Changing Children's Lives One Bed at a Time - Sleep In Heavenly Peace

Sunday, January 12, 2020
Don't just aspire to make a living....aspire to make a difference. 
- Denzel Washington
Every once in a while, we're lucky enough to meet people who truly make a difference.  Yesterday I was just that lucky...lucky enough to meet some special folks who are making a difference.  Contrary to what we sometimes convince ourselves - that we're too small, too poor, too ordinary to make a difference, when we join hands and hearts for a common cause, the results can be huge.  Together we can join forces with a common passion, each of us contributing a little time, or a little money to see something big come to fruition. That is the case with an organization I had the honor of meeting today, Sleep in Heavenly Peace.
Some of you may already be familiar with it, but I first heard about Sleep in Heavenly Peace this morning when Michele Riggi, Saratoga philanthropist, posted on Instagram that she was volunteering at a building event today in Saratoga Springs.  Intrigued by her video, I went online and did a little research to learn more about Sleep in Heavenly Peace.  So moved by their cause, John and I headed out of the house to catch a little glimpse of today's event.  Let me tell you a little about this incredible organization.
In 2012 in Twin Falls, Idaho, Luke Mickleson was looking for a service project to do for his church. That project turned out to be building a bunk bed for a family in need in his church.  That Christmas, he and his family used the leftover lumber to build another bunk bed which he offered for free on his Facebook page to anyone in need.  The response was huge, both from people in need and from friends who reached out offering a mattress and bedding to go with the bed. Luke knew then that there were more kids in need and he and his wife, Heidi, formed Sleep In Heavenly Peace, a not-for-profit that builds and delivers beds to children in need.  In 2018 SHP was featured on Dirty Job's Mike Rowe's Facebook series, Returning the Favor.  Today Sleep in Heavenly Peace has grown to 183 chapters in 44 states and 3 countries. There are 4 chapters in NYS - in Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, Rye and Mechanicville.  It was the Mechanicville chapter we had the honor of meeting today.
James Welch, a 26 year military retiree, was looking for a way to give back.  In May of 2018, Jim traveled to Twin Falls, Idaho and attended chapter training learning standardized SHP policies, Chapter fiscal responsibilities, the assembly line building process, and participated in a bed delivery. During this training he solidified his mission to be successful in opening a chapter at home.  From May until December, Jim worked on collecting the nearly $3,500 needed for start-up costs for things like tools (that would be new and OSHA approved) and hardware.  He applied for and won a grant from the All Over Albany Foundation and received donations from various area businesses.  The Chapter's first build day was in December 2018.  The Mechanicville chapter serves a 17-mile radius of the 12118 zip code which includes southern Saratoga County, western Rensselaer county, northern Albany county, eastern Schenectady county and southern Washington county.    Four bunk beds were built that first day. In 2019 another 122 bunk beds were built, providing a safe and cozy beds for 244 kids.
 In 2019, Sleep in Heavenly Peace headquarters received 42,000 requests for beds, not even including the thousands of requests from natural disasters.  All together all the chapters built and delivered 15,013 bunks (30,026 beds in total).  Once a request for a bed is approved, it is forwarded to the local chapter, if one exists.  Beds are built to stand alone as a twin bed or stacked to make a bunk bed, depending on the individual family circumstance and need.  Beds are donated to children between 3 and 17 years of age who meet the criteria, which is not income based.  Beds are made and donated as donations and supplies allow.  Unfortunately, there are always more requests than there are beds to give.  
Once a month, Sleep in Heavenly Peace holds a 'build day'.  Usually build days involve about a half day of work by about 25 volunteers.  The cost for one bunk bed, which includes mattresses, pillows, sheets and a comforter is $350.  A single twin bed is $175.  Today's build day was sponsored by Michele Riggi and 6 bunk beds were built, stained and branded with the SHP logo.  They were delivered to storage for a future designated day when volunteers will deliver and set up beds to lucky boys and girls.  Here's a glimpse into yesterday's build day.....
Michele Riggi (Center)







Staining



At the end of every build day leftover lumber and tools are packed up along with all the unassembled bed and brought to storage.



 Lots of beds just waiting for lucky boys and girls!
Tools and lumber....waiting for the next build day...

