By Chris Manson
Simply put, the mission of Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP) is to build bunk beds and donate them to needy children in our community. According to the recently launched Fort Walton Beach chapter’s Facebook page: “There are so many great charities that provide clothing, meals and toys for families in need, but as wonderful as they are, little help goes to something as permanent as providing suitable beds and bedding for their children.”
SHP volunteers are dedicated to building beds and delivering them to needy children who would otherwise be crashing on couches, blankets, or even floors.
The nonprofit was founded in 2012 in Kimberly, Idaho, by Luke and Heidi Mickelson. Every bed is handcrafted—“built from scratch and built to last a lifetime”—and constructed by volunteers willing to donate their time. According to SHP’s website: “The joy that comes from delivering our beds to a child that otherwise doesn’t have one is a life-changing experience.”
Stacie Hoard, owner of De’France Antiques in Fort Walton Beach with husband Mark, first became aware of SHP through Mickey Hawkins, the pastor at their church, Cinco Baptist. “He wanted to start a local chapter here in Okaloosa County, and as soon as we heard about it, we were in,” she says.
Mr. Hawkins had planned to launch the SHP chapter in January of this year, but is now looking at May or June for their first build. “We’re getting close,” he says. “I’m working on the leadership team, getting tools… The main thing is we have to get the tools together, because we’re building everything from scratch.”
He adds that the process has gone “pretty smoothly. There are always challenges, but we’ve raised enough money for our startup.”
Mr. Hawkins has attended training in Idaho, as well as bed-builds with other SHP chapters—there are 200 or so nationwide at this writing. “We’ve made some good friends at the Tallahassee chapter,” he says. “We’re going to partner on some Panama City stuff—they’re nowhere near back to normalcy at all” post-Hurricane Michael.
This April, he will travel to Miami for a one-day 400-bed build sponsored by Texas Roadhouse. “I believe about 250 of those beds are going to Panama City for the kids that are still sleeping on the floor or camping out.”
“Mark and our friend Darrel Shatterly went to a build in Tallahassee in February to learn the process,” says Stacie. “(They) will serve as build supervisors to train and supervise volunteers on the day of the local builds.” Meanwhile, Stacie plans to help with volunteer coordination, community outreach and fundraising.
“Once we get the chapter totally up and going, we are hoping to do a minimum of four Build Days a year,” she adds. “An average Build Day should be 20 to 30 beds once we get going. The idea behind the Build Day is to get the community involved, too. You can be a single volunteer, and we also welcome corporate sponsors.”