Just a few short years ago, bedtime for Connor and his siblings meant rotating between the couch, the floor and mom’s bed. As their mother prepared to raise her children on her own, she knew their nightly game of mattress roulette would have a negative impact on the household’s health and happiness. The family’s prayers were answered when Luke Mickelson and a team of volunteers from Sleep in Heavenly Peace showed up at their door with a handmade bed for each kid.
“We didn’t have any beds until then,” said Connor. “When they showed up, that was the first time I’d ever seen my mom really happy.”
The Origin and Growth of Sleep in Heavenly Peace
Based in Twin Falls, Idaho, Sleep in Heavenly Peace is one of the fastest growing nonprofits in the country. With more than 200 chapters across North America, the organization proves that communities are ready and willing to put in the effort to ensure children everywhere have beds.
This increasingly global phenomenon began at a church in Kimberly, Idaho, when Luke Mickelson learned that a child in his youth group didn’t have a bed to sleep on. He and a group of friends immediately got to work purchasing lumber, building a bunk bed and loading it up for delivery.
“This little girl had a nest of clothes, it looked like a little bird’s nest, and that’s what she slept on, that’s what her bed was,” Luke said in a 2018 interview with CNN. “When we delivered the bed, she hugged it and just couldn’t let go.”
That single delivery in 2012 was a catalyst for the creation of Luke’s nonprofit, Sleep in Heavenly Peace. That year, Luke and a group of friends built and delivered 10 bunk beds. In 2019 – a mere seven years later – Sleep in Heavenly Peace assembled and delivered over 13,000 bunk beds across 200 North American chapters. That’s enough beds to cover more than six football fields, and the program continues to flourish.
“People are surprised at how fast it’s grown,” said Jami Butler, Sleep in Heavenly Peace chapter president for Twin Falls, Idaho. “The reason it’s exploded so much is because it’s easily replicated and once people hear about the mission and that we’re helping children, it’s easy for them to jump in. You don’t really have to have anything to start up other than the tools, the willingness to do it and the volunteers to help.”
From Build to Bedroom
Nearly 44,000 volunteers makeup the lifeblood of Sleep in Heavenly Peace. As a 100% volunteer-run organization, nothing would get done without them, and there’s a lot to be done when it comes to making sure kids have beds.
“Our process is simple, but we can always get more done with more hands to help,” said Scott Butler, the Corporate Build Manager in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Trained volunteers assemble bunks during build days using raw lumber that is purchased or donated from sponsors like Lowe’s.
“The build days are awesome because everyone is involved,” said Scott. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 4 or 104. You don’t have to be a master woodworker to duplicate what we do, you just have to see that it’s essential in our community.”
Once the bunks are assembled, volunteers deliver them to homes that have requested beds via the Sleep in Heavenly Peace website. In addition to the beds, children are given a mattress, blankets and a pillow.
“We have regular volunteers, first-timers, and businesses that build or deliver as team building activities,” said Scott. “We love sending them on deliveries. That gives them the true insight into what we do and the difference we make.”
The Difference a Bed Can Make
Due to poverty, natural disasters and a myriad of personal hardships, there are hundreds of thousands of children across the country in need of a bed. That need exists across the Magic Valley as well.
“We’ve delivered over 1,500 beds in this area since 2012 and we still consistently get requests,” said Scott. “It’s not a problem that’s going to end and it’s something that people often don’t realize.”
Scott, who works as a fulltime paramedic, has seen his fair share of dire situations and the difference a bed can make for a child by providing a sense of ownership, confidence and responsibility, in addition to a good night’s sleep.
“We’ve often see people who receive beds come back later and want to give back,” said Scott. “They want to donate their time and find a way to spread the message.”
Although Sleep in Heavenly Peace builds communities across the country and beyond, there’s a special place in their hearts for Idaho, where hardworking people are willing to dig in and do what needs to be done in order to accomplish a mission.
“We’re a family here,” said Scott. “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town.”
To learn more about Sleep in Heavenly Peace, request a bed, donate, or volunteer for local builds and deliveries, visit https://www.shpbeds.org.