Like any charity organization, the success and growth of that charity depends on dedicated volunteers, volunteers who show up each month to load and unload tools and lumber, build the beds and move them to storage while waiting for delivery.  Build days take place in different locations, depending on who sponsors the beds.  Some build days are open to the public for volunteering, others are corporate events.  Regardless of where the beds are built, the end result is the same....some lucky child is no longer sleeping on a floor, a worn out mattress or couch.   It seems like such a simple thing, but sadly for many, having a bed to sleep in is only a dream.  How many of us tuck our kids in at night and take for granted that they have a bed?  Reality is, that is often not the case.  This organization is working hard to make sure 'no kid sleeps on the floor in our town'.
 Like most people I know, I've always had a bed and so have my children and grandchildren.  When I learned about Sleep in Heavenly Peace today, all I could think of was my mom and her childhood without her own bed.  As the child of a single mom, she shared a bed with her mother and sister for many years while they lived with her grandparents and uncles, crowded in a small house ....in Mechanicville, NY.   While sleeping with your mom isn't the worst thing, her situation made enough of an impression on me that hearing about this organization and how great the need is, really moved me to help.  Having a bed to sleep in isn't a luxury, it is a basic necessity for a child's health and well being.  Every child deserves one!  You don't have to sponsor a whole bed to contribute to SHP.  A $5 donation buys a pillow, $10 buys sheets, $25 buys a comforter, $50 a mattress, $175 a single bed, $350 a bunk bed.  You can also purchase twin sheet sets and mail them to their chapter.  So many organizations provide clothing, meals and toys to kids, but few provide beds and bedding.  I know we are all asked to donate to so many causes, but not many provide as tangible a result as Sleep in Heavenly Peace.   Your dollars can make such a difference in the day-to-day life of a kid in your town, a kid who goes to bed every night on the floor instead of on a comfy mattress under the covers in their very own cozy bed.  It's a simple thing most of us take for granted, but this organization wouldn't exist and be growing if the need didn't exist.  Imagine your child or grandchild sleeping on the floor, night after night.  Isn't a bed the very least a child deserves?
I know that, like me, you want to help.  Here's a few ways you can:
  • You can make a monetary donation:  Donate Here
  • You can mail a check to the local chapter at: Sleep in Heavenly Peace, P.O. Box 664, 18 South Main Street, Mechanicville, NY 12118
  • You can purchase any of the items listed above and send them to: 138 So Linden Street, Mechanicville NY 12118
  • You can volunteer at a build day
  • You can get your company, work organization or church to pitch in and sponsor a build event.  Usually build events last about a 1/2 day and builds a minimum of 5 or 6 bunk beds. Six beds would cost $2100....seems like a reachable goal to me.  What a great team building, volunteer activity for such a worthy cause.
  • The local chapter is in great need of their own trailer so that tools and building material won't have to be loaded and unloaded at the start and finish of every build event.  Donations are now being accepted for the purchase of this trailer.  If you have a company that would like to donate, for $250 your company name will appear on the trailer and for a $500 donation, your company logo will appear.  What a great way to advertise while contributing towards filling this need.
  • If you buy on Amazon, you can select Sleep in Heavenly Peace as your charity (https://smile.amazon.com/)
  • You can spread the word - by sharing this blog post, by liking their facebook pages, and by sharing the Return the Favor episode (links included at the end of this post).  
  • How about sharing this story with your kids....I bet they'll be surprised to know how many children don't have a bed to sleep in.  Maybe their class can find a way to get involved in this cause that affects their peers.  What a great way to instill charity work as a way of life! 
We live in a world with so many worthwhile charities collecting money for such a large variety of causes.  You probably already support several of them, but this one.... this is a tangible need with a reachable goal that is attainable on a personal level that can make a difference to a child right in your own backyard.  It only takes one person to buy a pillow.  Some spend $5 a day on coffee.  A night at the movies cost more than the cost of a comforter.  I bet if you talk to five or six of your friends or neighbors, you could come up with the cost of at least one single bed ($175), maybe even enough for a bunk bed ($350).  Think about it and you'll agree - NO KID SHOULD SLEEP ON THE FLOOR IN YOUR TOWN....or anyone else's.
Just a few weeks ago, many of us sang the words, "Sleep in heavenly peace".  I can't think of a name more aptly suited for this organization than the lyrics to a song that described a babe in manger lying on a bed of straw.   From now on, those lyrics will remind me that even today, not all children are sleeping in the best conditions, but with SHP, one bed at a time, kids will really be sleeping in heavenly peace.

