- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2020

FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) - A retired Fort Dodge educator has been spending the final days of summer constructing bed frames from his wood shop.

It will be those frames, combined with mattresses, pillows and blankets provided through Athletics for Education and Success, that will give Fort Dodge children in need a comfortable place to lay their heads at night.

Fran Long, who had been teaching part-time for St. Edmond Catholic School and Fort Dodge Senior High, said he was inspired by a story he read online where a retired teacher made bed frames.

“I have time on my hands, I have a wood shop and it just kind of fell together,” Long told the Fort Dodge Messenger. “I don’t sit very well, so I needed to find a project to do.”

In July, he contacted Charles Clayton, executive director of AFES, to share his idea to get beds to children in need.

“Children need a good bed to sleep in at night,” Clayton said. “AFES wants to help.”

Clayton said AFES will store the bed frames and figure out a system to get them out to the children.

He also plans to work with local businesses on providing the bedding.

As far as who will deliver the beds, Clayton said that will be local police officers from the Fort Dodge Police Department and members of the 133rd Test Squadron, the Iowa Air National Guard based in Fort Dodge.

“This is really the whole community coming together again,” Clayton said. “Who better to deliver the beds than our police and National Guard? Try and build some bridges.”

Clayton said when Long contacted him, he immediately supported the mission.

“Anytime something comes up in the community when it comes to kids and families in need, I am going to support it - whether Charles Clayton personally or AFES,” Clayton said. “When Fran got ahold me, I said we are going to do it and we’ll figure it out later. We have had programs on and off try to do this. I don’t think there is one currently going. If there is, they can let us know and we can partner with them.”

Long said bunk beds take him the most time to make.

“It’s about five hours,” Long said. “Most of which is spent sanding.”

He added, “It’s a fun project. It’s mindless. I don’t have to think too hard about it anymore.”

Long was quick to deflect any credit given to him for the bed project.

“What I am doing is pretty minor,” he said. “There’s all kinds of people that volunteer in many, many different ways through churches or organizations. This just gets me out of the house, helps fill some time and, with the virus here, it really changes what a guy can do and where a guy can be.”

Providing beds is a cause Long can get behind, though.

“Get kids off the floor or off the couch, whatever the case may be,” he said.

Clayton said there’s seven beds ready for delivery. He hopes to have them delivered sometime this month.

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