Sleep in Heavenly Peace provides beds for local kids
Two to three percent of children in the United States don’t have beds. In Butler County, that’s at least 8,000 kids, sleeping in makeshift spots each night. Local activists are uniting around a motto that is changing those statistics: “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town.”
Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP), a nonprofit organization that leads volunteers to build beds to give to children in need, started its Butler County chapter in 2018. Under the leadership of Chapter President Mike Watkins and his dedicated team, SHP has already provided more than 360 beds to local kids.
It all started the way many movements do these days, with a Facebook video.
“There’s a show on Facebook with Mike Rowe, the Dirty Jobs [TV show] guy, called Returning the Favor,” Mike explains. “They did a show about Sleep in Heavenly Peace. I saw it and showed it to my wife, and said, ‘Hey, what do you think? This is kind of cool!’”
Mike’s wife, Eileen Watkins, was quick to agree.
“It was like Extreme Home Makeover, but just for kids,” Eileen says. “It was making a big impact, but so doable.”
Next, Mike sent the video to a trusted friend and fellow soccer parent, Jim Watts.
“I was on vacation and woke up early and watched it. I woke up my wife and said, ‘You’ve got to watch this,’” Watts says. “When Mike asked, ‘Are you in?’ I immediately responded with, ‘Absolutely!’”
“The video aired in February, 2018. At that time, SHP had nine chapters. Since then, we are up to 127 chapters nationwide. The response has been overwhelming,” Mike shares.
No experience is required: SHP leaders provide all of the tools needed and train volunteers to work together to make the beds on “Build Days.” Each bed is lovingly handmade, completely from scratch.
“It’s almost like an assembly line,” Mike explains. “We have cutting stations, sanding stations, tapping stations…then we drill all of the holes, have an assembly station and stain them all in the dunk tank. Finally, we have a branding station, where we mark every headboard with the SHP logo.”
Sponsors provide a worksite and the money necessary to build 20 sturdy bunk beds at a Build Day event. One hundred percent of the donated funds go toward making and delivering the beds to local children.
“The money we get from the sponsors pays for the wood, mattresses, sheets, comforters and pillows,” Mike explains. “Volunteers deliver the bed, assemble it, and set it all up so kids can go to bed in it that night.”
There’s no shortage of need. The demand for beds exceeds the supply.
“Right now, we have a 200-bed waiting list,” Mike says.
The SHP team leads from the heart, motivated by the impact on the children.
“When the kids see their rooms all set up with the new beds, it’s really special,” Eileen says.
“The deliveries are an eye-opener,” Watts adds. “You see all different situations. The kids are fired up. I remember a two-year-old who said he was going to bed as soon as we left—it was only four o’clock in the afternoon. The look on the kids’ faces, that’s something you don’t forget. Both the kids and parents are so thankful.”
“My childhood upbringing drew me to this,” Mike says. “I always try to give back and be involved in the community. My hope is that this experience plants a little seed in a kid’s heart and when they grow up, they’ll want to give back, too,” he adds.
SHP is entering 2019 with big goals.
“I want to hit the 1,000 mark by the end of the year,” Mike says.
“We would love to have a warehouse where we could store tools and supplies with enough room to host Build Days,” he dreams aloud.
“We have the requests,” says Eileen. “We really want to connect with those families that need the beds the most.”
No Kid Sleeps on the Floor in Our Town
Do you know a Butler County child who needs a bed? Go to SHPBeds.org to make a request.
Join Sleep in Heavenly Peace in changing the lives of children in our area. SHP partners with businesses, teams, churches, organizations and individuals as sponsors. Volunteers, ages 12 and up, are welcome for Build Days. Make a donation toward building supplies, mattresses and bedding. For details, see the Butler County Sleep in Heavenly Peace Facebook page at Facebook.com/SHPButlerOH.