James Welch (R) President of Mechanicville Chapter

Taking a Look Back at your Top 5 Favorite Posts of 2019

Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Here we are, six years down, as I enter my seventh year of Life As I See It.  I can't believe that in April of 2014 I began this little blog, not knowing where it would lead or how long it would last.  It was then simply a vehicle for my sanity, my creativity and a way to pass my time as I struggled with the void of having half of my family in Indiana.  Since then the family moved back, my number of grandchildren grew from one to three, and after 452 posts, I haven't run out of things to photograph or write about.  So as we enter a new year, I thought I'd take a look back at your five favorite posts of 2019.
  1. Brant Lake - One of 3000 Lakes in the Adirondacks (click to read full post)- They say beauty can be found in unexpected places and I'm pretty sure the Adirondacks are not among the unexpected places anyone refers to. Although not on our regular list of 'go-to' destinations, when we do head to the Adirondacks, we are always rewarded with spectacular sights. That is especially the case when visiting the Adirondacks in autumn.  Each post title is a link that will take you to the complete, original post.
  2. Marchaland Farms - Generations of Easton Tradition - In July, Sue Marchaland, one of my devoted Easton followers, emailed me offering a tour of the family farm.  Sue thought some of the views from the pastures might be 'picture worthy'.  Always excited about the prospect of new views, we enthusiastically accepted the offer and when Sue contacted me this past weekend to arrange a date for the tour, we jumped at the opportunity.  I had no idea what adventure Sue's husband, Lou, had in store for us!   One might imagine that sharing a family business with a stranger might have something to do with pride, but it was abundantly clear that what this farm is about is not just pride in having a successful business.  It's about heart and it's about the love of family and the dedication and hard work that goes into keeping a family business alive and successful generation after generation, even through hardships.  It's about a family that knows the value and rewards of hard work and the determination and drive to carry on what started before you.  It's about the accumulation of knowledge and expertise, and the application of years of experience.  It's about elbow grease and sweat, long days and short nights.  It's about commitment and it's about family.  And that is what pride is about on Marchaland Farm....pride in their family business and maybe a little in their spectacular views.
  3. A Magical Evening in a Storybook Setting at June Farms - They refer to themselves as a 'small, gentleman's farm located on 120 acres in New York's Hudson Valley', and while all of that is true, I refer to it as 'a perfect slice of country serenity....the type that storybooks are made of.  I'm talking about June Farms in West Sand Lake, NY. I'm pretty sure that everyone who visits leaves intoxicated with it's charm and smitten by the idyllic feel that June Farms provides.  It's a compilation of every perfect calendar photo you've seen and the most beautiful illustrations by storybook artists.  Every turn, every glance fills your senses with picture-perfect views that elicit sighs of wonder and a sense of instant relaxation beginning with the tree-lined drive.   Matt Baumgartner has put together a magical venue at June Farms, from the pristine pastures to the perfectly manicured grounds, immaculate facilities, fresh flowers, friendly animals and relaxed pace.  Visitors feel a palpable drop in blood pressure and quickly settle into the calming, serene atmosphere of June Farms. 
  4. Little Brook Farm - Making One Dying Man's Wish Come True -  This is a story of a man, a veteran.  It's a story of his life, his loves, his legacy and how it was all almost nearly lost had it not been for a handful of people who cared enough to make a difference.  This is the story of Richard Spencer....and the people who stepped in to write his final chapter and maybe his legacy.   
  5. Stepping Off the Roller Coaster of Life to Enjoy the Simpler Life of the Amish - Sometimes life feels a little like riding a roller coaster.  It flies too fast at times, out of control, then creeps along as we wait with impatient anticipation and then suddenly everything we feared, or dreaded or longed for comes to an abrupt halt.  We're reminded that life is often out of our control.  It speeds up and slows down and occasionally it is unresponsive to our attempts to control it's path.  Have you ever felt like that? When I feel overwhelmed by life, even just a little frazzled and in need of quiet solace, I take to the road to unwind and surround myself with nature, often to places where life is lived not on a roller coaster, but almost in slow motion.  I go to a place where time stands still and life is simple and the noise of the world comes from animals and insects, where cell phones are silenced and politics don't clutter the view.  I go to the Amish community of the Mohawk Valley and immerse my mind in the simple but hardworking life of the Amish.
So those were the five most read posts of 2019, but there were a couple other favorites of mine that slipped through the cracks but are well worth a read:

