A Bed for Every Child
Local volunteers make sure all Lane County children have their own beds
Story and photos by Craig Reed
Since the Eugene chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace began putting boards together almost 5 years ago, 786 beds have been built and delivered to youngsters in Lane County.
The mission of the nonprofit organization is clear: “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town.”
With a waiting list of about 60 children in need of a bed, there’s more work to be done, according to Connie and Bryce Jonas, co-presidents of the program in Eugene.
“It’s been a surprise to me of how many kids are without beds,” says Connie, who previously volunteered with Court Appointed Special Advocates for 5 years. “You hear of families who are homeless, families with no food, but not so much of kids without beds. We provide beds for kids who are sleeping on the floor. We’re here to make a child happy, so that child can sleep in a warm bed and then go to school.”
A single twin bed or bunk beds are available to children ages 3 to 17.
Bryce says the reward for him is the reaction of the children when the bed parts are delivered and put together in their rooms.
“This is a vehicle for community members to give back,” he says, noting that also gives him a sense of satisfaction. “Most people want to give back, but they just don’t know how. This provides that opportunity.”
Connie and Bryce faced that situation several years ago. Their children were grown and out of the house, and they were considering community service options.
One day the two were watching a movie. Connie became bored and opted for headphones and a search of Facebook videos for something more interesting.
She found an episode of “Returning the Favor,” with host Mike Rowe. The subject was Sleep in Heavenly Peace.
“It brought me to tears,” Connie recalls of that day in 2018. “I was inspired. I said to Bryce, ‘You need to watch this.’”
After Bryce watched the episode, his response was, “We can definitely do this.”
4 weeks later, in May 2018, the couple attended a new chapter presidents meeting in Twin Falls, Idaho, learning how to build beds, raise funds for materials, keep records and recruit volunteers.
They learned the nonprofit organization that started in 2011 had grown to 326 chapters. Those chapters and their volunteers have built about 140,000 beds.
About a month following the meeting in Idaho—after asking family and friends to help—the Jonases gathered with the Eugene chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace for its first build at Lowe’s Home Improvement.
The goal was to prepare 40 beds. Helped by the Lowe’s grant program—which sponsored the build, provided the lumber and donated the tools—volunteers and Lowe’s employees finished 50 beds.
A year later, during Sleep in Heavenly Peace’s annual Bunks Across America project, the Eugene chapter set a goal of 100 beds in 4 hours.
With a year of experience building the beds, a turnout of about 220 volunteers and the sponsorship of multiple businesses in the MAC Group of Eugene, 130 beds were built.
Jason and Aimee Lundin have volunteered with the Eugene chapter for four years. They started after their daughter Abby volunteered while in high school. She found the service project rewarding.
“It’s a feel-good moment you get when you see the kids get their new bed,” Aimee says.
The building process includes cutting donated boards or boards purchased with donated funds to length. Mills in the Lane County area have been faithful in making lumber donations, Connie says.
The boards are sanded and holes drilled. The headboard, footboard, side rails, slats and hardware to put the pieces together are delivered to the child’s home. A mattress, pillow, sheets and comforter or quilt complete the package.
Mattresses have been donated by Ashley Furniture’s Hope to Dream program; pillows by Costco; quilts by the Bethesda Lutheran Church Thursday Night Quilt Group, the Project Linus Quilt Group of Eugene and individuals; and homemade pillowcases by a friend of the Jonas family.
Construction and delivery volunteers since the Eugene chapter was founded in 2018 have included business and community members, but also high school students from Churchill, Junction City, Marist, North Eugene, Pleasant Hill and South Eugene, and college students from the University of Oregon and Oregon State University.
“The kids are ecstatic,” Connie says of deliveries of beds and accessories. “Those are some of the best memories. As you drive up, the kids’ faces are plastered to the window. ‘My bed is here!’ Some of the kids will pull you down the hallway and show you where their bed goes.”
Depending on the age of the children, volunteers try to involve youngsters as beds are put together in their rooms. Each child is shown how to put their new pillow in a pillowcase and how to make their new bed.
“Volunteers will text us pictures of the delivery and tell us it’s the best delivery ever,” Connie says.
A major build is scheduled for February at SHP Warehouse, 1009 South Bertelsen St. Unit F, Eugene. Volunteers and donations are needed. Contact Connie by email or by Facebook at @shpeugene.