Not all local kids will wake up in a bed this Christmas morning, and the local chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace is working to change that. The organization builds beds for kids who are currently sleeping on the floor, on a couch or sharing a bed with others. Nationwide, the organization has put nearly 10,000 kids into beds.
Bob Hirschi, local chapter founder and president, discovered the national organization through an episode of the reality web TV series "Returning the Favor," in which Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" features people all over the country who give back to their communities.
Hirschi works with the homeless, and felt the organization's mission aligned with the needs he'd seen in the local community.
"I know when these families get a place to live, they need beds," he said.
Within a few months, he had established a chapter, and he facilitated a bed build with 600 Southern Adventist University students immediately after completing his training with Sleep in Heavenly Peace this past January.
The new chapter has held a dozen builds since, with a total of 1,000 volunteers completing about 700 beds, said Hirschi. During a typical build day, volunteers usually complete around 50 beds over three to four hours, he added.
The twin-size beds are all the same, and can be stacked bunk style or used on their own. Each bed is delivered with a mattress and bedding.
Anyone is welcome to volunteer to build beds, including children accompanied by adults. No skills are necessary, and the chapter has a build team of trained volunteers who teach first-timers what to do and to help with tasks such as drilling or sanding.
Some builds are sponsored by churches or businesses, and some are done by individual volunteers. Sponsors typically provide funds for materials, which Lowe's provides at-cost along with an additional discount, Hirschi said. Tools are provided by Sleep in Heavenly Peace at the build site.
Donations of bedding or money to purchase these finishing touches are provided by sponsors or individual donors, and bedding is sometimes collected through donation drives held by local churches and other organizations. The cost to sponsor a single bed — including pillow, sheet set, comforter and mattress — is $170, or $350 for bunk beds.
The organization has no employees, so all funds go toward beds for kids, Hirschi noted.
Beds are available to any child age 3-17 in the chapter's service area, which comprises 37 ZIP codes located within a 15-mile radius of the Shallowford Road Post Office.
Hirschi said 222 requests were made in November, but volunteers only built 111 beds that month. The average wait time from request to delivery has gone from two to three months, he added, with a current backlog of about 400 kids.
"Requests are coming in twice as fast as we can build and deliver them," he said.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace doesn't provide new beds for kids who already have them, and the organization sends a case manager to each recipient's home to check whether the child has a bed and if the donated bed will fit, said Hirschi.
To volunteer or donate, or for more information, visit facebook.com/SHPChattanooga.
Email Emily Crisman at email@example.com.
ZIP codes served
New boardwalk will connect points of interest in Collegedale while aiding in wheelchair accessibility