  1. City of Souls Find Eternal Rest in the Albany Rural Cemetery - Founded in April of 1841, the Albany Rural Cemetery is a National Historical Landmark.  Even bigger than Oakwood in Troy, ARC is 467 acres large.  It's hard not to be impressed and awed by the elaborate and ornate monuments, gravestones and mausoleums in a cemetery 175 years old.  Among the ordinary, everyday folk buried here, this cemetery is the burial ground for 34 members of Congress, 8 Presidential Cabinet members, 5 NYS Governors, 55 mayors of the city of Albany and most notably, Chester A. Arthur the 21st president of the United States.  Other notables include General Schuyler, Revolutionary War hero and father-in-law of Alexander Hamilton, Stephen Van Rensselaer III, last Dutch patroon and founder of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Erastus Dow Palmer, world-renowned sculptor. 
  2. A Visit to Grant Cottage and A Personal Look at the Man Within - It's not often we get the chance to view the deathbed of a President, particularly when that President died in 1885, and rarely when that deathbed happens to be just 30 miles from home. Grant Cottage remains a historic landmark today.  Visitors to the cottage can see the first floor exactly as it was the day Grant died....the clock on the mantle stopped by Grant's son, Fred, at the time of his death....8:08am.   The jar of cocaine water used for pain relief still sits atop the bureau, the leather chairs still positioned facing each other where Grant would sleep, propped up when he could not lay flat in bed.
I could never pick a favorite post,  but I especially love the ones where I get to tell someone's story and two of those stories were in my top 5.  If I had to pick another it would have to be....


I took a little hiatus last January & February and only wrote 35 posts in all of  2019, compared to 73 in 2018, 75 in 2017, 81 in 2016, 102 in 2015 and 84 in 2014.  One might assumes that means I'm winding down but trust me, I've got lots more to share.  If you missed these or any other posts, you can find them all on the blog and in my blog Directory listed by category.  Thanks for supporting me and for giving me an outlet to share Life As I See It.  Don't forget, you can enter your email Here to receive each new post direct to your inbox.  Whether you're here for the photography or for ideas for your next road trip, I hope you'll stick around and I hope that you leave this page a little happier than when you arrived!

Lumber Jack's Coffee & Snacks for Delicious Food and Great Customer Service

Monday, January 6, 2020
Coffee......who does't need or love coffee?  And who doesn't love a delicious snack for the road?  That's exactly what you'll find at Lumber Jack's Coffee & Snacks on Route 7 in Hoosick NY on the border of New York and Vermont.


I included Lumber Jack's in my Best Business blog post, but I wanted to tell you more about it, so here goes! We found Lumber Jack's this fall when we were on a family caravan to Vermont.  Our son-in-law drives a tractor trailer and passes Lumber Jack's once a week on his delivery route.  He'd never been able to check it out though because Lumber Jack's is a drive-through....technically a 'drive around' and his rig is too big to maneuver around.  So when we were planning our day in Vermont, he added Lumber Jack's to the itinerary.  That trip was in August and I have to admit John and I have been back at least three times since....twice in passing and once as a dedicated trip specifically to this addicting snack stop!

Steve and Kimberly Beaudry are the third owners to run the coffee shack which was originated in 2005 by Michael Green.  The business was then known as the Coffee Connection.   In 2015 Green sold the business to Vallis and Duane Goodermote who changed the brand and product line as well as the name, naming the business after one of their children.  Two years later the Goodermotes sold the business to Steve and Kim who put their food service experience to work and brought Lumber Jack's where it is today.

