April 17, 2024

Building beds and giving back

Levi Hall (left) and DJ Berry (right) were two of the students working in last weekend's Sleep in Heavenly Peace bed building session.

AFTON - Community members and students gathered across two shacks last Friday and Saturday in the bus barn and shop of East Union for one goal: building beds.

The session was sponsored by Sleep in Heavenly Peace, an organization which has been building beds in their Union County chapter since 2018. These beds are built and then delivered free of charge to children aged 3-17 who would have no other place to sleep otherwise.

John Walsh, a high school math teacher at East Union and the Union County chapter president of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, helped give the community the opportunity to give back.

“Our chapter has been responsible for 200 beds,” he said, in reference to the amount of beds built since 2018. “This year, we’re trying to hit 100 beds.” He explained Union County was responsible for 175 beds along with additional help and delivery for the remaining 25 from Ringgold County.

Last weekend’s SHP event built 20 beds which will be delivered throughout the year.

The growth of the organization has been challenging to manage, but it remains exciting for Walsh.

Job’s not done yet for SHP. “Even though we delivered 175, I’d be willing to bet there’s still 200 kids in our county that aren’t sleeping in beds,” said Walsh. “The challenge is to get them to apply.”

Walsh heavily encourages struggling families to apply online at shpbeds.org/apply.

The function also offered a chance for East Union students to serve their required service hours for graduation, an initiative set by the school to encourage students with community engagement.

One of the students at East Union helped out last weekend was Colton Lewis, taking a supportive role of lifting materials from one station to another. He feels confident his work helps make a difference in his community.

“We help out our community, help get our school known,” he said.

Another student, who worked with SHP during the event, Sienna Berry, understood the importance of her volunteer work.

“I’m able to contribute to those who are less fortunate than I am,” she said.

Walsh helped give the district’s perspective for the rules. “I think the reasoning for the community service is so the kids get outside of themselves and see that the world is bigger than just them,” he said. “It lets them see that there are needs in the world beyond what they envision or what they know.”

The culture of East Union encouraging students has given traditions in payment to the community, such as community clean-up days and students working behind-the-scenes to help community events run smoothly.

The next major opportunity for students to serve their service hours comes in a chance to help clean Greenlawn Cemetery on Saturday, April 13. Starting early at 8:30 a.m., volunteers will help clear the cemetery of trash, debris, tree branches and other litter. To volunteer, whether you’re a student or not, you can contact Afton City Hall for more details.

Nick Pauly

News Reporter for Creston News Advertiser. Raised and matured in the state of Iowa, Nick Pauly developed a love for all forms of media, from books and movies to emerging forms of media such as video games and livestreaming.