It started as a simple act of kindness during the holiday season. Luke Mickelson and his family used leftover wood to create bunk beds for kids in need. After seeing the impact on the children who received beds, Mickelson wanted to help as many families as possible.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace, located here in Rexburg, aims to reduce the number of children that do not sleep in beds.
About 19 percent of children in Idaho are living in poverty, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP). In Utah, 15 percent of children live in poverty.
“It’s a group of volunteers dedicated to finding those young children that do not have the luxury of sleeping on a bed or even laying their heads on a pillow,” according to the website, sleepinheavenlypeace.org. “Through the wonderful efforts of volunteers and generous donations, bunk beds are built, assembled and delivered to those children who are otherwise sleeping on couches, blankets or even floors.”
The organization officially started in 2012. After reaching out on Facebook with a few extra beds, Mickelson was impressed with the positive response. With the help of his friends and local support from businesses, Mickelson started up the Sleep in Heavenly Peace organization.
“Last year is really when it took off; we went from four build days to 13 build days in 2016, and we build about 135 (bunk beds),” Mickelson said.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace has chapters, located in Twin Falls, Idaho; Boise, Idaho; Rexburg, Idaho; San Diego, California; Twin Cities, Minnesota; Lehi, Utah and trying to set up a chapter in Seattle, Washington.
“A chapter is having a responsibility over an area,” said Levi Shaffer the current Rexburg When the organization has enough donations and volunteers, they will schedule a build day. Build days can produce at the least ten bunk beds.
“A build day is a day where volunteers can come in, usually on a Saturday from nine to around noon, from ages ten and up,” Mickelson said. “Anyone under that age we ask and require parents to be there. You can have zero experience. The process we have down for building is pretty idiot proof, if you will. But when the process gets rolling, we can build up to six bunks an hour.”
To request a bed, applicants can go to sleepinheavenlypeace.org, click on the “request a bed” tab and fill out a survey of their situation. Once the application is submitted, it goes to the specific chapter the applicant lives in. Then the chapter president and board members will review the applications.
Each application is carefully reviewed because Sleep in Heavenly Peace can average two applications a day.
“We are 100 percent volunteer organized,” Mickelson said. “No one is paid. That means that 100 percent of our donations will go to either the building, bedding or delivering of these bunk beds. So, we rely heavily on our donations. The reason we don’t have as many bunks as we do is because we don’t have enough donations. We have had a lot of people donate gift cards to Lowes. We’ve had people donate mattresses, pillows, pillowcases, bedding materials. People can donate gas for deliveries or just give their time.”
The Rexburg chapter covers all of eastern Idaho. Shaffer handles supplies donated to the Rexburg chapter and decides where the beds go.
“I found out about the organization last year in November, so I contacted (Mickelson),” Shaffer said. “When our family moved to Rexburg; we contacted (Mickelson) to get a chapter here in Rexburg,”
The first build day in Rexburg is on June 10. The next one is on June 24 in Pocatello followed by a build in Idaho Falls on July 29.
Ryan Shope, a local resident of Rexburg, said he got involved after he was contacted by his friend Mitch Mathews. Mathews reached out to Shope with Sleep in Heavenly Peace for a potential sponsor.
“I think the organization is led by an honest group of individuals who really believe in helping the community around them,” Shope said. “It’s refreshing because they’re opting to do some of the less flashy volunteer work and are doing more than just throwing money at something. The fact that they work with their hands to physically make a difference is really impactful and I think it adds dignity to their cause.”