bed and crib bedding for the Genn family on a recent Saturday morning.
For Nason, one man’s chore — making up the bed — is another man’s labor of love.
That’s why the group not only set up the beds, but they put sheets, pillowcases and blankets on each of them.
While Ryleigh received bedding fit for the princess of the house, her brother, Xander, 2, had his toddler bed outfitted with cartoon-themed bedding. Big brother Joshua, 16, who is ill, received a cushioned mattress set and black and gray bedding befitting a teenage boy, while his brother, Dylan, 8, couldn’t stop running his hands across his Batman-themed blanket and sheets.
“It helps make their house into a home,” Nason said.
Candace Genn, her eyes glistening with tears, agreed.
She said she moved to the metro area from out of state and planned to live with friends who invited her and her children to stay with them as she attempted to refocus in the aftermath of divorce. Genn said her friends’ home burned down just as she and the children were on a bus bound for Oklahoma so they just recently found an apartment with help from a local social service agency. The single mom said she gave birth to her daughter, Chloe, just weeks ago and she wondered how her growing family’s sleeping arrangements would be worked out with very little money.
As Hope Chest OKC volunteers gathered in a circle and prayed for her family, Genn said she had begun to feel that she’d made the wrong decision to attempt a fresh start in a different state.
However, she said the compassionate help of the Hope Chest volunteers successfully quashed those pessimistic thoughts.
“It actually feels like a home instead of somewhere where we’re just crashing,” said Genn.
“I can actually tell them to go to bed,” she added, grinning.
Nason said Hope Chest OKC was originally started in 2008 by Cissa Newberry of Edmond. Nason, who lives in Yukon, said she began volunteering for the ministry in 2010, coordinating deliveries from a metro warehouse where volunteers stored assorted donations of beds, bedding and other household items.
Working with the fledgling ministry, Nason said she and her husband, Ward, were surprised to learn that a bed is considered a luxury item for some individuals and families. As the Nasons and other volunteers made their deliveries, they learned that some people had shelter, but too few beds or no beds at all, much less nice sheets, pillows and blankets.
How to help
Hope Chest OKC
The nonprofit ministry called Hope Chest OKC accepts donations of the following items: bed frames of all sizes, mattress covers, blankets, new pillows, age/gender specific bedding for children, sheets of all sizes, new or gently used mattresses (no stains, major wear or tears), box springs of all sizes, kitchen tables and chairs and Bibles. Monetary donations also are accepted.
To donate, call 204-9108 or email Dena Nason at email@example.com. For more information about Hope Chest OKC, go to www.hopechestokc.org.