Jill and Ben Baker were at the dinner table one night talking about efforts by their church, Albany Mennonite, to purchase new bunk beds for the Helping Hands homeless shelter.
The nonprofit shelter has been struggling to eradicate bedbugs. Albany Mennonite Church plans a spaghetti feed fundraiser on Tuesday to help pay for new metal bunks to keep the critters from burrowing into the wood.
The Bakers' sons, Jakoby, 4, and Nolan, 2, were surprised to hear that some people don't have homes to live in. They were even more surprised to learn bugs could hide out in a bed.
"Why don't they just buy new beds?" Jakoby wanted to know.
"They don't have the money," Jill remembers answering.
"I have money," he announced. And with that, she said, he pledged the contents of his giant red plastic crayon bank, along with the change in a bright pink piggy bank and a globe-shaped bank sent by his grandmother.
Jakoby collects any change the family happens to have, along with dollars he was sent for his birthday. On hearing of his donation plan, his grandmother, Pat Swiers of Minnesota, sent him a $50 check to add to the cause. His total so far amounts to about $100.
"It's a very black-and-white issue for him: 'This is not OK, and we need to fix it,'" Jill Baker said.
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"I can't help but think that if a 4-year-old understands that this is not OK, the rest of us should propel to action as well."
Albany Mennonite is collecting funds to purchase 50 metal bunk sets at $270 each. Other churches have joined the effort, Baker said.
The spaghetti fundraiser is at 6 p.m. Dec. 15 at the church, 3405 Kizer Ave. N.E. No admission is charged, but donations will be accepted.
The church also is collecting donations outside of the fundraiser. Checks can be made payable to "Albany Mennonite Church" with "Helping Hand Bunks" written in the memo line.
Bedbugs are a chronic problem at the shelter, acknowledged John Donovan, the shelter's development director. He said crews work as hard as they can to keep beds clean, and check the gear of new visitors when they arrive. Incidents are fewer, but the problem hasn't been eliminated.
"Bedbugs are very tough customers to deal with," he said. “Anyplace you have group living, they can cause terrible problems.”
The shelter is working on its own fundraising campaign but is delighted to have assistance, he said.
“There’s a good spirit in our community to help," he said.