PITTSBURGH – Ed and Elaine Snyder were looking for a new project.
The retired couple, who live in Mars, Butler County, Pennsylvania, looked for other activities after tackling two house flips. Then her daughter-in-law mentioned that she should consider joining a charity that she had volunteered for.
Now the Snyders don’t decorate or renovate houses – they build beds.
They got involved with Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a nonprofit charity that has around 250 local chapters across the country building wooden single beds from the ground up to distribute to children who don’t have them.
The organization, which was formed in Twin Falls, Idaho, had no office in western Pennsylvania, according to Snyder, although some were scattered across the east of the state. So in February they started their own ceremony with friend David Nock with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The couple went to training at Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Idaho headquarters in October 2020, and then rented warehouse space from the faith-based nonprofit Hosanna Industries in New Sewickley, Beaver County. They also bought four pine grinding tables chosen for the beds, woodworking fixtures, drills, and more equipment. Each headboard is hand-branded with a hot iron: “SHP”.
Snyder explained the old-fashioned but effective technique of using troughs filled with a solution of vinegar and steel wool to stain the wood, which requires weeks of stirring before each piece is soaked for just 20 seconds. The Snyders also buy double mattresses for the beds, as well as sheets, pillows, blankets and comforters. On a typical “construction day”, they and volunteers build 10 to 15 beds, and since March they have given away more than 30.
“Everything is new,” said Elaine Snyder. “If their parents can’t afford a bed, that’s what happened to them. It’s not your fault. You deserve to have a bed like everyone else. We really decorate them. “
The Sleep in Heavenly Peace chapter will deliver within a 40 minute drive from either the Snyders home on Mars or the New Sewickley warehouse to Counties Butler, Beaver and Allegheny and assemble the beds, which are sometimes stacked. One weekend they delivered beds in Butler, Beaver Falls, Ambridge, and Avalon.
Snyder said 2 to 3% of US children do not have a bed to sleep in, and child and youth welfare departments would not place a child in a home, even with a relative, without a bed for them. Almost all deliveries so far have taken place in families with single mothers, and the beds are for ages 3 to 17.
She remembered a delivery to a family near Pittsburgh’s North Side in late March. The mother said, “I know I can’t ask. I don’t have a bed either. ”So Snyder found another bed on the Facebook marketplace, and the seller, who heard who it was for, gave it to the Snyders for free. The free bed also turned out to be a cot, so the little girl got the other bed and the mother got the SHP bed.
“It all came out in the wash,” said Snyder. “But when we got the bed for her, the mother said, ‘My room is downstairs.’ And her room was in the basement by the stove. They had to put one leg under them because it was on the cement floor and the bed rocked. She was thrilled to have a bed. “
Another delivery involved grandparents who had taken in three grandchildren who “had nothing in their rooms”. The children were happy to have their own beds.
In addition to helping with production and delivery, Snyder is also looking for families who need beds for their children. Several teachers have applied on behalf of the students and are accompanying the parents through the process. She also has contact with crisis centers, women’s and children’s groups and homeless shelters.
On a construction day, the Snyder will need at least 15 volunteers to fill out the production line and those interested can contact Snyder by email at email@example.com.
“It takes about 15 people to help, grind, build, cut,” she said. “If you are afraid to do something, you can send. If you say ‘I don’t know how to do something’ there is still a job for you. “
All the chapters of Sleep in Heavenly Peace came together on June 12 for the third annual Bunks Across America event, where everyone built beds on the same day in solidarity and upheld the organization’s slogan: “In our city, no child sleeps on the floor” . . “
She said donating pillows and sheets, especially blankets, is also a way of helping people sleep in heavenly peace.
The charity began in 2012 when Idaho-resident Luke Mickelson was making a bed for a neighbor boy for Christmas. Mickelson built a second bed from the leftover wood and posted it on Facebook. Soon he had several inquiries from people who needed a bed and others who wanted to help him build more. SHP was born.
As the organization grew, but bypassed western Pennsylvania, the Snyders’ opportunity arose.
“My husband and I are probably braver than we thought,” said Snyder. “When I think of the store and how much we had to buy and furnish and imagine, ‘This is done first’ and how everything works on the production line, I just stunned that we could have done it all. But we did. “
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