THE SILVER moon projects a light show of dancing branches upon the curtain, a winter waltz accompanied by the gentle hum of the heating unit. Pint-sized construction equipment and building blocks wait in the corner of the bedroom for the little worker cocooned in superhero bedding atop a racecar bed. The sandy-haired boy sleeps in peaceful dreams.
A block away, the blue-eyed boy pulls his teddy bear and jammies from a pillowcase, leaning on the couch as he puts on his pajamas. The curtains billow, tossed by the evening wind bullying through tired weather stripping. He drags the quilt to the floor, shuffling it and a blanket into a makeshift bed. Snuggling up to Teddy, he pulls the covers to his chin and closes his eyes, curling his super-hero sock-clad feet tightly under him to further soften his sleep. He tosses and
Both are realities in Lincoln County and communities throughout the country. According to Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP), roughly 2-3% of American children are without beds. That number is astounding when you consider that America is one of the richest countries in the world.* SHP is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that grew out of meeting the need for a single bed at Christmas for a struggling family. Leftover lumber sparked the idea of building one more bed. The response was countless donations and volunteers to continue the project. Today, SHP has over 270 chapters nationwide, including the South Pittsburg, Tennessee chapter. Their motto is “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town!®”
The South Pittsburg chapter contacted the Hands of Mercy Outreach Center (HOMOC) about organizing a satellite chapter serving families in Lincoln County. Always looking for resources to assist the community, the answer was yes, and another ministry of HOMOC was born.
Johnny Collins, the co-builder manager and installation manager for the local program, said HOMOC’s satellite chapter started locally in spring 2022, and from September 2022 through September 2023, teams have installed 205 beds for area children ages 3 to 17.
Tina Hudson of HOMOC and LC area coordinator for the satellite chapter said, “Sleep in Heavenly Peace has been a true eye-opener for me and the need in our community for a clean, safe bed for children to sleep in. It’s such a basic need, and many of us have several extra beds in our own homes, but to know that children are sleeping in such deplorable conditions in our own community has spurred me on to want to do more.”
Collins agrees. “I’ve been involved with children and youth for over 25 years through the church, ballparks, and other community outreach programs. It wasn’t until I got involved with SHP that I realized the need that was there. It’s just something we take for granted,” he said.
There are many ways to get involved in SHP. There are build days that provide opportunities for individuals, groups, and organizations to assist with the construction of the beds. On installation days, teams go into the child’s home and set up the bed, complete with a new mattress and bedding. HOMOC accepts donations of new twin bedding suitable for children and teens and monetary contributions at any time.
“I’m blessed to be able to work on the build team and the install team as the installation coordinator. Many of these children have never had a bed before, and seeing tears in their eyes and how they can’t speak sometimes is like the best Christmas ever. Even teenagers who have never had a bed get their own,” said Collins. “There are so many impacts of child sleep deprivation. It affects them socially, psychologically, and mainly academically. Basically, a child who doesn’t sleep can’t remember things in school. They get tired, struggle with behavioral issues, and are more prone to be sick. There are so many aspects of sleep deprivation. This goes way beyond the smile and the tears. It’s putting hope in those situations because a lot of these families are really trying, and they just can’t make it. It never cost more to live than today, and this is one way we can extend some hope to a family.”
Hudson and Collins are excited to share the program with area churches and organizations that want more information.
They welcome participation and donations. They also need your help spreading the word about the availability of beds through the program.
Collins said, “It’s not something that comes up in normal conversation. Pride plays a role in that because folks just don’t like to admit that they need help sometimes. But these days, it’s okay to say I need help, and I need a little assistance. That’s what we’re here for — to assist and to help and give that family a fresh start and a new perspective, letting them know that there is hope out there.”
It’s help and hope carried on the wings of your donations.
“I want to thank all our volunteers for giving up their time to come out and work on build days and completing the installs. This ministry couldn’t function without them,” said Collins.
Hudson said, “We can’t thank the community enough for their support of this ministry, whether through monetary donations, bedding/pillow drives, or hosting a build day. It’s just been great!” GN