HELP­ING KIDS IN NEED

Sleep in Heav­enly Peace hosts first bed build of the year

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Melissa Schu­man mschu­[email protected]­di­anews­group.com Re­porter

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. >> “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town!”

That’s the motto of Sleep in Heav­enly Peace, the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that builds beds for chil­dren in need. The lo­cal chap­ter is based in Me­chan­icville, and will serve chil­dren aged 3-17 within a 17-mile ra­dius of the town. That area cov­ers most of the cap­i­tal district.

Last Satur­day, the Me­chan­icville chap­ter hosted their first bed build of the new year. They try to host one ev­ery month. This month’s theme was “new year, new start.” Next month, on the 15th, they will host the “sweet­heart build.” The June build will be part of “Bunks Across Amer­ica,” a day when ev­ery chap­ter of SHP across the na­tion builds bunk beds on the same day. This year, the date is June 13.

The Me­chan­icville chap­ter is only about a year old. It got started when pres­i­dent Jim Welch, re­tired af­ter 26 years as a flight medic, was look­ing for some­thing to give his life some more struc­ture. He was a fan of the Face­Book video series “Re­turn­ing the Fa­vor,” and one day hap­pened to watch an episode about Sleep in Heav­enly Peace as a na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion. Welch knew right away that he wanted to start a chap­ter.

He signed up, went through the train­ing, and got the Me­chan­icville chap­ter up and run­ning out of his own house.

Last year, SHP-Me­chan­icville built 112 bunk beds, giv­ing 224 area chil­dren a place of their own to sleep. 36 of those beds went to chil­dren in Saratoga county. This year, the list of capi

tal re­gion chil­dren wait­ing for a bed of their own is 230 names long.

SHP is 100% vol­un­teer and spon­sor driven. No one gets paid a dime for what they do, and all fund­ing and ma­te­ri­als come from do­na­tions.

It costs $350 for a com­plete bunk bed, in­clud­ing con­struc­tion and ev­ery­thing that goes on the bed from the mat­tress to the linens. When a donor gives enough to fund 5 beds, they get a build party sched­uled in their honor. A ful­lye­quipped and ex­pe­ri­enced team gath­ers on the des­ig­nated day and time and gets to work, and the donor and any­one else who wants to help out is in­vited to at­tend.

This month’s donor was Michele Riggi, who was very en­thu­si­as­tic about help­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion. She was one of the first peo­ple to ar­rive at the Saratoga work sta­tion, and in­volved her­self as much as she could.

“My friend Dave from Me­chan­icville in­formed me about it, and I wanted to get in­volved,” Riggi said. “I got here at 8:15a.m. ready to rock and roll. What a great or­ga­ni­za­tion, giv­ing kids beds to dream in.”

Riggi, who has done lots of charity work around the cap­i­tal re­gion, helped out with con­struc­tion as long as she was able, un­til she fi­nally had to re­turn home to care for her 27 pets. Riggi is an an­i­mal en­thu­si­ast - 18 of her pets are shel­ter res­cues. By the time she was get­ting ready to leave, she had come up with a brand for the beds she had funded.

“Mic’s Posh Paw Picks” will come com­plete with sheets and pil­low cases fea­tur­ing an­i­mal paw prints. Riggi also an­nounced that she was go­ing to spon­sor an­other six beds for a fu­ture build party.

“Any­thing for the kids pay it for­ward!” she said en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. “I can’t wait to help de­liver them, and I’m go­ing to go home and buy the paw print bed­ding sets right now.”

Riggi’s friend Jeremy Ganisin was glad to be there with her. “I think the aware­ness that she’s bring­ing to this great charity is amaz­ing,” he com­mented.

SHP wel­comes any­one and ev­ery­one who wants to get in­volved. Wood­work­ing skills can be taught, and ev­ery­one can have a role to play. Stu­dents of any age are en­cour­aged to par­tic­i­pate though chil­dren un­der 12 are re­quired to take as­sis­tant roles, work­ing along­side an adult. The Me­chan­icville chap­ter gets a lot of teen vol­un­teers, who get credit hours for na­tional honor so­ci­eties, youth groups, and sports clubs through their work.

Cousins Reese Pin­heiro, 8, and Bella Roberts, 10, were en­joy­ing get­ting their hands dirty at Satur­day’s build party. Bella has been to three builds so far, and this was Reese’s first time. Un­der the watch­ful eye of their grand­mother, the girls sanded, car­ried, and cleaned up. Reese was even brave enough to as­sist with the brand­ing process.

“It’s a good deed,” she com­mented.

“It’s a good feel­ing when you know that you’re help­ing some­one,” added Bella. “Plus, I want to get bet­ter at wood­work­ing, be­cause my grandma has tools in her base­ment. So this is good prac­tice.”

It takes about 45 min­utes to build a sin­gle bunk bed, de­pend­ing on fac­tors such as work space and vol­un­teer skill. To make the con­struc­tion process more ef­fi­cient and very be­gin­ner­friendly, chap­ter mem­ber Gus De­r­ing built jigs that make it easy to see where to clamp, where to drill, and ex­actly how long a piece of wood needs to be. De­r­ing, who has been part of SHP for about 8 or 9 months, is a re­tired cab­i­net maker who is happy to con­tinue putting his skills to good use.

Once all the pieces of a bunk bed are sanded, cut to size, and the head- and foot-boards as­sem­bled, the pieces are fin­ished with a so­lu­tion of vine­gar and steel wool. This san­i­tizes and seals the wood, and keeps away bed bugs. Be­fore the head- and foot-boards get their fin­ish­ing coat, they are branded with the SHP logo. Then all the pieces get put into the chap­ter’s stor­age locker un­til it’s time to make a de­liv­ery.

On de­liv­ery day, the bunk bed pieces and ev­ery­thing needed for a good night’s sleep are driven to the re­cip­i­ent’s home and as­sem­bled in the bed­room.

“For some kids, it’s their first prop­erty,” said chap­ter mem­ber Tara Morelli. “They love to help us putting the beds to­gether. It’s pretty cool go­ing on de­liv­er­ies and see­ing the smiles on the kids’ faces, and the re­lief on the par­ents’ faces.”

Do­na­tions can be made to SHP-Me­chan­icville by mail­ing checks or bed­ding ma­te­ri­als to PO Box 664, Me­chan­icville, NY 12118.

To re­quest a bed from SHP, visit the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s main web­site at www.sh­pbeds.org.

MELISSA SCHU­MAN - MEDIANEWS GROUP

The Sleep in Heav­enly Peace Me­chan­icville chap­ter is hard at work dur­ing their first build party of the year.

MELISSA SCHU­MAN - MEDIANEWS GROUP

Reese Pin­heiro, 8, and Bella Roberts, 10, un­der their grand­mother’s as­sis­tance, do some sand­ing work.

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