TWIN FALLS, Idaho — National nonprofit organization Sleep in Heavenly Peace has been closed since March 15, following the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, they're beginning to reopen to continue serving their communities.
The organization, founded in 2012 in Kimberly, Idaho, now has over 220 chapters. Some of those chapters, including Twin Falls, started reopening on May 1 based on state regulations.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace builds beds for kids in need. Since COVID-19, the demand for beds has gone up, and the organization is eager to get back to work. That demand is partly due to record unemployment numbers, forcing people and families to move or relocate. For many, a child's bed can be an added economic strain.
Local chapters focus on fundraising, building, and delivering the beds. A majority of their day-to-day operations are not able to happen just yet so chapters are now concentrating on how they can be ready for when they start building again.
"Chapters are finding ways to maybe cut expenses on their bedding donations or beefing up their tool package. So when they do get back to business, they can have more volunteers be involved, and more people help and build beds," says Luke Mickelson, founder and executive director for Sleep in Heavenly Peace.
The organization is hoping to have local chapters get back to building beds sometime in June with new safety protocols and guidelines in place. Unfortunately, that timeline has forced the signature "Bunks Across America" event to be rescheduled from June to September 26. The event brings every chapter together to build beds on the same day.
Building days are an integral part of Sleep in Heavenly Peace's fundraising efforts, alongside businesses allocating certain funds to help support the cause. Nationally, they've seen an 84% reduction in donations. Now, they're looking to sponsors like Lowe's to give them supplies at a cheaper cost. Still, they expect to feel some financial impacts as businesses they typically receive donations from will need time to recover from their own losses.
Going forward, there will be a heavy focus on safety guidelines for volunteers during bed building days, as well as the beds themselves to remain clean and safe. The process helps deter bedbugs, and now, germs or viruses.
"We actually dip them in a mixture of vinegar and steel wool, and vinegar is very acidic. We do it for a lot of reasons. It helps provide some stain and a little bit of sealing protection on the wood," says Mickelson.
Clean sheets are also one of their main priorities. Pillows, mattresses, sheets, and similar items are bought brand new. Sleep in Heavenly Peace doesn't accept used items so they can make sure all items are fresh and clean when beds are delivered.
Despite the excitement and happiness to be back, the organization has a long road ahead as they navigate rescheduling bed builds, making deliveries, introducing new protocols, and adapting to the new normal.
The organization has acknowledged it needs the community's help to succeed in their mission to get kids beds. Not just through donations, but through raising awareness, finding bedding material, and volunteering.
"We are always looking for help. It's a common call, it's a common cry, but it's one we are looking to get support from," says Mickelson.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace made 30,000 beds last year and hoped to build 50,000 beds this year. Despite the fact the organization will most likely not reach that number, they're still hopeful they can build an equal--if not larger--amount of beds compared to last year if they get a little help. The numbers will also depend on how COVID-19 evolves in the coming months, and if they can successfully reschedule bed building days.