By Alice Gerard
Senior Contributing Writer
In Western New York, there is a great need for beds for children, said Eric Cohoon, who teaches woodworking at Grand Island High School. He and Shawn Sweet, also a woodworking teacher, spoke about the community service project at the Nov. 6 Board of Education meeting, held at Huth Road Elementary School.
“Mr. Sweet and I took both of our wood 3 classes to Sleep in Heavenly Peace (located at the Eastern Hills Mall) a few weeks ago,” Cohoon said. “There, we built bed frames for those in need in our community. We spent three and a half hours actually building the beds. We built 22 of them, and they are going to be dispersed throughout the community. Right now, there are 700 applicants in Western New York that are on the waiting list for a bed.
“While we were there, we also unloaded a tractor-trailer full of mattresses. Once you apply for a bed, you get the bed frame, a mattress, and bedding to go with it, along with a pillow, for those that don’t have a place to sleep. All our students who are up here and some who are missing … we had a good time there. It’s a great need for our community and for using our skills that we teach the kids in class, the woodworking skills that they are able to use.”
Sleep in Heavenly Peace is an international organization that was founded in 2012 to respond to the problem of children having no bed to sleep on. According to the Sleep in Heavenly Peace website (shpbeds.org), “We fully believe that a bed is a basic need for the proper physical, emotional, and mental support that a child needs. When it was brought to our attention that the need for beds went far beyond our own neighborhoods, we stepped up and took initiative. We’re a national organization answering the call to a national problem.”
“They have made over 100,000 beds that have been delivered to homes throughout the countries. I thought it was eye-opening. I didn’t know there was that need,” Sweet said. “I think that the students saw that it was a way for them to use their skills and a way for them to give back to the community. Hopefully, it was eye-opening and will inspire them to go back because they do have open build days. I found out about it from a neighbor who was going to a build day with his middle school-age students. He said that he really enjoyed it and said, ‘You should take your kids there.’ I said, ‘I have a whole bunch of kids I could bring, not just my own.’ I think it was a good day for everyone.”
Sleep in Heavenly Peace is looking for volunteers interested in participating in the open build days or in more private events.
“They set that up for you,” Sweet explained. “We did a special group just for us. It wasn’t open to the public when we were there. They do open build days throughout the year, where you can go and volunteer for an hour, two hours, depending on how long they are working. It’s open to anyone, from little kids to adults. Some of the tasks are easy, some are a little more difficult. They put you at a station that you can handle, and they teach you to do it, as well.”
Board of Education President Ashli Dreher said, “I’ve been so impressed with all the service projects that the teachers have done in giving back to the community. I hope that all these projects will continue to make our community better and enable our students to have ideas of what they can do to help and where the needs are in the community, as well. I had no idea that there was that long of a waiting list for something like this. If you’re looking for something to do to help other people, and if you have free time, this is definitely a need.”
For more information about volunteering with Sleep in Heavenly Peace, check out the Buffalo chapter’s website at https://shpbeds.org/chapter/ny-buffalo/.