SYRACUSE — Everyone knows children in low-income families need food, clothing, shelter, medical care and other basic human needs.
“But no one thinks of beds, and hundreds of kids are waiting for beds right now,” said Jay Tucker.
The West Point man is co-chapter president of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, an all-volunteer nonprofit that can’t keep up with demand for its bunk beds.
“It’s been really eye-opening,” said the other co-president, Scott DeCaria of Syracuse. “We had the goal of 50 beds in our first year and we did 140.”
Even that added production didn’t meet the demand. DeCaria said the group has 100 requests in the queue.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace is holding a Bunks Across America public build at the Lowe’s home improvement store in Riverdale, 4155 S. Riverdale Road, at 11 a.m. June 15.
Volunteers are invited to participate. No need to bring tools, just show up and help put together bunk beds.
The nonprofit’s clientele consists of Northern Utahns who have run into financial trouble and can’t afford beds for their children, Tucker and DeCaria said.
“Parents lost their job, illness, or death” are some of the reasons, said DeCaria.
He likes to go out on the deliveries.
An Ogden single mother and her three daughters were living in a 600-square-foot apartment with just one twin-size bed, DeCaria remembers.
Her husband had died and she could not afford beds for the girls.
“When we delivered, the girls were incredibly excited to see their own beds,” DeCaria said. “It’s one thing to build the beds, but to go out in the community and see how we can help a family, it’s just incredible.”
Some of the children have never had a bed before, Tucker said.
“We want people to know of the need for this in Utah,” Tucker said. “It’s not something that people think of.”
Children with beds will be healthier and do better in school, he said.
“It’s just essential for healthy living,” Tucker said. “Some kids are sleeping on a pile of clothes on the floor or fighting with their siblings about who’s going to sleep on the couch that night.”
Recipients also receive bedding and pillows.
In 2018, Tucker and DeCaria had never met, but at about the same time they independently heard of the flagship Sleep in Heavenly Peace chapter in Twin Falls, Idaho.
They each inquired about setting up a chapter in Northern Utah, and decided to join forces when made aware of one another by the Twin Falls chapter.
And both men were looking for a new way to get their families involved in community service.
DeCaria, who works in IT for Intermountain Healthcare and also sells real estate, said his family helped feed the homeless at a shelter once a year but wanted something more.
The group’s bunk bed build manager, David Marin, shared a video about the Twin Falls program, and they soon had a new cause to embrace.
“We really didn’t understand how much need there was,” DeCaria said. “Beds? It’s kind of a given. It’s crazy to think kids are sleeping on the floor.”
When Tucker and his family watched the video, “We said we’ve got to get involved with this somehow.”
The group’s public builds usually are supported by businesses. For example, the upcoming event at Lowe’s features lumber and bedding provided by the business. Lowe’s personnel also will help with the build, he said.
Tucker sells nuts and bolts for a living, and a supplier of his employer donated 12 pallets of wood screws to Sleep in Heavenly Peace.
“One of the neat things I really like about this program is it’s not just people throwing money at a problem,” Tucker said.
Teenagers being taught to use power tools during a build, for instance, and a contestant for Miss Syracuse raising money and materials to pay for three bunk beds.
“We’ve even had my 69-year-old mother running a drill press,” he said.
“This has been a neat journey. We get a lot of support from the community.”