Beds for Little Heads

The Tinley Park Lions in Illinois took a vote on how to celebrate their club’s 70th anniversary. Would it be a dinner or a dance? They chose neither. They wanted to do what their small but mighty club does best. They wanted to serve.

Tinley Park Lions help build beds for children.

“Instead of getting dressed up, we had sawdust in our faces,” recalls Lion Kimberly Vick who with her husband, Lion Steve Vick, organized the club’s anniversary activity. The Lions spent the better part of a day building beds with volunteers from Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP), an international nonprofit with a chapter in Oak Forest, Illinois that serves Chicago’s south side.

SHP, with more than 225 volunteer-run chapters in the U.S., Canada, and Bermuda, has made it their mission to build and deliver beds to children who are sleeping on the floor. All of the beds are twin size, and all are delivered with a new frame, a new mattress, pillow, sheets, and a quilt.

There are various reasons why a child may be sleeping on the floor. Some are victims of fire or flooding; others in a family facing financial struggles. SHP only cares to help the children, says Dave King, president of the Oak Forest SHP chapter.

“Lots of times a bed is something these kids have never had. When we walk in and give them something that’s theirs, they light up,” says King. “If we can match the bedding to the recipient, the smiles are ear-to-ear.”

Tinley Park Lions invited King to a club meeting to share information about the organization, then donated US$1,750 to SHP to pay for 10 beds. When work day arrived at the village public works garage, more than 80 people ages 18 to 80, including friends and Lions from neighboring clubs, showed up to do some construction with 15 volunteers from SHP, says Vick. Volunteers don’t need construction skills or tools. They just have to want to help, says King. And the Tinley Park Lions enjoyed it so much they want to do it again.

The chapter tries to plan 12 build-a-bed days each year, and looks forward to their national event, Bunks Across America on Sept. 26. As of May, the Oak Forest chapter had 72 children on a waiting list for beds that were delayed because of COVID-19 public safety concerns. King said other chapters have an even longer list.

“We appreciate every minute people volunteer to help, and every dollar they donate,” King says. “Without volunteers, none of it is possible.”