SHP plans huge local bed build on June 15; looking for volunteers and donations
BROOKINGS – The Brookings chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace has accomplished a lot in just one year, but Dave Miller has set his sights so much higher.
The local chapter celebrated its first year of existence with cake, ice cream, and remembering how they’ve made 307 beds in 25 bed-building events, which are “astounding numbers,” according to Miller, the director of the Brookings chapter.
Miller had no idea what he was getting into a year ago. He’s learned a lot about Sleep in Heavenly Peace and how to make beds, but he’s learned some harder lessons about life.
“The deliveries are just astounding. It has absolutely changed my life. It has changed how I look at life,” he said.
Now that he knows how much need is out there, Miller wants to ramp up bed production, starting with a huge build on June 15 – with plans to build 200 beds in one day – and expand what SHP gives to the children when they deliver the beds by giving them gift baskets filled with donated items.
When Miller learned there were kids sleeping on the floor because they didn’t have beds, he also learned a national organization called Sleep in Heavenly Peace was doing something about it. Started in 2012, Sleep in Heavenly Peace makes simple twin-sized beds and gives them away. SHP’s motto is “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town.”
Miller and others started a chapter of SHP in Brookings on May 13, 2018. It was Chapter 34. Sleep in Heavenly Peace now has 170 chapters nationwide, Miller said.
Miller expected most of the kids SHP would be helping would be those involved with the welfare system, but he found out differently.
“The domestic abuse is by far our biggest need,” Miller said.
“I’m amazed and appalled and angered by the number of quote ‘men’ that will just kick their family out and not let them take anything or women that have feared for their life that have to leave in the middle of the night or the number of people that move to Brookings that have nothing,” Miller said.
He recalled making a bed delivery to a mother with very young children.
“She’s on the living room floor folding the clothes with absolutely nothing in their home. Not a piece of furniture. No table, no beds, mom didn’t have a bed, no mattresses, nothing. The father kicked them out, wouldn’t let them take anything,” Miller said. “Not even a chair! You see that and it just breaks my heart.”
It’s far from an isolated incident.
“I’m amazed and appalled that ‘men’ treat their children and their girlfriend, wife, whatever that way. I can’t fathom, I can’t wrap my brain around that,” Miller said.
The repercussions go far beyond the physical and don’t stop when the women and children are free.
Miller recalled another bed delivery to a family getting out of a domestic abuse situation, and the mom and kids were so excited to get the beds.
“Mom’s crying, ‘thank you, thank you.’ We’re crying and we’re getting ready to leave,” Miller said.
“I always go with two guys and two girls when we deliver the beds. This mother came up and she hugged the two ladies that were there, and I’m a hugger by nature,” but when he offered to hug the mom, she held him off, “and said, ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t.’ It was just like a dagger in my heart.
“That’s the first time I’d really experienced, firsthand, domestic abuse of how this poor woman is just scarred. I’m no threat whatsoever, but she just can’t … And we see that often,” Miller said.
Other families are also searching for a better life and are willing to move to get jobs.
Miller recalled one family that lived in a big city. The parents couldn’t find work and felt their only option was to leave.
“They looked at South Dakota and saw Brookings had the lowest unemployment so they loaded up everything they could bring in their vehicle and they moved here,” Miller said.
Mom and dad found jobs and the family had a place to live, but had no furniture, not even beds for the kids. That’s where SHP helped out.
“It just took me back to the Old West days of where people loaded up everything they could in a covered wagon and just started over,” Miller said. Just like back then, when you arrive at your destination, “people reach out and help ‘em. That’s the same thing we’re trying to do.”
Every time SHP gives a child a bed, they also give them twin-size sheets, a pillow and blanket or comforter. The local chapter has been giving each child a stuffed toy and a book.
Miller wants to give the family a care package. He’s talking to some businesses and people who are willing to give items like ice cream sundaes, movie theater tickets, and pizzas. Because so many of these families need all the basics, Miller would like to include regular everyday items like toothbrushes, shampoo, dish soap, towels and other items.
Since the local chapter delivers 10 to 20 beds a month, Miller would like to get a committed number of items per month so they could be included in the baskets as needed.
If you’d be willing to donate, call Miller at 690-0143 or email email@example.com.
To help meet the need they see, Brookings Sleep in Heavenly Peace will have a bed build in the Lowe’s parking lot on Saturday, June 15.
They have corporate sponsors, but they will need lots of people to help with the build because Miller has his sights set high.
“We’re gonna build 200 beds in one day, which is quite an undertaking,” Miller said.
People of all ages and abilities are welcome to help.
To sign up, go to Sleep in Heavenly Peace Brookings’ Facebook page. Under the post for May 31, you can click on the SignUpGenius link. There are two building sessions: the morning one runs from 9 a.m.-noon and the afternoon one runs from 1-4 p.m.
“Don’t need to bring anything; we’ll have everything. No construction skills needed at all,” he said, adding kids can help because it’s a very family-friendly event.
“We’ll have all different levels,” Miller said, adding they do it assembly-line style.
“There’s eight different stations that we have in this process … and that really helps to streamline the process,” he said.
They need people to run saws, operate 45 sanders, and handle basic drills to screw the beds together.
Other jobs don’t need specialized skills.
“Could be as simple as moving boards from one station to the other,” he said.
“At the end of the day, 200 kids are gonna get a bed and way more people are gonna get blessings,” Miller said.
It’s part of a bigger build.
“There’ll be 100-plus chapters building that day across the country,” he added.
Work is never done
On May 27, 10 members of the local SHP went to Omaha, which has a chapter less than a year old and where flooding is taking a toll.
“At that time, they had 300-plus requests just from the flood victims. And it was just starting,” Miller said. With so many roads washed out, it’s been a challenge just getting the beds delivered to the people who need them.
“We were able to help them streamline the process,” Miller said. “We took 50 beds down and then we built 103 beds that day, so we were able to help meet about half of the need that they had at that point.”
They planned to travel to Florida today and team up with other chapters to build beds for hurricane victims in the area.
With all the extreme weather in the past year, SHP has learned there is more need than was thought. The organization will team up with others to expand its mission.
Miller has been asked to coordinate the Sleep in Heavenly Peace Disaster Response Team. It’s a national endeavor, so he went to a three-day conference in Nashville for a program called Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). It included groups such as FEMA, Red Cross and Salvation Army, as well as others who respond to natural disasters. Some take care of immediate needs, such as food and water; others help rebuild homes.
“But we come in on the back side,” Miller said. “It was great to be able to network with them and get plugged in … so that we can go there and set up a bed build and help get beds to kids.”
COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register