Christian camp bed makers work to provide comfort to others

'No kid should have to sleep on the floor'


By Tim Evans

Index reporter

A national not-for-profit organization is hoping to get local kids to sleep in a more comfortable environment.

“Sleep in Heavenly Peace” is gaining more and more support and volunteers from the local area as it celebrates its first anniversary in the Muscatine County area, providing beds for local families so their children have a place to sleep.

“No kid should have to sleep on the floor,” said Sarah Walsh, a former Muscatine High School teacher who now volunteers to provide the free beds that are built locally.

So far, 235 beds, including twins and bunk beds, have been built and delivered to local families having children between the ages of 3-17, including 132 in 2023.

“Two to three percent of the individual population represents children not sleeping in beds,” says Walsh, who heads the local program with Stephanie Miller. Both volunteers reside in Muscatine.

She said demographics have a lot to do with need, noting West Liberty has a higher than normal need, presently requesting about half of the 53 beds needed to be built.

She said Wilton and Durant are seeing little demand, but support for the cause keeps pouring in from those communities through churches and organizations, along with monetary contributions toward the cause. Walsh estimates there could be as many as 2,000 children in need of a bed in the area and said her organization has had as many as 75 requests for beds at one point.

“We’re pretty pleased with the support we’ve received,” Walsh said, noting it’s people like Gina Holiday of Wilton who has stepped up to help make things happen for the mission.

Walsh said word is spreading mouth to mouth about he program through social media, information provided to schools and churches and simply posting fliers at local businesses.

While Wilton volunteers are quickly jumping on the bandwagon, program awareness is just beginning again in West Liberty and Durant.

Local companies, in particular from Muscatine, and church groups are being trained to build the wood beds, following specific instructions on how to create the standard twin-size beds and bunk beds, which get new mattresses and bedding with each order. Some companies or organizations even host “build days.” Walsh said the organizations have been able to get all their materials and bedding donated thus far and said she hopes that continues.

She says keeping up with demand is difficult and noted sometimes it’s not easy finding someone who will deliver the beds, which she said could take two to three hours for anywhere from three to eight beds.

“We’re always trying to build more beds than are needed,” Walsh said. “We’ve been playing catch up all year.”

Walsh said she first learned about the program from her father-in-law, John Walsh, who started a chapter in Creston, Iowa, about three years ago during the COVID 19 pandemic.

There are 15 “Sleep in Heavenly Peace” chapters in Iowa. Walsh is eyeing communities in Washington and Louisa counties to expand the program in the future, but says there is a lot of need in Muscatine County she hopes to resolve before growing the chapter.

For more information on learning how you can volunteer, make a donation or apply for a bed, go to the website or call 844-432-2337.

“All children deserve a safe, comfortable place to lay their heads,” says the website. “We fully believe that a bed is a basic need for the proper physical, emotional and mental support that a child needs,” it continued.

Campers build beds

A group of 33 middle school aged teenagers built eight beds for the Sleep in Heavenly Peace organization last week at Saulsbury Bridge Recreation Area near Muscatine.

Muscatine’s Shepherd of the Cross Church Pastor Aleese Kenitzer said the camp draws youths from all over the county including members of Wilton United Methodist, Wilton First Presbyterian and Faith United Methodist Church in Muscatine, as well as other parishes.

Kenitzer said building the beds, which only took just more than an hour, was part of a community service project for the campers, helping out other youths in the county who don’t have a place to sleep.

“The kids learn how to make their light shine,” said the pastor, noting the work was done “in the name of Jesus” by the youths.

“Eight more kiddos will have a bed to sleep in,” she said, noting the campers took a lot of pride in building the beds. “They wanted to be part of something bigger than just themselves,” she added, noting it’s nice to be able to give back to families who are less fortunate.