When Thomas Dent and his family began looking for a new church home a year and a half ago, they were looking for two things: a place where their children would feel comfortable and a place where they could serve together as a family. . Dent and his wife had been adoptive parents in the past, which ignited a passion for Dent to provide beds for families – a small gesture with a big impact. When he saw that Trace Ridge Baptist Church in Ridgeland was doing this on a large scale through their resource center, it became their church.
Working within the foster care system, Dent has seen that sometimes when social workers are called in, it is not because there is abuse or neglect, but it is a situation where the family is in poverty. In these cases, it may mean that the children are sleeping on the floor because they don’t have a bed. Dent sees it as an easy way to help these families.
“As lifelong Mississippians, we’re last in a lot of categories, but I just don’t believe generosity is one of them,” Dent said. “If I get a call from a social worker asking if we have a bed to donate because he can put this kid with a parent but he needs a bed, get a $100 bed so that that child can go home to a relationship with someone they know is a problem that can be solved.
Dent had been working on collecting beds on his own for some time, and he soon became involved with the Trace Ridge Resource Center to continue this work on a larger scale. He has made it his own non-profit organization and is the chairman of the board. The center is open every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and every third Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. They’re teaming up with the Mississippi Food Network on Tuesdays to provide meals while opening their center filled with clothing and household items.
“It’s anything from Christmas ornaments, ironing boards, kitchen utensils and clothes,” Dent said. “There is no expectation of payment. Someone blessed us with this stuff knowing we would find a new home and a good home for it. It’s planting seeds in the community and telling people you matter. We want to be good stewards of our funding and items and find families who need a little help or who need a little encouragement in times of crisis.
With rising costs from inflation and the spread of information about the resource center, Dent said he has seen an increase in the number of families coming to the center. In January, 134 families visited, including 20 new ones. In February, the number increased to 150 families with 20 new families. The numbers continued to climb throughout the year to reach 480 families in August, including 62 new families. In September, the center was serving 352 families, of which 59 were new, and in October, it was serving 273 families, of which 39 were new. By the end of last month, the Resource Center had served 2,471 families.
The center also aims to provide 400 beds each year to families in need. They distributed 33 beds and 31 bedding sets in October, bringing the total number for the year to 348 beds and 316 bedding sets with two months remaining in the year.
“We’re all volunteers right now and doing the best we can with what we have here, but word is spreading, people are finding us, and we’re slowly connecting with other organizations,” Dent said. “Jackson’s Center for Pregnancy Choices has reached out many times, and the situation could be that a mother has her own apartment and has nothing. They give us a list and we do our best to provide them with everything on it.
Dent said it’s important to have these relationships with other organizations that are already doing this work so they can work together.
“We don’t need the credit for this – we just want to be able to help,” Dent said. “We just want to share the love of Christ with other people in our community.”
People who come to the resource center are mainly looking for food, beds and clothing, but they also accept requests and look for items for specific people. To get involved, they are always looking for donations and volunteers.
“You don’t have to be a member of our church or a believer in Christ to volunteer,” Dent said. “We will help the next person. It’s not about us and it’s not about our denomination, it’s about helping our community. The more resources and more funding, the more needs you can meet and help more people.
Dent said they also invite people to join them in prayer.
“I think there are a lot of people who focus on what they can’t do,” Dent said. “For example, having a full-time job and being unavailable on Tuesdays does not prevent helping. You could pray. You can pray with us and pray for us.
They also take volunteers every day of the week although they are only open on Tuesdays and one Saturday per month.
“I know there are people there all the time sorting clothes and organizing things,” Dent said. “Donating is another way to help, whether it’s items or a financial partnership with us. We seek to continue to grow and make an impact, and we want to see where God is leading us in this regard. These are ways to get directly involved.
To learn more and get involved, you can find the Trace Ridge Resource Center on Facebook or email them at email@example.com.