Local Police & Firefighters build beds for kids

BROOKINGS – Police and firefighters often team up on scene to save lives, but Tuesday night, they teamed up in a different way. 

Their goal was to benefit Sleep in Heavenly Peace, an organization whose sole purpose is to build basic beds so “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town.”

To accomplish that goal, SHP hosts bed builds for anyone who wants to tackle the project, from businesses to family reunions. The BPD and BFD decided to work together to build as many beds as they could at the old Family Dollar site in the City Plaza mall from 6:30-9 p.m. Tuesday, when the area was in the grip of a polar vortex that dropped local temperatures in that time frame to minus 25 degrees, according to the Brookings Mesonet weather station.

“It was super cold that night, so I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to everybody that came out from the fire department and the police department to help with this project,” said Police Chief Dave Erickson.

“When everyone else was home safe and warm, the first responders did what they do best … they responded!” said Dave Miller, president of the Brookings Chapter of SHP. He estimated around 60 people attended, including members of SHP. 

The BPD and BFD had about 56 people show up and built 32 beds, Brookings Fire Chief Darrell Hartmann said. 

That includes staining them so they were all ready to go, Miller said.

Getting down to business

Once Miller and his crew had given a safety talk and orientation, “everybody took a spot and we were off to the races,” Hartmann said.

He and Erickson had talked about making it a competition but decided not to do it that way. 

“We did a group build, and it was great. We had firemen interacting with PD and vice versa,” Hartmann said, adding he wound up working with the young daughter of a police detective.

“The goal at the end of the day is to build beds for kids, and we wanted to have fun accomplishing that task,” he said.

“It was an honor and a very fulfilling experience to be a part of, cooperating and partnering with the fire department to do this project, to be able to build 32 beds for kids in the Brookings area,” Erickson said. 

Although there’s a friendly competition between the two agencies, their work overlaps quite often.

“I don’t think a lot of people understand how close we work together with … law enforcement (and) EMS and everybody else,” Hartmann said. “We have a similar mission, and we’re very fortunate in this community that we all work well together. This just built that partnership by having some fun and doing something good,” Hartmann said. “I tell ya, it was just a great experience.”

“We’re hoping to continue this partnership in other endeavors and maybe another bed build in the future,” Erickson said. 

Great need

Miller was thrilled to have the two organizations contribute to SHP, because he knows how much the beds are needed.

The Brookings chapter has been operating since June and has built more than 200 beds, which are basic twin beds or bunk style, all of which are given away to kids who don’t have beds of their own.

Miller said the reason the kids have no beds can vary. He’s made deliveries to kids who were getting their very first bed, even though they were well into school age. They’ve delivered beds to families who have no furniture at all. Some kids were coming out of abusive situations, even sex trafficking. One sibling set that got beds had been taken out of a meth house after their parents were arrested.

There are 150 chapters of SHP nationwide, but the closest active one is in Shakopee, Minnesota, Miller said. Brookings’ territory normally covers a 50-mile radius.

“Under certain circumstances, we’ll reach outside of that. We delivered five to Redfield,” he said.

He’s hoping to have closer chapters soon; a chapter is starting in Watertown, there’s interest in Huron and Mitchell, and there’s a guy in Aberdeen who’s gotten the training to start a chapter.

How to help

Sleep in Heavenly Peace does only one thing: build beds. 

The cops and firefighters build Tuesday was the 18th one that the Brookings chapter has organized. Sometimes it’s groups or organizations like the BPD or BFD, sometimes it’s a business, sometimes it’s a family that takes on the challenge of a bed build.

Each group raises the money to build the beds. 

“The beds cost $150 each to build. The majority of that cost is the mattress,” Miller said.

Miller said one family decided to forego giving Christmas gifts, pooled their money and built 10 beds instead, making memories that will last a lifetime.

“Last year, nationwide, we built 8,288 beds. The goal for this year is 20,000,” Miller said.

SHP takes requests for beds. Just go to shpbeds.org and there’s a tab to request a twin bed and an information sheet to fill out.

“There’s no income guidelines whatsoever. It’s just for kids who don’t have beds,” Miller said.

They run entirely on donations of time, manual labor, money and items. In addition to the mattresses, SHP gives bed sheets and a quilt with each bed. They also give a stuffed animal and a children’s book to each child who gets a bed. All of which are donated items. 

Even the space they use is donated. SHP’s mailing address is 706 Main Ave. S.; the building is owned by Paul Moriarty, as is the Family Dollar location used in Tuesday’s build.

“He has just been a wonderful supporter,” Miller said.

To help, go to shpbeds.org and click on the tabs to donate.

The future

Miller wants to set up donation boxes at the police department and fire department for people who would like to donate items like twin size sheet sets. 

June 15 is the National Build Day. Anyone is welcome to show up and help. 

“All chapters across the country are gonna join forces. Ours is gonna be in the Lowes parking lot,” Miller said. 

The location is meaningful because it was the site of the Brookings chapter’s first build on June 2.

“Our goal, as of right now is to build 100 beds that day. We’re gonna do a morning build and an afternoon build. We’re still looking for sponsors to help us meet that goal,” Miller said.

They have $7,000 committed to that build.

“We need $15,000, so we need another $8,000 to meet that goal,” Miller said.

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

Contact Jodelle Greiner at jgreiner@brookingsregister.com.

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