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Portage nonprofit holds more beds than requests, expects that to change soon

August 29, 2018

From left, Abbie Shaver, Alexia Scheibach and Joe Shaver build bunk beds June 16 at a warehouse on East Albert Street in Portage. The group was part of Sleep in Heavenly Peace's effort to provide bunk beds for children in need.

New beds need homes in Portage and the surrounding area.

The local chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, which launched in May, has more beds available than requests for delivery to area children.

“There’s such a need for beds covering such a large area around Portage, and we really hope people understand how easy it is to get one,” said Sleep in Heavenly Peace member Sara Shaver.

The organization’s Portage chapter has built 40 beds and delivered 11 since May. The group so far has requests from eight families for 14 of the 29 remaining beds, which will be delivered over the next two weeks. The nonprofit organization hopes to receive requests for all of its beds before its next build, which will likely occur in late October or early November.

The group encourages families that need beds or anyone who is aware of a family in need to visit shpbeds.org and click “Request a Bed.”

“You basically just plug in some information about where the family lives and put in their ZIP code,” Shaver said. “It’s very simple.”

The Portage chapter delivers beds to families in 105 ZIP codes, including the counties of Columbia, Marquette, Adams, Sauk, Green Lake and Dodge. Requests may come from the families themselves or from anyone in a child’s life, including relatives, friends, teachers or doctors, Shaver said.

Those requesting beds are encouraged to first check with the family before making a bed request. Once a request is made, the group reaches out to the requester to determine how the family should be contacted. Requesters can have the opportunity to be part of the bed delivery.

Having more beds on hand than requests is the result of “an incredible outpouring of support from volunteers,” Shaver said. More than 80 volunteers have contributed to the program or donated money since May.

“Just two weeks ago a woman came into my office and told me she couldn’t build beds but wrote out a check for $500,” said Shaver, co-owner of Compass Counseling in Portage.

Heather Voigt of Portage started volunteering for Sleep in Heavenly Peace upon its formation. She and her daughter — Portage High School freshman Molly Voigt — have participated in each of the group’s three builds and expect to stay involved.

“It’s great to get my daughter involved in community service early in life, giving her a taste for helping people who don’t have as much as we have,” Voigt said. “I guess I think in this day and age, kids grow up in such a me-centered world, and this is an opportunity for them to give back.”

Voigt expects the group will gain more volunteers as information about its efforts spread.

“I still can’t fathom the thought that there are kids who sleep on the floor,” she said. “I can’t know this is happening and not get involved.”

Sleep in Heavenly Peace is based in Twin Falls, Idaho, and only had 13 chapters nationally before a Facebook TV series called “Returning the Favor” aired in January, hosted by Mike Rowe of the TV show “Dirty Jobs.” The organization has since had requests for hundreds of chapters, local chapter President Brian Scheibach said in July.

“I hope the word gets out because it’s so hard for some people to ask for help,” Voigt said. “We’re not there to look at anybody’s family situation. Our only goal is to get kids sleeping in a bed.”

More information is available on the Portage chapter’s Facebook page or by calling 608-683-9109 or 608-697-3411.

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