Larry Guthrie struggled to describe the joyous reactions he’s seen when he delivers a new bed to a child who needs one.
“We had one kid who said this is better than Christmas,” Guthrie said. “We find for a number of these kids, it’s the first bed they’ve ever had.”
Guthrie is the Pigeon Falls chapter president of the non-profit organization Sleep in Heavenly Peace, which is a group that constructs and delivers beds to children. The group was formed last fall, and in the past seven months, they have donated 113 beds, almost entirely to children in need in Trempealeau County.
“We want to get kids off the floor and into a secure place to sleep,” he said.
The first big build was last September in Pigeon Falls in the parking lot of Peace Lutheran Church, where they built 23 beds.
Another 30 were made with the FFA in Whitehall in October, and 20 were constructed in November in Blair.
“(The organization) has really been instrumental in bringing communities together,” he said.
Guthrie said it is eye-opening to learn about the need.
“Nationally, it’s estimated that one percent of kids under the age of 17 don’t have a bed of their own,” he said. “We are still continuing to get requests.”
The group’s next big build will be April 24 at Independence High School, where the senior class is going to construct the pieces. Guthrie said the shop class students will cut the wood to specific measurements.
“Each of these beds we deliver will be complete with linens, a mattress, and a hand-knitted quilt,” he said.
Rainbow Community Club, a non-profit volunteer organization in Independence, is working with Sleep in Heavenly Peace on the project next week.
Tracy Halama, president of the Rainbow Community Club and a school district secretary, said one of the women in the group invited Guthrie to speak at their meeting a few months ago. Halama said she was surprised to hear how many children need beds.
“We see the kids, but we don’t know what home is like,” Halama said. “So, it was a shock to us.”
Halama said the group purchased the lumber at a discount from a supplier, and they collected donations of pillows and linens.
“We have more bedding than we need for the 20 beds we’re making,” Halama said. “The design of the bed is amazing; it can easily be put together. We’re really looking forward to it.”
More to come
In just one year, Sleep in Heavenly Peace has grown from 11 chapters nationwide to about 150. There are three chapters in Wisconsin, with the others in Racine and Portage. Organizations are being formed in La Crosse and Eau Claire, he added.
“I’m excited to meet the needs of the north and south of us,” he said.
Guthrie said they have another big build slated for mid-May, where they plan to build 20 more beds.
The Sleep in Heavenly Peace national organization has announced plans for each chapter to do a huge build on June 15. The project is titled “Bunks Across America.”
“Our goal is to build 5,000 beds in one day for distribution across the country,” he said.
The Pigeon Falls chapter hopes to make 50 that day, he added.
The estimated cost for a bed would be about $150 each, between the wood frames, mattresses and bedding. However, Guthrie said chapters have been successful in finding lumber companies who sell them wood at steep discounts. Between those savings, and receiving donated linen and beddings, the cost is much lower.
Guthrie said that some of the kids come from recently-divorced families and they don’t have their own bed. He added that the beds are purposely made so they can become bunk-beds. He loves taking the beds into houses and putting them together in a child’s room.
“The kids’ reaction is just excitement,” Guthrie said. “It is a daily reminder to that kid that someone loves them.”