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

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