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'It all starts with a good night's sleep'

When I was sick and lay a-bed,

I had two pillows at my head,

And all my toys beside me lay

To keep me happy all the day ...

— Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Land of Counterpane”

A child’s bed should be a refuge, a place of comfort, an imagination station.

Replace the word “toys” with “books” in the above poem and you’d have a page from my childhood. Though I often commandeered Mom and Dad’s bed because of its larger deck for sailing billowy seas, I never considered that some children might not have beds.

In Jackson County, about 4% of those younger than 18 are without a bed. That’s approximately 2,400 children sleeping on the floor, blankets or wherever space allows. They may not even have a pillow. Recently I learned of a volunteer organization called Sleep in Heavenly Peace whose purpose is to hand-build bunkbeds for children who don’t have a proper place to sleep.

My friend Carolyn Salvestrin introduced SHP to a group of us the other day. Each year she hosts a fabulous Christmas brunch for her Shady Cove neighbors. How I landed an invite I’ll never know. Her food is delicious, the company delightful, and we leave with a new ornament. But Carolyn also uses her hostess skills to afford us the opportunity of giving back to a charity of her choosing. This year SHP would benefit.

Brunch guests showed up with gifts of pillows, twin sheets, comforters and cash. The SHP credo is, “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town.” They’re able to stretch cash donations by partnering with retailers who want to join the effort and make an impact for good. Now a national outreach, SHP was founded in Idaho in 2012 but has served Jackson County kids for just a little over a year, thanks to chapter president Laurie Parrish. For the group’s first build last spring, Lowe’s donated the lumber along with a $500 credit toward tools. This is a project that’s easy to get behind and is becoming a great exercise in team-building within local companies. One build makes 20 beds and costs $3,500.

Banner Bank and Evergreen Bank have sponsored Build Days — where volunteers come together to learn from experienced builders how to craft the sturdy, wooden bunk beds from scratch — plus they supplied all of the volunteers needed.

They currently have 92 little ones awaiting beds. The need far outweighs the supply at this time. “One of the things I’m looking for now are the right couple of people to raise funds and who know who to talk to,” Laurie said.

To donate toward materials and bedding, make a check payable to Sleep in Heavenly Peace and mail it to PO Box 3951, Central Point, OR 97502. To volunteer or arrange for a company/group sponsored work party, email Laurie Parrish at laurie.parrish@shpbeds.org or call 844-432-2337, ext. 5124. For information, see their Facebook pages for Jackson or Josephine counties.

They’re planning a Build Day Feb. 29. They want kids “leaping into their own beds on Leap Day.” The build will take place at Banner Bank, McAndrews branch, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dress warmly and bring a willing heart.

“It all starts with a good night’s sleep,” said Laurie. “I feel like I’m helping to build our next generation, because when kids sleep well they act better, they learn better, and are less cranky.”

Merry Christmas, and may we all sleep in heavenly peace this season.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.