At the end of the day, most of us have a safe and comfortable place to rest our heads. Wrapped in our blankets and pillows, we are able to finally relax, let our minds rest, and recover. For some, it’s the best part of the day.
But for hundreds of children in Tallahassee and throughout the Big Bend area, bedtime means finding a bundle of blankets on the floor, squeezing in between siblings on a single bed, or worse. John Cousins, president of the Tallahassee Chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, isn’t OK with that.
That’s why he and his fellow volunteers are building bunk beds for kids who need them.
“No child sleeps on the floor in our town,” Cousins says in a voice filled with conviction.
With almost 1,000 beds behind them after roughly 18 months in operation, Sleep in Heavenly Peace is one of nine organizations being recognized with a $2,000 grant for their work by the Beatitude Foundation and #GiveTLH, a community effort underwritten by philanthropist and businessman Rick Kearney.
It all started in 2013, when Cousins was looking for a way to serve others at Killearn United Methodist Church. He began working with friends to help those in need, and after a couple of years through this ministry partnered with Guardian Ad Litem, who needed beds for the kids they serve.
That led to a program called Sweet Dreams, and on Valentine’s Day 2015, they delivered their first set of twin beds. During this time, Cousins recognized the need for bunk beds and at the same time was seeking opportunities to bring larger groups of volunteers together in a much broader event to meet the needs of our community.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace is a national effort based in Idaho, with 200 chapters in the U.S. All chapters are 100% volunteer based and partner with local community service providers, churches, law enforcement, social workers, schools and more to connect families in need with beds for kids.
“Each bunk bed costs $400, and that includes the lumber, hardware, mattresses, bedding, pillow and mattress pads,” says Cousins. “Almost 100% of donations go directly into the materials and supplies. We assemble beds on-site and when we leave, it is ready for the children to sleep on.”
Local quilting groups donate handmade quilts, and donations of new sheets, comforters, pillows, and mattress covers are accepted at all three Living Harvest Thrift Shop locations.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace partners with Lowes and bedding companies for discounted materials, and hosts build days where local businesses can sponsor the construction of the bunk beds, build the beds as a team, and deliver them to families.
“Our goal is to have the community helping the community,” says Cousins. “Come build and deliver a bed with us. It will change your life.”
It’s the little touches that make the difference.
Seeing caregivers well up with tears after being given a handmade quilt made by local quilting groups, being able to customize bedding to a child’s gender, and having the Sleep in Heavenly Peace logo branded on their bed makes the effort more personal.
“I remember one little girl who would not leave her grandmother’s side while we were there assembling her bed,” Cousins shares. “She watched from behind her grandmother’s leg the whole time. But by the time we were leaving, she had found her new bed, curled up, and fell asleep. That’s why we do this.”
Applications for beds are accepted online at shpbeds.org/chapter/fl-tallahassee, as well as information about how to volunteer to be part of a build. Volunteers under the age of 17 must be supervised by an adult, but otherwise all are welcome to join in.
“We typically like to have a minimum of three volunteers per bunk bed built, so a 10-bunk bed build would require 30 volunteers. But, we can handle more volunteers to come and experience a build day,” says Cousins. “We especially need more in areas like Wakulla and Gadsden County.” The organization has been branching out, and is working to keep up with demand as they ensure that every child has a place to rest their head.
The #GiveTLH series will culminate in November with a chance for Tallahassee readers to vote for their favorite profiled nonprofit. In addition to a micro-grant for each featured organization, the top three vote-getting organizations will receive a $10,000, $5,000 and $2,000 grant from the Beatitude Foundation. The stories will be compiled on give.tallahassee.com.
#GiveTLH, underwritten by the Beatitude Foundation and Rick Kearney, is a look at nine nonprofits in our community and how you can help them in their life-changing work. At the conclusion of this series, Kearney will award grants to the nonprofit that gets the most votes in an online poll. For more profiles, visit give.tallahassee.com.
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