Around 350 youth gathered in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints church parking lot last Friday afternoon and set to work, building bunk beds under the heat of the midsummer sun.
The goal was to construct 30 bunk beds, all exactly the same, to be delivered to area children ages 3 to 18 who are in need of a proper place to sleep. The event was organized by the Blue Mountain chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a national nonprofit organization, and held as part of a regional “youth conference” for the church.
Some of the supplies showed up late, but the group was still able to complete their goal. Five of the beds were delivered the same day to local families who had requested them.
“It went awesome. The kids were really hard workers and I wasn’t sure we’d get them all done, but we did,” said Heidi Mickelson, who founded SHP with her husband in 2012.
Elsie Zaugg, a soon-to-be freshman from Pendleton, spent part of the day staining bunk bed headboards.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Zaugg said.
Zaugg said she’d never built a bunk bed before. This was the case with many of the youth volunteers — coming from La Grande, Pendleton, Walla Walla, Baker, John Day, Boardman, Heppner and Hermiston — who were shown by SHP organizers how to sand, stain, cut, and drill wood into beds.
The Blue Mountain chapter, which started up in 2019, had built and delivered 15 beds prior to Friday, which made the Hermiston build a big event, said Chapter President Pete Trick. Trick also has a contracting company, so he says the fit between him and the organization was easy.
The Blue Mountain chapter is helping service the eastern Oregon area. Mickelson said that SHP is hoping a chapter in the Hermiston area will be formed soon.
“We’re just barely getting into this part of Eastern Oregon,” Mickelson said. “We are always looking for more chapter presidents.”
Those interested in becoming a chapter president can get more information on the non-profit’s website.
“We get requests daily for beds all over the country. There is a need everywhere,” Mickelson said.
Friday’s build happened just a week after SHP’s nationwide event, Bunks Across America, where chapters across the U.S. held build events. The event resulted in the creation of thousands of beds.
For every build event, SHP provides the tools and materials, at the cost of $350 a bunk.
Nancie Mathews, the Director of Disaster Relief at SHP, said that the non-profit has 150 chapters across the country, including one in Canada.
“There’s really great people out there who want to help, and make this place more positive,” Mathews said, “They really are out there, there’s tons of them.”