Local organization builds beds for underprivileged children

Published 8:30 am Friday, March 8, 2024

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WEST POINT — Guest speaker Greg Watts talked about the Sleep in Heavenly Peace organization at Thursday’s noon-hour meeting of the West Point Rotary Club. He’s president of the LaGrange chapter of the 501(c)3 charity, which has provided dozens of beds for underprivileged Troup County youth since 2018.

The LaGrange chapter is guided by the motto that “No Kid Sleeps on the Floor in Our Town!”

Sadly, this is happening all too often in the local area. There’s also a problem of children sleeping on blowup mattresses, couches and in beds with multiple family members. Having one’s own bed aids in getting a good night’s rest, a factor in children being mentally alert to do well in school.

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Watts told the club that he first became aware of the Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP) national organization on Valentine’s Day in 2018. He saw a segment about it on Mike Rowe’s Facebook page. As many people know, Rowe is well known for being the guy on the “Dirty Jobs” TV show.

On the Valentine’s Day Facebook page, he did a feature on a man from Kimberly, Idaho named Luke Mickelson. He started Sleep in Heavenly Peace in 2012 in a town with less than 3,000 people. The goal was to provide bunk beds to children who had no bed of their own to sleep in. He and volunteers built a bed for a local child and got the word out on social media that they’d like to help more families in need. Almost overnight, 20 requests came in from other families. Volunteers got busy to address this. More chapters were organized, and when Mike Rowe got behind what they were doing, Sleep in Heavenly Peace went national with more than 800 local chapters being organized. Thus far, more than 4,000 beds have been provided.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace is the only charity that provides handmade bunk beds to children who don’t have a bed that’s theirs. SHP chapters partner with churches, businesses and individuals to build new beds on build days. This massive effort on the part of volunteers is allowing for the needed beds to be built and delivered to children who have been sleeping on blowup mattresses, couches, blankets and sometimes on the hard floor.

The LaGrange chapter was one of the many chapters that got organized after Mike Rowe’s Facebook program. Watts and several men from his church had been active in building handicap ramps and home repairs for the elderly. They have since branched out to build beds for youth between 13 and 17 years of age who are in need of their own bed. They delivered their first one in West Point on July 4, 2018. Many more have been delivered since then. “Our goal was to build and deliver 40 beds in a year’s time,” Watts said. “We took applications and quickly found out there was a greater need for this than we first thought.We had an application process and got over 200 of them in our first 90 days.”

In most cases, the family that applies needs beds for two or three children. There was one instance when one family needed 10 beds.

“We are a self-funded organization,” Watts said. “We raise money in the local area through grants, donations and sponsorships. We concentrate on Troup County and the surrounding area. We buy the needed lumber, bedding and mattresses.”

The LaGrange chapter hosts build days in an old factory building. There’s usually a large turnout of volunteers, and they are organized into assembly lines. There’s storage space for new mattresses, sheets, and pillows. 

“All age groups are there helping us on build days,” Watts said. “Our next one will be on April 20th. We have had children to people in their 90s doing something to help the build. We ask each person to have an open mind and to be willing to work.”

On one recent build day, an estimated 250 volunteers built 110 beds in four hours. “Some people didn’t understand what we asked them to do but we taught them,” Watts said. “Everything went smoothly.”

A standard twin bed costs around $150 to build. A bunk bed usually runs in the neighborhood of $300.

Each applicant is asked two questions: (1) Are you the child’s legal guardian and (2) Do you have a child sleeping on something other than their own bed?

“It’s hard for a kid to be doing well in school if they are not sleeping well at night.” Watts said. “There are some families we helped in the past who are now helping us on build days.”

There are peaks and valleys in the number of requests received. There’s usually a lot of applications before the start of a new school year. There was a huge increase coming out of Covid. 

“We came across situations where grandparents were raising children because their parents had died,” Watts said. “We come across different stories every week. What’s really gratifying is seeing people coming together in an effort to help those who are less fortunate. We have been an under-the-radar organization so far. We are not that well known, and we are trying to get the word out about what we are trying to do. The build days are fun events. We are looking forward to our next one on April 20th. We will have some football players from LaGrange College and some church groups helping us. We are encouraging parents to bring their children. It will be an opportunity for all of us to  help our fellow man.”

For information about the national organization go to www.shpbeds.org. Locally, you can go to greg.watts@shpbeds.org.


ROTARY PROGRAM — Greg Watts (at center), president of the LaGrange chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, was the guest speaker at Thursday’s meeting of the West Point Rotary Club. He discussed the chapter’s continuing efforts to build new beds for local children who do not have one of their own. At left is Bill Gladden, the program chair, and at right Club President Daniel Meadows.