With their own coffee line, also available by the pound, all-day breakfast sandwiches, bagels, muffins and mouth-watering, warm cider donuts, it's no surprise this modest little shack is a favorite among travelers.  To go along with the super friendly service, the shack offers hot and iced coffee, lattes, cappucino, chai latte, tea and hot cocoa.  They also sell maple syrup.  For those wondering....yes, there are wonderful cider donuts in and around Clifton Park.  Lakeside Farm, Bowman's Orchard and FoCastle Farm all serve delicious donuts...........but, I've got to say, Lumber Jack's are my favorites and so worth the drive (51 miles/37 minutes from Clifton Park)!  Their toasted bagels and breakfast sandwiches are pretty outrageous too.

Plan a ride out Route 7 sometime soon and watch for the pretty little Lumber Jack Coffee & Snack Shack. Sure, you'll probably pass a bunch of Stewart Shops and convenience stores, but you won't be able to beat the friendly service and deliciousness of a hot cider donut at the Lumber Jack.  You will be glad you did and I know you'll go back again and again.   Stop in and tell 'em I sent you.  Follow them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/lumberjackscoffee/) or check out their website and menu (https://lumberjackscoffee.com/)   There's a reason why they've got 1600 followers and hundreds of rave reviews.
Stay tuned because I have one more great snack venue to share next time on Life As I See It.

Our Third Annual Best Business List for 2019

Thursday, January 2, 2020

It's that time again, the end of another calendar year and time to give a nod of thanks to our favorite businesses.  Good help is hard to find and we've been so fortunate to find some really great contractors and local businesses that we frequent.  I believe the best way to find good help is through word of mouth, so there's my recommendations - straight from the horses mouth - folks we used this calendar year.  Links to company websites incorporated in listing names if available.  If no website is available, phone number is included.
  • Sunshine Landscaping - in Clifton Park.  We hired them to grade and lay stone on a hill in our backyard.  Their crew did that and later came back for more landscape work, hydroseeding and such. I can't say enough about their attention to detail, work ethic and what a pleasure it was to work with each member of their team.  Details in link below.
  • Saratoga Turf Care - I include them with such mixed feelings because they are so, so good and take care of our lawn as if it were there own, but I also know in sharing this that they are in such high demand, they very rarely take on new customers.  Still.....they deserve their moment in the spotlight and Doug Smalley and his crew are the best. 518-371-0508
  • All Star Plumbing - for all of our plumbing needs, we depend on Nate at All Star Plumbing in Ballston Lake.  When it comes to plumbing, no one does it better.  Nate not only takes great care in respecting a customer's home, he knows his stuff and carries out his work efficiently and with a smile.  And he guarantees his work.  I wouldn't call anyone else!
  • Advanced Power LLC - From installation to annual maintenance of our Generac generator, Advanced Power Systems has been our company.  Each year they reach out to us to arrange for our annual service.  There's nothing more comforting when the lights go out than the roar of our generator starting up!  Heat in the winter, AC when it's thundering and 95 degrees.
  • Daigle's Automotive -  It's so hard to find a good and honest mechanic and we found both at Daigle's Automotive in Rexford, NY.  Howard and his men quickly diagnose the problem and fix it at a reasonable price.  We know when we take our cars there, we'll get an honest diagnosis, a fair-priced, and a timely repair. 518-383-2689
  • David's Tree Topping - After 24 years, it would seem we'd run out of need for tree removal (and we almost have), but thankfully in all of those years we've relied on David's for all our tree trimming and removal.  Just this year we had a bunch of trees snap during a storm, as well as having to say goodbye to a very old, diseased crab apple.  David and his crew worked tirelessly working where the crane truck couldn't go and cut up and removed the mess.  518-371-0361
  • Cornerstone Veterinary Hospital of Clifton Park - for the most compassionate and thorough care for your furry family members, we love Dr. Alan Knott, his team of veterinarians and vet techs.  Everyone from the front desk staff to the medical personnel gives pets a trauma-free, love-filled experience each and every visit.
  • Roland J. Down - for furnace and a.c. maintenance and repair, our pick for 24 years has been RJD.   
For some of our favorite businesses:
So there it is, our Best Business List for 2019.  It's a list based on personal opinion and great experience so I'm hoping the next time you're in need of service, the names on this list will come to mind.  To view previous year's Best of list.....
Happy New Year!  Thanks for stopping by!  Be sure to come back soon for more Life As I See It.

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